Tag Archives: Stress-Hormones
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What’s wrong with coffee?
If you depend on coffee to get you going in the morning or as an afternoon pick-me-up, you could be suffering from adrenal dysregulation. Caffeine too late in the afternoon can disturb sleep which affects brain health, weight management and our body’s detox and repair. Coffee is also a diuretic and can be dehydrating, especially if you drink coffee instead of drinking water. Caffeine can also raise stress hormone levels like cortisol which make us store fat (particularly in our mid section). Caffeine can also interfere with thyroid medication if taken at the same time.
Benefits of coffee
On the other hand, …recent studies have found that caffeine containing beverage such as tea and coffee have certain health promoting benefits. Coffee is North Americans #1 source of antioxidants. This isn’t because coffee is the most highly antioxidant food, but because of the sheer amount of coffee we drink. Some of the health benefits found include: reduced stroke risk, lower rates of heart disease, lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, lower risk of heart rhythm problems, increased blood flow to blood vessels, lower risk of premature death, lower risk of Parkinson disease, lower risk of heart disease.
One man’s food is another man’s poison
Some experts even tell us caffeine’s effects on the body are not the same for everyone. We all have the gene CYP1A2 which helps break down toxins. This gene comes in two types, 1A and 1F. If we have the 1A version of the gene, coffee reduces our risk of heart attack. But if we have the 1F version, coffee increases our risk of heart attack.
To receive the benefits from drinking coffee and to minimize the negative side affects experts warn to choose our coffee wisely.
In order to receive health benefits from coffee the quality of the coffee must be considered. According to Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Coffee, most studies which show that coffee is unhealthy, do not control for the production process behind the coffee. Different processing methods introduce radically different amounts of potent toxins into the coffee.
Asprey asserts, good coffee = good performance. Bad coffee = bad health.
“Clean” coffee needs to have minimal contamination from mycotoxins (mold toxins). Coffee is also one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Most conventional coffee is contaminated with pesticides. Ground coffee is also prone to rancidity. Adding dairy to our coffee can interfere with some of the beneficial effects. Sugar in our coffee only adds to the likelihood of developing insulin resistance. White, chlorine bleached coffee filters can leach into our coffee.
Some attributes of a good quality coffee are that it is: tested for mycotoxins, organic, fair-trade, freshly ground (not pre-ground), and dark roast.
Limit coffee intake
Besides the quality of the coffee, Asprey goes on to say:
High amounts of caffeine can cause problems such as decreased insulin sensitivity, impaired brain function, jitters, nervousness, stomach discomfort, and decreased exercise performance. As with any drug, you can overdose. Moderate amounts of coffee will do nothing but good for most people.
Experts suggest limiting our coffee intake to 1 or 2 cups in the morning and switching to green tea in the afternoon. Coffee should be strictly avoided for pregnant women. As with coffee, the quality of green tea that we choose should be carefully considered. Many green teas from China are contaminated with lead. Japanese green tea is a better choice. Tea also readily absorbs fluoride from the soil it is grown in which can be a problem for those with thyroid dysregulation.
And as mentioned before, when we need that morning cup of coffee to get us going, we may be dealing with much bigger issues. Limiting coffee, restoring our adrenals and getting our hormones in balance should be the first line of business.
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is an endocrine gland. It helps to regulate metabolism and weight. Thyroid hormones influence every cell and process in the body including growth and development.
How does it work?
The thyroid produces three types of hormones: T3, T4, and T2. These hormones interact with all other hormones in our bodies. The liver converts T4 into T3 (the active form). T3 lowers cholesterol levels, regrows hair and helps maintain body weight by controlling metabolism. T3 can be disrupted by stress, infections, nutritional imbalances, toxins and allergens.
Hypothyroidism is and under-active thyroid, when when our bodies don’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Many, many people have sub-clinical hypothyroidism with no obvious signs or symptoms.
Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
- Some symptoms of Hypothyroidism include: tiring easily and lack of sustained energy, depression, feeling of a “heavy” head, falling asleep sitting up, weight gain, dry skin and chronic hives, hair loss, always feeling cold, low basal body temperature, stiff and popping joints, tingling and numbness.
