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One cause of poor sleep and/or belly fat

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Have you struggled to sleep soundly? Or do you fight that extra midriff padding? Excess cortisol is the likely culprit, and I want to help you to understand how this happens and what you can do to minimize it!

General Adaptation Syndrome

Back in 1980, I read a book that changed my life and inspired me to work in health care. The book was published back in 1956, The Stress of Life by Hans Selye. Selye was a brilliant endocrinologist who noticed that many sick patients had the same "look", even though their illnesses were wide ranging. Whether they had heart disease, diabetes, allergies or arthritis, they had that same look. This made him curious about the possibility of a single underlying cause or catalyst to these diverse health problems and eventually led to his discovery of General Adaptation Syndrome, now known as the stress response. He was able to prove that chronic stress could lead to any number of illnesses, and his first published work on the subject was in 1936. At that time, there were FAR fewer stress triggers, which I will discuss in a moment. Here's how the General Adaptation Syndrome works:

Stage 1 is called Alarm and is when your body first perceives that some sort of danger is present. In this Alarm stage, you produce epinephrine, otherwise known as adrenaline, which prepares you to fight or run. Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, the circulation to your digestive organs decreases, your senses are heightened and your muscles tense up. This is only supposed to last for a short time, to get you out of danger.

Stage 2 is called Resistance and is when your brain signals your body to return to normal. This is when cortisol is produced and again, this is not supposed to go on for a long time. Think of Alarm as pushing the gas pedal and Resistance as putting on the brakes. The problem arises when Alarm continues for days, months, and even years, with Resistance fighting to put the brakes on and return the body to normal. If you ride the gas and brakes at the same time, you eventually burn out and arrive at-

Stage 3, which is called Exhaustion. At this point your nerves and adrenal glands are "fried", so to speak, and you just don't have the capacity to take it any more. While in Alarm and Resistance for a long time, your blood pressure can stay high, your muscles can stay tense, your blood sugar regulation becomes abnormal, your body can't relax and sleep well, and your immune system is depleted, too. This makes you vulnerable to all kinds of illness. To heal, you have to recover the nervous and hormone systems, which includes the adrenals.

Today's triggers are more numerous

Besides mental stress (worry over finances, relationship struggles or even fighting traffic every day), there are MANY physical stresses that trigger the stress response. The more of these triggers you are exposed to, the faster you will hit Exhaustion. They include Electromagnetic Fields (cell phones, Fit Bits and Apple Watches, Wi-Fi, and all the "smart" appliances and utility meters that use Wi-Fi), MSG (in all fast food and much processed food), Artificial Sweeteners (in most "diet" or "sugar free" products, and even in some yogurt and medications), Pesticides (in home treatments, yard treatments, non organic produce and even hand sanitizers), Heavy Metals (like mercury, aluminum and lead, which have polluted our environment to the point that we can't totally avoid them), Toxic Mold from water damaged buildings (which I find to be present in an alarming number of homes, schools, offices, etc), inundation with stressful images (the news tends to be inflammatory), and toxic people (which tend to make you feel worse instead of better when you're around them). Whew! It's no wonder so many people are tired, can't sleep deeply and carry excess belly fat.

As you can see, the people in 1936 that Selye identified as having been made ill by lengthy periods of stress didn't have NEARLY the numbers of stressors that we have in today's world. This is one reason why we're seeing increasing chronic illness and in younger populations. But there is hope!

Rebuild your nervous system and adrenals!

Your body is built to heal, so once you minimize as many of those physical triggers that you can, it's time to support your healing. Here are the keys to recovery:

Lifestyle habits- It's vital to optimize your Vitamin D and B12 levels, as they are important for nerve health. Both of these should be toward the top of the normal range on a blood test, not in the lower half. Equally important is to dump the junk and processed foods. Eat organic as much as possible. Be sure your bedroom is free of electronics, so your nerves can relax better and allow you to sleep. Exercise is vital, because it helps your body to process out those stress hormones. Regular exposure to sunshine I would also put in the vital category.

Stress hacks- (Hacks are steps you take to help compensate for the things you can't control and eliminate.) Essential oils can be used in the car or workplace to help keep you relaxed while you sit in traffic or a stressful environment. Using an Earthing sheet on your bed will help to keep your body grounded to the earth and dissipate stress energy while you sleep. This is similar to walking barefoot on the beach. Music and other aesthetics like color and art can also help. And removing clutter (think a Japanese zen home or garden) also helps the nerves relax.

Adaptogenic herbs- Adaptogens are herbs that bring balance to the nerves and hormones. They are commonly safe for adults, but as always, if you are on medications or have a health condition, check with your health care practitioner to be sure they are fine for you. You can try these herbs individually, but know that you might get greater benefits from combining them. My favorites are Ashwaganda, Maca, Rhodiola and Holy Basil. They don't give an immediate boost, but after 3 or 4 weeks you should be able to see some positive change.

Please email me at debra@nature-heals.com if you have questions about your own situation or need more help.

As always, I wish you the best of health and happiness!

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