Article by Dr Marion Gluck
Are you feeling more stressed now that lockdown is lifting? Stress can dramatically affect hormones and help create an imbalance. In particular, DHEA, an endogenous steroid hormone which gives energy and focus, can fall to low levels when stressed, which will then help trigger too much cortisol. Cortisol plays havoc with hormone levels and can increase appetite, decreases muscle mass, libido and bone density, along with contributing to depression and memory loss.
In a balanced nervous system cortisol is routinely released in the morning, which is good, as it gets us out of bed. Levels should drop by the evening as melatonin, the sleep hormone, is released by the pineal gland. Excessive stress can produce an excess of cortisol, which can take a long time to wear off, and supress the release of melatonin which might contribute to sleep problems.
Dr Marion Gluck, founder of The Marion Gluck Clinic, has put together her top FIVE tips to reduce feelings of stress.
There are supplements and natural herb remedies which can be taken to reduce feelings of stress. Adaptogens or Adaptogenic herbs work by helping the body “to adapt”. One of the ways they work is by bringing a state of balance to the adrenal glands (those producing the primary stress hormone cortisol), often overly taxed by chronic stress which in the long run can lead to adrenal fatigue. Some of the most popular adaptogens include ashwagandha, siberian ginseng and lemon balm herb.
- Ashwagandha and siberian ginseng work by balancing the adrenal glands but can address different symptoms. Ashwagandha has a calming, “grounding”, effect reducing anxiety, while siberian ginseng has a more uplifting and stimulating nature. In addition to reducing anxiety and helping to cope with stress, Siberian ginseng fights fatigue and boosts energy. It is also known to improve concentration, stabilise blood sugar levels and enhance immune function.
- Lemon balm is a lemon scented herb known to take stress and anxiety away. Research shows that it also helps with cognitive performance, mood and sleep. It is thought that lemon balm may work by increasing gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) levels in the brain. GABA is a mood regulator which works by stopping neurons from becoming overexcited, and low levels of GABA can lead to restlessness and anxiety. Lemon balm significantly reduces excitatory transmission in the brain by inhibiting an enzyme called GABA-T that breaks down GABA, thus increasing the amount of GABA available in the brain.
Before taking an adaptogen, or any herb, you should consult a qualified herbalist or naturopath for professional advice.
If you are feeling stressed, try increasing exercise and time spent outdoors in nature each day and remember to be mindful or ‘in the moment’. Think about what fitness you really enjoy, whether that be swimming, running or simply walking. Once you have decided which activity to undertake, build up the time you dedicate to it.
- Yoga can go some way to promoting hormonal balance by helping to quell the release of cortisol. Exercising in the morning can help to manage insomnia and anxiety because physical activity speeds up metabolic processes so that excess cortisol is used up more quickly by the cells.
As increased levels of stress can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health, it is important to make sure that you deal with prolonged periods of stress in a healthy way. Meditation has long been accepted as an excellent way to reduce stress levels. There are some brilliant meditation apps such as Headspace which are a great starting point on your journey to a less stressed life.
Stress affects our mood and has various molecular signatures associated with increased inflammation in the brain. Recent discoveries may underpin the fact that some people respond well to certain dietary changes. There have been several reports indicating that eliminating gluten, lowering refined sugars and increasing healthy quality fats can all reduce inflammation, improve mood and cognitive function (studies found here, here and here). A diet rich in nutrients to optimise brain function and foods high in tryptophan will also increase mood. Eat foods rich in probiotics such as kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, live yogurt and kombucha to build a strong army of good microbes. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet, full of ‘good fats’ and fresh produce, is particularly beneficial for cognitive function.
Alcohol & Caffeine
We live in a society where alcohol is freely available and socially acceptable. But alcohol consumption can have a negative impact if consumed in excess and it is known to increase cortisol production. Be mindful of safe drinking levels – 14 units a week for both men and women – as per the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines. A single large glass of wine can contain up to 3 units of alcohol! Stimulants such as caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee and ?zzy drinks) also place a burden on the adrenal glands, so try to limit these as much as possible too and swap them out with healthier alternative such as flavoured teas or water.
The Marion Gluck Clinic
The Marion Gluck Clinic is the UK’s leading medical clinic that pioneered the use of bioidentical hormones to treat menopause, perimenopause and other hormone related issues. Headed up by Dr. Marion Gluck herself, the clinic uses her method of bioidentical hormonal treatment to rebalance hormones to improve wellbeing, quality of life and to slow down ageing.
Each year the clinic treats thousands of patients covering a wide range of symptoms and conditions. Through a personalised, professional, and innovative approach to treatment, the clinic’s aim is to improve the quality of patients’ lives with a treatment plan tailored to their precise needs. Using their own compounding pharmacy each of the clinic’s patients follows a seamless journey from consultation to prescription to medication, all made to their own specific requirements.