What are the consequences of chronic stress?
Whether it is the pressure of finishing tax returns or driving to work in rush hour, our adrenal glands work overtime producing cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol suppresses functions that are nonessential, such as digestion or the immune system, during what the mind perceives as a fight-or-flight situation.
While high cortisol levels are good in the acute, short-term state, they are linked to high blood pressure, prediabetes and diabetes, increased belly fat and brain changes over time.
First-line approaches are relaxation techniques or exercise. Equally important are foods that contain nutrients that nourish the adrenal glands.
Below are a few of the many nutrients important for healthy adrenals.
• Vitamin C. The body’s highest level of vitamin C is found in the adrenal glands. Like all nutrients, vitamin C has multiple functions. In addition to adrenal support, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, critical for wound healing and collagen production, and necessary for serotonin production. Great vitamin C foods are bell peppers, papayas, citrus foods, broccoli, pineapple and Brussels sprouts.
• Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5). This might not sound familiar, but as a structural component of Coenyme A, B5 is vital for the proper functioning of the adrenal glands. Best foods for B5 are shiitake and crimini mushrooms, avocados, sweet potatos and lentils.
• Omega 3 fatty acids. Best known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, omega 3 fatty acids also slow down the adrenal activation elicited by mental stress. Flaxseed, walnuts, sardines, salmon and soybeans are all rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
• Magnesium. The stress that produces cortisol also produces the adrenaline that increases heart rate, blood pressure and muscle contraction. These reactions use up magnesium. Dark greens, beans, nuts and quinoa are terrific sources for maintaining adequate magnesium intake.
It’s tasty to support the adrenals. A spinach salad with bell peppers, orange slices, sautéed shiitakes, avocado, walnuts, quinoa and olive oil vinaigrette beautifully supplies every important nutrient.