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  • Kat D'Andrea

The Balancing Act of Cortisol, Adrenal Health, and Blood Sugar




Cortisol, often called the "stress hormone," is produced by our adrenal glands in response to stress, helping to raise blood sugar levels for quick energy. But in our busy lives, chronic stress becomes the norm, leaving us "wired and tired." This state, common among busy mums and professionals, significantly impacts blood sugar and cortisol levels.


My Story: Stress, PCOS, and Blood Sugar Imbalance


As a mum of two, I’ve experienced this firsthand. After my second child, Siella, I juggled a newborn, a toddler, and all the housework. Despite eating well, I was exhausted, had heart palpitations, and could hardly string a sentence together. Eventually, I discovered that I was battling prediabetes with an HbA1c level of 44. My history of PCOS made me more susceptible to insulin resistance and chronic stress, leading to elevated cortisol levels and blood sugar imbalances.



Why Does This Happen?

Prolonged high cortisol levels contribute to insulin resistance, leading to blood sugar imbalances and an increased risk of diabetes. Women with PCOS are especially susceptible to this due to their hormonal imbalances. Elevated cortisol promotes muscle breakdown and glucose release from the liver, raising blood sugar levels.


Tips to Support Cortisol and Adrenal Health


1. Liver Support

Include antioxidant-rich foods like dark berries and beetroot, leafy greens like rocket and watercress and chicory, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale and broccoli . Herbs like turmeric and milk thistle support the liver’s detoxification process and help reduce cortisol levels. 


Why? The liver regulates inflammation and hormone metabolism, essential in conditions like PCOS. When stressed, the liver can become overburdened, impairing cortisol metabolism and leading to blood sugar imbalances.


2. Pancreas and Kidney Support

Consume essential nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and vitamins B and D for insulin production and function. Include omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to reduce inflammation and support pancreatic function. Herbs like cinnamon, fenugreek, ginger, and bitter melon enhance insulin sensitivity.


Why? The pancreas produces insulin to regulate blood sugar, while the kidneys filter blood and reabsorb glucose. In insulin resistance, the kidneys may reabsorb excess glucose, contributing to elevated blood sugar levels.


3. Reduce Blue Screens at Night

Cut back on TV and phone use at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light disrupts cortisol and neurotransmitters by suppressing melatonin production, which regulates sleep.


Why? Prolonged blue light exposure disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm and glucose metabolism, leading to poor sleep quality and increased stress.


4. Adaptogens

Certain mushrooms, like reishi, cordyceps and lion's mane, are classified as adaptogens. A great way to incorporate mushrooms into everyday life is adding a teaspoon into smoothies and your coffee. 


Why? Adaptogenic mushrooms regulate the production and release of cortisol, the stress hormone, thereby reducing the overall stress response and promoting a sense of calm. 





Conclusion

Managing stress and supporting your liver, pancreas, and kidneys through Nutritional Therapy can help balance blood sugar and cortisol levels. These simple, fun changes can make a big difference, especially for those with PCOS. Remember, small steps can lead to significant improvements in your overall health and well-being!


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