This time of the year can be a time of joy accompanied by exhaustion if we let it. We want to make sure that we come out on the other side of these holidays happy and healthy.
Two very important systems that can be affected by seasonal stresses are the heart and the adrenal glands. Both of these systems respond to the fight or flight reaction the body exerts under stress, and if not dealt with can lead to chronic stress. Some signs of chronic stress are; fatigue or exhaustion, circles under the eyes, swelling ankles, but there are other effects to our internal organs that can’t always be seen. Recent research has shown that for women in particular, stress can increase our risk for heart attack.
Here are some factors that can contribute to the higher risk of poor heart health:
- Exposure to the cold
- Unusual levels of exertion such as shoveling snow
- Higher than usual emotional stress (WHAT??)
- Low Vitamin D
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Increased sympathetic output (running from the bear response ie: fight or flight)
- Impaired repair of blood vessels linings
- Thick blood
- Immune challenges
- Increased blood pressure (due to anxiety)
What can we do to help ourselves and those we love?
- We can put into practice lifestyle changes that support our parasympathic system such as humming, gargling, singing, meditation, yoga etc.
- We can reduce our intake of inflammatory foods, such as sugar, deep fried foods and excess carbohydrates such as baked goods and bread.
- We can increase our water intake which thins our blood and reduces the effects of thick blood.
The adrenal glands can also be negatively impacted in this joyous season. The adrenals are responsible for producing several hormones such as; aldosterone which regulates blood pressure, estrogen and progesterone in post menopausal women, anti-diuretic hormone for water balance, cortisol, DHEA, and testosterone. That’s a lot of stuff for two tiny glands each the size of an almond! Here’s where the problem starts, the body is dependent on these glands to protect us when we are under stress, even at the expense of sacrificing other hormone production. So the longer we remain stressed the lower the production of our supporting hormones. If the adrenals are told that we have stress, or in other words we are running from the bear, that becomes the priority and the results aren’t pretty. Blood pressure may not be regulated as well as we would like, we may not make androgenic hormones (sex hormones), and if left untreated, chronic stress can even lead to low T, belly fat, and hot flashes. We really do need to take care of those adrenal glands!
The 3 phases of adrenal stress are:
- Stressed and Wired (Mild anxiety, sleep may be negatively affected)
- Wired and Tired (Amped up, difficulty sleeping or sleep is non restorative)
- Stressed and Tired (No energy, sleeping too much but not energized)
Here are some ways to support those adrenals:
- Get enough sleep: 7 to 8 hours is ideal
- Take a short nap between 12pm and 2pm, lay down for a couple minutes if no nap is possible (being horizontal is key!)
- Take adaptogenic herbs like Ashwaganda Complex and Adrenal Complex which contain licorice, ashwaganda, rehmannia, skullcap and korean ginseng. (To help you return to a normal stress response)
- Meditation and deep breathing exercises
- Find a planner or calendar to plan your activities to allow for down time
Plan on being healthy all during the holiday season and beyond, ask yourself what you can do to insure your heart and adrenal health. Happy Holidays to you all!
Dr. Virginia S. Irby D.C., DABCO, ACN
Cascade Chiropractic & Nutrition
2371 Iron Point Rd. Ste. 130
Folsom, CA 95630