Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • December 2016
Written by 

Stress and adrenal hormones — Recovery from “the silent killer“ — Part 3 (of a 3 part series)

In the September and November 2016 Northeast Wisconsin issues of Nature’s Pathways we began a discussion of adrenal dysfunction: what happens to your body when you experience a stressful event or have ongoing, unrelenting stress. Too much stress can wreak havoc with your stress response system called the Hypothalamic/Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) axis. Some people may be familiar with a different erroneous name for this dysfunctional response and call it adrenal fatigue or exhaustion.

We also discussed adrenal dysfunction symptoms and stages, how to test for imbalances of the adrenal hormones (please refer to for more information) and the four key stressors of the human body:

  1. Blood sugar control
  2. Mental and emotional stress
  3. Insomnia/sleep cycle disturbances
  4. Inflammation

The following are ideas to help you take control of each of these four KEY stressors:

Keep your BLOOD SUGAR balanced:

  • Eat a balanced breakfast to start the day with balanced insulin and blood sugar levels.
  • Eat balanced meals - high quality protein, some fats, vegetables and fruits rare simple carbohydrates.
  • Eat 2-3 healthy snacks in between meals - protein, fiber, healthy carbohydrates and fat as well. Carbohydrates eaten alone quickly increase your blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and simple sugars (soda, candy, cookies, cakes, juices, white and whole wheat bread and white rice are examples).
  • Eat protein at every meal and snack.
  • Eat 2-3 servings of fish 2-3 times per week as their omega 3 content is effective for helping to restore normal insulin levels.
  • Eat foods high in fiber to slow the absorption of glucose into the body. Try adding ½ cup of beans to a meal and include fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid saturated fat and processed foods. Read the labels on your food and skip those with any “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” vegetable oils.
  • Eat a healthy fat at each meal such as olive oil, flax seeds and oil, walnuts, almond, sesame, grape seed and avocado oils.
  • Limit your consumption of starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, carrots and peas) which rapidly increase your blood sugar.
  • Keep well hydrated and drink 8 glasses of filtered water or more daily.
  • Avoid all artificial sweeteners.
  • Exercise 5-7 days per week to maintain healthy weight and insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels and adequate muscle mass.

Suggestions to relieve EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRESS:

Identify your stressors. Identify the causes, change what you can and consciously make the effort to stop negative thought patterns when they happen. Your perception of the event is within your control.

Work hard to simplify your life.

  • Practicing saying “no” more often instead of agreeing to too many demands.
  • Find and maintain a healthy balance between work and play. Schedule down time every week.
  • Connect with friends and family instead of being isolated. Find others who can offer you support and engage in activities that you find enjoyable.
  • Laugh often as this helps relieve tension and frustration and lowers cortisol levels.
  • Stop putting off tasks that remain uncompleted as procrastination increased your stress levels.
  • Exercise regularly and focus on breathing more deeply. Exercise that increases your heart rate also helps release endorphins and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which increase mood.
  • Spend time in nature and enjoy sunlight.
  • Start a gratitude journal and record experiences for which you are grateful. Elaborate on the details to have a greater impact on your mood.
  • Start nutrients and adaptogenic herbs o help to calm the nervous system and improve your ability to respond to stress and your mental outlook.

How to restore sleep and overcome INSOMNIA:

  • Try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night and try not to get upset if you do not receive this much.
  • Maintain the same sleep schedule and go to bed and wake up at the same time including the weekends. Avoid sleeping or taking naps if you can. If you must nap, sleep no more than 30 min.
  • Avoid caffeine altogether or stop consumption by noon. We have found women whose hormones are out of balance are often more sensitive to caffeine and one cup of coffee at 8am can disrupt her sleep up to 20 hours later.
  • Minimize use of electronic devices for 3 hours before bed. Keep your lights low before bedtime to allow for the release of melatonin, the hormone that helps set your sleep/ wake cycles.
  • Avoid monitoring your clock and how much you are not sleeping. Keeping track of time spent not sleeping is stressful and can make your sleep problems worse.
  • Write down important thoughts on a pad of paper at your bed side during the night if they come up so you can release them and sleep worry free.
  • Make your room cool, quiet and dark. Make sure your bed, pillows and sheets are comfortable.
  • Exercise on a regular basis but no closer than 3 hours before bed.
  • Take melatonin or nutrients including amino acids, minerals and adaptogenic herbs to help promote healthy sleep cycle.

Dietary and lifestyle recommendations to help decrease INFLAMMATION:

  • Avoid inflammatory foods such as red meat, processed meat, fast food, sweets and other refined and heavily processed foods. I repeat, please AVOID sugar!
  • Avoid common food allergen was including wheat, dairy, corn and corn byproducts, soy and for some people, eggs. Get tested for food sensitivities.
  • Maintain a healthy level of vitamin D and supplement with 2000 international units or more of vitamin D 3 with K2 daily. Get your vitamin D level tested yearly.
  • Increase use of anti-inflammatory herbs and spices including ginger, garlic, rosemary, parsley, curry, cinnamon, oregano, mint, thyme, cinnamon, basil, chilies and cayenne peppers.
  • Eat foods high in omega 3 essential fatty acids including fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tune and sardines. Put ground flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, sesame seeds into smoothies or sprinkle on salads and yogurt.
  • Maintain good GI health and support digestion with probiotics, digestive enzymes and Betaine HCL with Pepsin if needed.
  • Eat many colorful cooked or raw fresh fruits and vegetables daily as they contain high level of vitamins and enzymes to help reduce inflammation, booster antioxidant levels and help reduce free radical damage.
  • Exercise at least 4 days per week to help return fat and reduce inflammation.
  • Avoid toxins including cigarettes, smoke, household chemicals, cleaners, cosmetics and lotions unless made of natural ingredients, unfiltered water, perfumes and over-the-counter pain medications as much as possible.
  • Take vitamins and herbs to help reduce inflammation such as curcumiin, quercetin, vitamin D and fish oil.

So now you know that stress is caused by more than mental and emotional issues. With this information, stress hormone testing, supplements, diet and lifestyle changes you can take better control of your stress! It’s up to you! Don’t let stress be your silent killer!

Please attend our End Hormone Havoc seminar to learn more about stress and its effects on the HPA axis and treatment options.

References: “The Role of Stress and the HPA Axis in Chronic Disease Management.” Thomas Guilliams, PhD. 2015.

“Patient Stress Recovery Program” handbook. Lifestyle Matrix Resource Center. 2014.

Randi Mann, NP

Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, is a board certified Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner and is the owner of Wise Woman Wellness, LLC, an innovative, wellness and hormone center in De Pere. She is an integrative, functional medicine provider offering natural treatments and prescription medications for thyroid and hormonal imbalances including customized dosed, bioidentical hormones.

She combines the best of conventional, functional and integrative medicine to help women. Attend the introductory “End Hormone Havoc — Stay Sane, Slim and Sexy” seminar — offered monthly. Call 920-339-5252 to register. Visit for details.

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