We live in a high stress world. Or perhaps that's the notion we all feel. That everything is urgent and needs to be done right away, that if you're not constantly working or moving, then you're not being productive, and that even if you don't feel inspired, you should do the things you're supposed to do anyways.
This low level stress we all feel pretty much everyday without knowing it is giving us the perceived feeling that there is always a threat or attack on our bodies. And our bodies are actually designed to deal with stress really well, and it's often referred to as the "fight or flight" mode our bodies go into: stress hormones are released(cortisol), blood pressure goes up, heart rate increases, muscles become tense, and a whole bunch of other things that prepare us to deal with a stressful situation.
The problem is that a large majority of us are living in this state all the time. Instead of responding to a situation or an immediate threat in a given moment, the body starts to respond to our day to day lives with these responses, because in many ways, the way we as a society have chosen to live our lives is seen as a potential "stress".
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR BODY IS RUNNING IN "FIGHT OR FLIGHT" MODE?
When clients work with me 1:1 in my program, I'm teaching them how to listen to their bodies. And our bodies predominantly communicate to us through symptoms. Yes, that means that those frustrating things we all deal with like headaches and migraines, bloating and gassiness, mood swings and anxiety, are all telling us something about what the body needs in this moment(ps. I'm able to work with a select few clients each month in my intensive individualized sessions, so if this resonates, reach out to me and get your registration form to be added to my waitlist!).
When the body is running on "high cortisol" (which is our main stress hormone), or "fight or flight" mode, it lets us know through symptoms:
Frequent Migraines (especially at the same time as your period if you're a woman of menstruating age).
Feeling anxious a lot
Low energy levels
Low sex drive/no desire for sex.
Low iron levels, or low levels of other nutrients or minerals(the body pulls stored nutrients from your body when it feels like there's a threat or some sort of perceived emergency).
Mood swings: feeling happy and high energy and then low and depressed within a short time.
Feeling bloated often, or experiencing a lot of digestive type issues.
Having irregular menstrual cycles, or experiencing a period twice in the same month.
A diagnosis of a hormonal imbalance condition(eg. PCOS)
How many of these do you experience? No judgement though, because again, these are all just communications. And I'm going to teach you how to start listening and giving your body what it needs to heal from these.
OKAY, SO I HAVE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH CORTISOL. NOW WHAT?
Obviously, a big reason why so many of us experience these symptoms is our lifestyles(they're so common that if you've ever gone to your doctor for these issues, they'll usually tell you it's normal or they'll suggest birth control which puts a bandaid on these symptoms). So before we get into foods you can start focusing on to support your body with these symptoms, I strongly suggest you start taking an inventory of your life, and identify some of the areas that are maybe out of alignment that are causing you so much stress. Is it your relationships/friendships? Is it your work or school? Is it family related? Whatever it is, likely can't be fixed overnight. But by taking a closer look at what might be contributing to your stress, you can slowly start prioritizing focus in that area of your life.
A lot of us don't know this(because we were never taught this anywhere in our regular schooling), but the body requires specific nutrition for the functions in the body to be able to work effectively. We don't just eat food because we get hungry and we have to eat to satisfy that need. In fact, our bodies give us hunger cues and cravings because it's telling us that it needs MORE nutrients for our hormones to release and work properly, for our organs to have the energy to do what they need to do, and ultimately for us to have energy and mental focus for our day to day.
WHAT'S FOOD GOT TO DO WITH IT?
It has a lot to do with it actually. Food is where we get the nutrients(vitamins, minerals, proteins, sugar, etc) for our bodies to be able to function effectively.
If you have my new *Migraine Prevention Guide*, which mainly focuses on how to eat in a way to lower cortisol levels and balance hormones, you're probably already familiar with these nutrition tips and more(and if you want to get your copy of the guide, which is my full protocol + recipes to help prevent migraines of all kinds, check out my shop).
