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Balancing the fight or flight response

July 2017 Print
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“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” – Confucius

Fight or flight. It’s how our bodies respond to stress. And this modern malaise can manifest into adrenal exhaustion – a term often used to umbrella symptoms including fatigue, body aches, low blood pressure, mild anxiety, sleep disturbances and digestive issues (however, it’s important to recognise they may be symptomatic of other illnesses). Yet, its two small glands sitting atop each kidney that produce adrenaline hormones responsible for that fight or flight response.

Stress is a fact of life – and it can be both good and bad for us

It can enhance motivation, creativity and performance, but when its severe, prolonged stress can link to mental health. One in four people suffer from depression at some time in their life with stress management important to treatment. And a quarter of Australians report experiencing moderate to severe stress with 40 per cent citing work as a source – given we spend so much time there, finding balance is imperative. 

A healthy lifestyle and naturopathic support can help adrenal issues

Generally, adopting a healthy lifestyle may help with fatigue – that means rest, the right foods, reducing or eliminating alcohol and caffeine, and ensuring at least mild exercise with ample recovery. Yoga, meditation and tai chi are all excellent to simultaneously balance mind and body. And a group of herbs, vitamins and minerals that love working together will nourish your immune system, soothe anxiety and fight adrenal exhaustion zapped by stress.

  • Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. Also known as withania, Indian ginseng and winter cherry; its roots and fruit help improve stress response, mild anxiety and support cortisol levels.
  • Licorice extract is traditionally used in Western medicine to support and address adrenal function and insufficiency. It’s also a good tonic to soothe stomach complaints and help with respiratory problems.
  • Siberian Ginseng boasts anti-stress capabilities and active components that stimulate the immune system. Its root has long been used in China and Russia to cope with mental or physical stress, prevent colds and flu and increase energy, longevity and vitality. Siberian Ginseng is one of the most well researched adaptogenic herbs –repeated studies reveal anti-stress, anti-fatigue and tonic effects, increased well-being and better sleep.
  • B vitamins and C provide lots of complementary support. B5 and B6 help metabolise protein and red blood cells and support the immune system as does the multi-talented C – an anti-oxidant aiding iron absorption. Keep up with the B’s by enjoying meats, fish, dairy, beans, egg yolk, sunflower seeds, pistachios, salmon, tuna and shiitake mushrooms. And top up your C with apples, tomatoes, red capsicum, berries, citrus fruits and dark leafy greens.
  • Zinc is an essential mineral critical to growth, neurological function and immune health – but it’s not easily stored in your body. If you love oysters you’re in luck as they’re one of the best sources of zinc, but you’ll also find good doses in red meat and poultry. There are guidelines as to how much zinc you should have in your diet so talk to your healthcare practitioner about the best dosage to support adrenal issues and fatigue.

A combo supplement provides an effective way to support your adrenal health. Your natural healthcare practitioner can help you determine your nutritional requirements and prescribe the most appropriate supplements to address adrenal exhaustion, but remember, vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.

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