Wellness Wednesday. Pregnenolone steal
When you are under stress your body releases the stress hormone known as cortisol. It is released as part of our ‘fight or flight’ or sympathetic response. This hormone is necessary for life and helps keep us motivated and awake, but chronic high levels of this hormone can lead to long-term problems such as weight gain, anxiety, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and fertility problems, in addition to many other problems.
Cortisol is produced in your adrenal glands from a precursor known as Pregnenolone. This steroid hormone is a precursor from which nearly all other hormones are made, including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogen and cortisol.
The problem with modern day living is that we are constantly in flight or flight mode from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. We are designed to experience stress in short bursts. When we endure stress for a sustained period, it becomes a problem. Chronic stress will lead to high circulating cortisol levels and the pregnenolone needed to make several other hormones will be used to make more cortisol. This is known as ‘Pregnenolone steal’
At Nuriss we offer an Adrneal stress profile. This requires a simple saliva test that can detect imbalances in the daily circadian secretions of your stress hormones.
Natural ways to lower cortisol
Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants. They can help to balance, restore and protect the body. Ashwagandha, otherwise known as Indian Ginseng. Research has found that ashwagandha may prevent stress related gastric ulcers, prevent weight increase of adrenal glands and help to stabilise cortisol levels (1)
Whenever you are feeling particularly stressed try a simple breathing technique as this can help to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and then exhale for 5 seconds. Lengthening your exhale can switch you from you fight or flight state to a rest and digest state very quickly.
Good sleep hygiene
Cortisol levels tend to spike and fall at different times of the day. In the morning we want cortisol levels to be high to wake us up and give us energy to get through the day. Cortisol should decrease through the day until it reaches its lowest levels late in the evening, when you are ready for bed. If your stress response is still switched on in the evening, cortisol will remain high, which will affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Sleep is when our cells renew themselves. It’s a chance for our body to rest and repair. It is essential to ‘switch off’ all electronic devices 90 minutes before you go to sleep. This may be hard at first as most of us are addicted to our screens but this simple step should help to balance stress levels and leave you to rest, digest and repair over night.