Hyperthyroidism is an over-active thyroid, when the thyroid secretes too much T4.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism
- Some symptoms of hyperthyroidism are: protruding eyes, menstrual cycle irregularities, weight loss, heartbeat irregularities, emotional instability, lack of mental focus, nervousness, restlessness, and frequent bowel movements.
Possible Causes of Thyroid Dysfunction and What to Avoid
Some possible underlying causes of thyroid dysfunction include: radiation exposure, chronic stress, nutrient debt (from eating processed foods, low HCl and malabsorption), heavy metal accumulation, pesticides, halogens (bromides, fluoride, chlorine), dysbiosis, free radical damage (low antioxidants), low iodine levels, low selenium levels, yo-yo dieting, metabolic syndrome (insulin resistance) and goitrogens (in soy and cabbage family foods), Food allergies and sensitivities, and gluten sensitivity.
Testing thyroid function
Lab tests may be done to access the function of the thyroid including: TSH test, free T4 and free T3 test, and a thyroid antibody test to test for an autoimmune reaction. A self test can be performed as an initial indicator of low thyroid by taking our temperature, with a basal body thermometer, each morning, before getting out of bed, for at least three days. Average body temperature measurements should not be below 97.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 36.4 degrees Celsius.
What to Add In
Things to add in to our diets and lifestyles to nourish the thyroid include:
- “Clean” whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) to help reduce her exposure to toxins in the diet, particularly pesticides as they interfere with iodine uptake.
- Shop the outside perimeter of the grocery store looking for nutrient dense, unprocessed whole foods.
- A primarily plant based diet of brightly colored vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, will provide her with plenty of fiber and antioxidants.
- Meals including protein and healthy fats to help us feel more satisfied and support blood sugar stability. healthy fats such as butter, coconut oil, egg yolks and omega 3 oils (like those found in cold water fish, walnuts and pecans, will not make us fat but instead nourish the thyroid and help to regulate our weight).
- Slow down, careful chewing, avoiding or limiting convenience foods (which lead to inflammation and thyroid problems), as well as drinking between meals (not with meals) so as to not dilute HCl.
- Drinking pure or filtered water, which does not contain any fluoride or Chlorine.
- Sea foods and Sea vegetables, (such as: kelp flakes or mixed seaweed flakes), rich in trace minerals and iodine, have a salty flavor and can be added (undetected) to soups and stews. Note: Iodine containing foods are recommended for non-autoimmune thyroiditis only. For autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s), they should be avoided.
*For more information on Hashimoto’s and molecular mimicry, see my tip on going gluten free.
Tags: Allergies, antioxidants, Depression, Dieting, Dysbiosis, Fat, Food Sensitivities, Gluten, HCl, Hyperthyroid, Hypothyroid, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Pesticides, Processed Foods, Sea Vegetables, Seafood, Slow Down, Stress, Stress-Hormones, Thyroid, Vegetables, Water, Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Wellness Journal, Whole Foods
Bathing In Nature
Being outdoors in nature brings about a feeling of peace and restores our equilibrium. I love being in the forest here on the Pacific North West Coast, surrounded by big trees, or walking along the beach, with the waves crashing on the shore. I always feel better after spending time in nature. “Shinrin-yoku,” is a Japanese healing practice of “forest bathing”. It means spending time in a forest, to improve mental and physical health by inhaling negative ions, essential oils and even beneficial bacteria from the forest air.
Health Benefits of Negative Ions
When we are in nature, near mountains, waterfalls, and beaches, we are exposed to negative ions. There is evidence to show that negative ions produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood enhancing chemicals which in turn help to relieve depression and stress, and give us an energy boost. This may be one of the reasons why being outdoors in nature has been shown to decrease stress, increase creativity, improve mood and self-esteem and improve SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder).
Touch The Earth
As I am writing this post in January, it may seem a little impractical, but one of the best ways to expose ourselves to negative ions is through grounding, or touching our bare skin to the earth, such as walking barefoot on the beach.