SOME SUPER PRACTICAL NUTRITION TIPS TO SUPPORT YOUR BODY STARTING TODAY:
1. Blood sugar balance has a lot to do with it: blood sugar levels is not just something that people who have diabetes need to pay attention to. Our blood sugar levels are actually the foundation for our hormones and other systems in the body. So when these levels are going up too high and crashing down too many times in a day, it's creating a bit of a bumpy foundation(this is why certain hormonal diagnoses often come with a diagnosis of blood sugar imbalance too). Because this is literally your foundation for where everything else comes from, you want to make sure your meals(at least 3 meals in a day) are blood sugar balanced. This is when you're making sure that there is enough protein, healthy fats and fibre(found in fruits and veggies) in each meal. If you want to learn more about how blood sugar works, and how to build your meals in a way that supports more stable blood sugar levels each day, you can purchase your copy of my *Blood Sugar Guide* ebook from my shop.
2. Get to know your menstrual cycle and track it every month:
If you're not a woman of menstruating age, then you can skip this section obviously! But this is a really important part of your body's functions that you want get familiar with. Did you know that your cycle actually goes through 4 very distinct phases within the 28-35 day cycle? Did you know that your energy levels, mood, cravings and hunger levels are meant to change at each phase of your cycle? And did you know that by learning how to pay attention to these cues, and learning how to give your body what it needs at each phase, you can start to heal some of your most common symptoms(ie. communications from your body)? If you need help with this, my *Migraine Guide* teaches you all about it and you can purchase your copy from my shop.
3. Consider adding more minerals to your daily foods: when we're constantly running on high cortisol levels, or in high stress mode, our bodies are actually pulling nutrients(specifically minerals) from various stores in our bodies(this is because our bodies are so intelligent and even if you're not eating enough nutrients, the body will find it). But this isn't sustainable for the long term. We need to be giving our bodies enough minerals daily for long term support, and even though salt tends to get a bad rep, [real] salt is actually loaded with minerals and can help to support our hormonal balance too. Real salt is sea salt or rock salt(such as himalayan salt) and you can start by adding a pinch to each meal you have in the day. And if you have my *Migraine Guide* ebook, flip to pg. 22 for my super fun mineral cocktail you can have with your breakfast!
4. Coffee isn't bad, but it's not a nutrient: read that sentence again! Coffee is yummy, but it's not a nutrient! Yet so many of us are running on 2-3 [iced] coffees a day, and only one meal(usually dinner). This just isn't enough nutrition for someone who's body is communicating to them that they are in high stress mode. So if you're a coffee drinker(like me!), next time you're reaching for a coffee, ask yourself when the last time was you had an actual real meal. Was that meal blood sugar balanced(remember, that's how our hormones become balanced)? If you don't remember when your last meal was, then I would suggest skipping the coffee and having some food instead. And this goes for the mornings too! If you're currently experiencing a lot of symptoms of high cortisol levels, consider starting your mornings with a solid breakfast and saving your coffee for later.
5. Pay attention to your hunger. It's telling you when you need more nutrients for your hormonal balance: the sad reality is that many of us don't even notice when we're hungry, and we only eat because we're "supposed to" or because it's meal time for our family. But the reason why we have hunger cues in the first place is because our bodies are telling us that they need MORE nutrients in order to be able to function properly. And when we don't give our bodies the nutrients they're asking for, guess what happens? Yup, our bodies communicate with symptoms: migraines every month, bloating, digestive issues, anxiety, low energy levels, etc. One of the simplest things we can all do to support our bodies is to start noticing your hunger cues. It might take a few days if you're not used to paying attention, but you can start practicing eating a proper meal(not a coffee!) whenever you get that cue, and see how that makes you feel.
WANT MORE SUPPORT?
I work 1:1 with clients from all over the world in virtual sessions in my *feed your feminine* mentorship. This is a full 8 weeks of individualized coaching for your specific symptoms, and learning how to eat for what your body needs to balance your hormones and heal your symptoms. Head to the "work with Marjan" link on this page to learn more and reach out to get my registration link to be added to my waitlist.