Belly fat: key symptoms of adrenal fatigue
Women with adrenal imbalance often develop a “spare tire” around the waist. This happens for several reasons. Under normal circumstances, when we haven’t eaten for a while, our blood sugar (glucose) drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenals to release cortisol. This cortisol mobilizes glucose, amino acids, and fat to prevent low blood sugar and keep your brain and body fueled with energy in the absence of food. Cortisol maintains glucose levels in the blood, while insulin helps usher glucose into our cells.
Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
When we have long-term stress, cortisol and insulin remain high in the blood, and the extra glucose that isn’t needed for energy gets stored in the form of fat — primarily abdominal fat cells. Scientists have discovered that fat cells have special stress-hormone receptors for cortisol, but that there also seem to be more of these cortisol receptors on the fat cells in the abdomen than anywhere else in the body!
And sadly, belly fat doesn’t just “sit there” doing nothing; it’s almost as if this fat is itself an endocrine organ that reacts to the stress response, spurring still more abdominal fat to be deposited. So the cycle continues unless we take steps to heal the adrenal imbalance.
Number one for your adrenal health: Eat right!
Some of you may have read my article on how to eat for adrenal health; everything I discuss there applies here as well. Here are a few key points.
Eat well, and regularly. If you want to convince your body that it’s in no danger of starving to death, eat good food regularly. As I explained above, cortisol is integral to maintaining blood sugar, so it makes sense that keeping your blood sugar as level as possible lightens the load on the adrenal glands. I recommend you eat three balanced meals and two balanced snacks per day, spread out across the day to work with your natural circadian rhythm.
When you eat matters too. Cortisol has a natural cycle that complements your circadian rhythm. Normally, cortisol is highest in the early morning and declines gradually throughout the day to help you get ready for sleep. Because eating always bumps up cortisol, it’s ideal to eat your largest meal early in the day.
Keep healthy foods close at hand. Many women load up on sweets and caffeine because they’re so easy to get. But this habit often leads to an even greater drop in energy. When you need a boost, make sure you choose micronutrient-rich foods that support your adrenals, like asparagus, avocado, cabbage, garlic, ginger, and lean protein.
Tip Consider supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin mineral complex
Pacing yourself to promote healing
We live in a multitasking world where we’re expected to be on-line 24/7. From cell phones and e-mail to TiVo and Facebook, we rarely take a break. Restoring adrenal balance means taking time for yourself and slowing down. I know it seems counterintuitive: we think being “on the go” all the time would help us to lose more weight. But if you’re tired, wired, and overweight, it’s likely you will need to lower your stress level and heal your adrenals to stop the vicious weight-gain cycle.
Did you know?
Light-headedness and salt cravings can be a sign of adrenal fatigue.
What do I mean by pacing yourself?
Sleep. Many patients tell me they get a second wind after dinner, or that they’re “born night owls.” But when your circadian rhythm is turned upside down, your cortisol cycle can follow, leaving you tired all day and wide awake all night. You can avoid this pattern by eating less late in the day, ending all screen time (TV, computer, cell phone) by 8 PM, and making a point of being in bed, asleep, by 10 PM (striving for no fewer than 8 hours of sleep). If you are struggling with sleep, our product Serinisol can help naturally reset your sleep cycle.
Exercise wisely. If you already exercise regularly and feel good, keep it up. But for those who are feeling exhausted all the time, try easing up on the intensity for a few months while your adrenals are healing. And try to keep your heart rate under 90 beats per minute. If you don’t exercise, try walking 15 minutes once or twice a day, especially after meals, outdoors if you can. Exercise helps to reduce stress, as long as you are enjoying it, but this is not a time to push yourself hard.
Play. For once in your adult life, make having fun a priority! Many of us forget just how relaxing a few hours of fun or a good laugh can be. So today I am writing out a virtual prescription for you: “Play!”
Breathe. Three to four deep breaths through your nose can slow your heart rate and calm the whole body down. Find time throughout your day to just breathe, especially when you feel stressed. Learn to recognize the signals that you need to take a break, and get some fresh air, have a cup of herbal tea, or simply put your feet up.
Let your body relax and release
In talking with women every day, I know how many responsibilities we have. It can seem next to impossible to take a minute for ourselves! But I also know that weight gain and lack of energy are serious concerns for women. For many of us, the stress in our lives is intimately connected to our weight. Our bodies are wise — when stress is the predominant state, your body will protect you by holding on to extra pounds.
You can coax your body away from “crisis mode” by healing your adrenals. Doing this often means taking more time for you — including paying more attention to what you eat, how you sleep, and how you live each day. You deserve every bit of it! And once you replenish your energy and calm your stress response, you’ll be amazed and delighted by how the weight comes off!