Nature Offers Better Air Quality
Another good reason for spending at least some time each day, outdoors in nature, is that indoor air quality is usually far worse than outdoors. This is due to off gassing of building materials, paints, carpeting and furniture and the build up of dust and mold.
As we mentioned in the post about sleep, getting out in natural sunlight helps set our internal clock and helps us sleep better at night.
Exercising outdoors in nature or green exercise can be very energizing and has the added benefit of adding variety and intensity to our workout as we move through the wind, weather and changing terrain. Exercising outdoors has also shown to lower levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).
Those who have little contact with nature have been shown to to be more likely to suffer from certain mental disorders.
And as a final note, the next time you’re outdoors in nature, why not try doing it mindfully. Turn off the noise (music players, cell phones…) and be fully present, for at least a few moments, to the nature around you, moving in time with your breath and sensing the moment. Truly be in nature.
Tags: Air Quality, Depression, Exercise, Forest Bathing, Forests, Green Exercise, Grounding, Inspiration, Meditation, Mindfulness, Nature, Negative Ions, Oceans, Outdoors, Seasonal Affected Disorder, Stress, Stress-Hormones, Walking Meditation
Eating slowly, calmly, and in a calm environment is crucial for digestion, health and weight loss. When we eat too quickly or under stress, we cannot properly digest our food and assimilate its nutrients. When we eat too fast, we don’t even get a chance to taste our food and we miss out on a process called, the cephalic phase of digestive response. This is really just a fancy term for preparing the body for digestion by seeing the food, smelling the food, wanting and appreciating the food before it’s eaten. This process is the beginning of digestion and if missed, we can’t digest our food properly. If we are busy and distracted while we’re eating we miss out on this phase of digestion. If we eat a meal without even really realizing we’ve eaten, the head still signals ‘hungry’ even though our bellies are full, and we will go looking for more to eat. Another reason why it’s good to slow down while we’re eating is that eating quickly and under stress, sends the message to the brain that we’re not safe and activates the sympathetic nervous system. We can’t digest in this state.
So what to do? Slow down. Eat consciously. Prioritize meal times. If you can, take the time to set the table. Light some candles. Plate your food attractively. Play relaxing music. Take the time to look at and appreciate and smell your foods before you eat it. Before you start to eat, take five to ten, long, slow, deep breaths. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for digestion. When you eat your food, try to be present to it. Taste each bite in your mouth. Feel its texture. Eating can actually become a mindfulness practice. In short, enjoy your food!
Don’t have time to cook? Get in the habit of cooking slow by using a slow cooker to cook your meals while you’re at work. Join the slow food movement and slow down your meal times.
This tip has recently been a game changer for me. Like you, I’d heard this advice dished out many times before. It wasn’t until I actually started to do it consistently that I started to notice changes in my life. But how can writing in a gratitude journal improve my health or help me lose weight you ask? It’s actually brilliant in its simplicity. The nervous system can only focus on one thing at a time. You can do more than one thing at a time but you can only focus on one. So if you focus on gratitude and on what a privilege it is to be alive, in that moment you can’t be making those stress hormones that we talked about in health tip #2. You know, the stress hormones that were making you store fat. As humans, when we don’t feel safe we tend to store fat. Not only that but a whole cascade of negative health effects follow in the wake of the release of stress hormones. So the more we focus on what makes us grateful, the less we can feel the effects of stress in our lives and on our health. More about stress to come in a future post. For now let’s get back to gratitude.
So here’s what to do: get yourself a gratitude journal and a pen or pencil. Keep them on your nightstand. Every night before you go to bed or every morning before you get out of bed, or both, take a few moments to concentrate on what you feel grateful for and write it down. Try to find at least five things you feel grateful for. What we’re really going for here is to elicit the feelings of gratitude. Ideally you should feel a slight stirring in your heart. It should feel good. Why’s it so important to write it down? There are couple reasons. 1.) If ever you are looking for inspiration for things to feel grateful about, just look through your past gratitude lists. If they were written with feeling, they should help get you in the flow. 2.) The mind is a slippery thing. It can go from a positive thought to a negative thought in a heartbeat. You can start out thinking about things you’re grateful for and very quickly become distracted and off task. Writing it down helps pin the mind down.