The more I learn about the workings of my body, the more I feel the desire to respect it and keep it healthy. One area that my attention has been focused on lately is adrenal health, and the role that these little glands play in helping us to deal with stress, which ultimately has much wider reaching implications. I have watched my own reactions to stress and realised that there are changes I can make in my own lifestyle to look after these important little glands.
Quite frequently, when giving a reflexology treatment I will find that the reflex area of the foot connected to the adrenals is showing signs that it is out of balance. I work a lot at retreats over the summer here in Ibiza, so I see a lot of people that have come away to give themselves some well needed time out as they know they are burnt out. I really admire this level of self care people have, and the money that they have chosen to invest in getting themselves back to optimal health again. It really is a big investment for so many people, but I see such a change in them whilst I’m working at these retreats throughout the week. People are literally shining at the end of it! Proof in the pudding for me that the time we invest in ourselves and our health is so important and really has long lasting beneficial effects.
So as I mentioned, the adrenals!! These very often show on the feet during a reflexology session as being out of balance. When I mention it to the client at the end of our session they often respond with ‘Oh yeah, I’m here because I’ve got adrenal fatigue’. Other clients don’t know what the adrenals are, or the role that they play. Since studying anatomy and physiology & reading a lot around nutrition, I have learned quite a bit about these little glands that sit on top of our kidneys. One thing for sure is we really need to look after them.
So what happens when our adrenals are overworked?
The main purpose of the adrenal glands is to help us to be able to deal with stress both physically and emotionally. Pretty important right? Unfortunately when we are feeling stressed most of the time with very little let up from it, the adrenals constantly pump out cortisol which is the hormone that helps us in these stressful situations. The problem is that if it is being released a lot of the time, it will eventually start to run low and this is when we can start to do real harm to our body.
Too much cortisol in the body is not good, but what is really not good is when we start to run short of cortisol in the body. But why? Cortisol is used to regulate inflammation in our bodies which is a vital function when we get hurt or if we are under emotional stress, but we’re talking a little bit of inflammation here. When cortisol runs low, it means that this inflammation can no longer be regulated which can lead to long standing low levels of inflammation. There’s been a lot of research into this in recent years and it has been highlighted that this can be dangerous and lead to more dangerous illness later on. Some of the signs of low cortisol are anxiety and depression, weakness and fatigue, low blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems and reproductive problems. You may also notice that any redness or swelling takes longer to heal as there is not enough cortisol to fight the inflammation.
So now we know what the adrenals do, let’s see what can be done to take good care of them. These are just some ideas that I have found helpful that I want to share. How do I know that they are working? I am able to deal with stressful situations in my day to day life a lot more calmly and I feel much more centered in myself.
Start a morning ritual. It might mean waking up half an hour earlier but research has shown that the way we start our day sets us up for the rest of the day. Maybe it’s stretching and breathing, a bit of yoga, or journaling, or enjoying making yourself a super tasty, healthy breakfast that you know if going to nourish you from inside out.
Take time for yourself – find something that is good for you that you love doing. Like making your fave yoga class a priority.
Connect to your breath – when your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale a signal is sent to your brain to calm the body.
Ground yourself – Take off your shoes and really feel every part of your feet in the floor. Imagine you have roots growing up under your feet and breath up through the roots. One of my faves, takes no time at all and always feel better.
Avoid over consumption of alcohol and caffeine as these both have the same affect as stress on the adrenals.
Cut out processed foods, refined sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes and pastries, as the adrenals will produce more cortisol. Again this is the similar affect of stress on the adrenals, just like caffeine and alcohol.
Be grateful – research has shown that being grateful can have a positive direct impact on the hypothalamus; a gland in the brain that has an influence on stress levels, and is actually connected to adrenal activity.
Take time out for a massage or reflexology! Personally reflexology would be my go to therapy as I have seen it have such an amazing direct affect on relieving stress, partly because the reflexes are worked that regulate hormones and also because it really helps to calm the nervous system. In a reflexology session we connect to the 7000 nerve endings on the feet for a whole hour!
If you look at Ayurvedic medicine from India and the principles that lie behind it, which are diet, lifestyle and stress management, it seems that they had it sussed 3000 years ago. It makes sense that if we look after ourselves in the three areas we can lead more happier, stress free and healthier lives, and our little adrenal glands that work so hard for us will be kept happy too!