It might sound surprising, but certain healthy fats can ease the chronic stress that causes adrenal problems, fatigue, and thyroid issues.
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed, odds are that your adrenals are working on overdrive to cope with it. Here’s how to recognize the tell-tale signs of high cortisol levels and overworked adrenals, plus natural ways to ease fatigue and bring down your stress levels.
11 Symptoms of High Cortisol
Cortisol is the hormone produced by the adrenal glands to help the body cope with stress. It has a positive effect in the body when it occurs as nature intended it. But what nature didn’t expect is that we would be chronically exposed to stress, kept in a perpetual state of “fight or flight” when our lives aren’t actually in danger. As a result, unchecked stress leaves us with constant high levels of cortisol.
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When cortisol becomes too high and remains elevated for too long, it produces noticeable symptoms. These include: (1)
- Digestion issues
- Increased risk for heart disease
- Sleep disorders and insomnia
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Reproductive problems
- Low thyroid function
While some of these symptoms could be attributed to other factors, our bodies work together in unison to maintain balance in the body. If just one organ starts to produce too much or too little hormone, there is a trickle-down effect throughout the whole body.
Stress hormones especially can have a whole-body impact in three major areas: weight, fertility, and thyroid.
Cortisol, especially when high, leads to fat storage and alterations in the hormones that regulate appetite: it makes you want to eat, even if you’re not technically hungry. (2)
In women, stress can interfere with ovulation and lead to irregular cycles, prevent ovulation, or even stop menstruation altogether. If a woman isn’t ovulating, she cannot get pregnant. Even if she isn’t trying to conceive, altered menstruation during reproductive years can lead to other hormone changes, stress, sleep problems, and mood problems. (3, 4) For men, research shows that stress can lead to lower sperm counts and quality issues, leading to reduced fertility. (5, 6)
The thyroid and adrenal glands are both endocrine organs – meaning that they produce hormones. These hormones have such a close connection that when one gland goes awry, the other is affected, too. During stress, thyroid function slows down and puts out lower amounts of T3 and T4, the two main thyroid hormones. (7) Stress can also affect thyroid hormone conversion in the tissues, producing symptoms similar to hypothyroidism.
Anti-Stress Fats to Calm Adrenal Fatigue
To alleviate adrenal fatigue, practice stress-busting methods, like deep breathing, yoga, and therapy. If you drink coffee or alcohol, try lowering your consumption to keep the body from perpetuating the cycle of overstimulation.
Next, let’s explore a little-known way to help your body cope with chronic stress: eat more healthy fat. The fats below can easily be worked into any diet and offer nutritional benefits beyond stress-balancing, too.
Grass-fed Butter and Ghee
If you’re sensitive to dairy, opt for ghee. But if you’re not, you can use grass-fed butter and ghee interchangeably. Serve butter over your vegetables, sear your meats in ghee, drizzle butter over fish, and even add ghee to your morning coffee. Just one tablespoon daily is enough to help your body to better cope with stress.
Coconut oil is considered a superfood for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, and it might be able to ease stress as well. (10) One study on animals showed that coconut oil helped with the physical and mental effects of chronic stress. (11) In human research, coconut oil lowered inflammation markers in the body associated with systemic inflammation. (12)
Add coconut oil to smoothies, mix it into your coffee, use it as a replacement for butter in baked treats, or use it to make delicious, keto-friendly coconut oil fat bombs. Even if you’re not following a keto diet, these make great stress-busting snacks to have on hand.
Avocado and Avocado Oil
Avocado is rich in fiber, which can have a balancing effect on glucose. (13) Even if you’re not diabetic, chronic stress can lead to increases in glucose and decreases in insulin levels (or to insulin resistance problems). (14, 15)
Add avocado slices to your salads, mix them into smoothies, bake them with an egg cracked inside the hole, or use avocado oil in place of other cooking oils.
Stress can feel all-consuming, but giving your body the supportive nutrients it needs can help ease symptoms. As your body copes better with the physical effects of stress, you’ll be able to mentally take on the challenge of finding relief, too. The right healthy fats can fight the negative effects of stress while providing other beneficial nutrients as well.
(Read This Next: 7 Herbs to Naturally Heal Adrenal Fatigue)