In my quest for wellness, I decided to do an adrenal stress test to see if stress is making me ill. For those of you who don’t know, an adrenal stress test measures your cortisol levels. It is done by spitting in a tube four times in a day to track your cortisol and see if they are elevated at any point.
Why is this important?
So I’m always banging on about how elevated cortisol levels cause inflammation in the body, and inflammation causes increasing weight, an increase in gut symptoms, fatigue, insulin resistance and even it regular functioning of cells which can contribute to most diseases and weakening of your immune system.
So I did my spit tests, on a normal busy working day, after a month of considerable stress. It was fairly easy to do, the only thing I was concerned about was contaminating the samples by getting some of my pink lipstick in them! Then I froze them all and posted them off.
The results were interesting to say the least.
So my cortisol is elevated first thing in the morning and last thing at night, but in the middle of the day I’m almost flat lined! I guess my work isn’t that stressful as I love it and love my patients, which is great, but what about the other times of the day?
So what have I done about this?
Well, I’ve decided to do the following to reduce my inflammation:
#1 I’ve stopped watching intense TV shows like The Walking Dead just before bed!
Yes I know I’m always banging on about not watching TV just before bed, as it affects your melatonin, but I also think it’s what I’m watching that is having an effect. My body doesn’t know the difference between a stress from watching something on TV all being chased down an alley way, it responds in the same way. So I need to reduce the amount of stress I have in the evening. So I still watch the walking dead, just at a different time of day!
#2 Taking ashwagandha in the morning.
Ashwagandha is a plant based supplement that is used in Ayurveda a lot. It is an adaptogen, which means it helps your body to adapt to whatever is going internally on a cellular level, and therefore can help me to reduce my elevated cortisol.
#3 Lifestyle changes
I’m also always banging on about the importance of lifestyle! So I’m trying to get my 7-8 hours sleep, eat clean and exercising regularly. A lot of my stress can’t be modified, which means I need to learn to manage it better. So I’m taking up spiritual practices to help me with this.
#4 Heart Rate Variability
There have been many studies done to show that managing your heart rate variability can reduce stress and improve health. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) biofeedback is a relatively new technique for training people to change the variability and dominant rhythms of their heart activity.
The use of HRV biofeedback began in Russia in the early 1980s where it was applied to the treatment of asthma and numerous other conditions. Research is now going on to apply HRV biofeedback techniques to a variety of medical and psychiatric conditions, including: anger, anxiety disorders, asthma, cardiovascular conditions, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue, and chronic pain.
Because it engages the parasympathetic nervous system – it is also thought to reduce stress and elevated cortisol. I have an app and a little monitor that measures mine, and then I can follow breathing exercises to regulate it. The logic is that the more you practice something the easier it becomes, and hopefully eventually it will become second nature!
The best thing about it is I can do it on my phone (whilst watching The Walking Dead!) so it’s easy to do anywhere and it’s convenient.