Stress-reducing tips if you’re a long hauler or know one?
You might be a COVID long hauler if you’re among the approximately one in three people who have, in theory, recovered from COVID-19, now test negative, but still experience symptoms that can last for weeks or months afterward — with no obvious reason why.
It’s true: Drinking a probiotic beverage is a simple and refreshing way to help regulate your cortisol levels.10
Studies are finding that there may be millions of long haulers.1 Stress can inhibit or delay a 100-percent recovery from any illness, so to wrap up our series on COVID-19 and long haulers, we wanted to offer a practical guide to combating stress.
Chronic stress leads to persistently elevated cortisol, which impacts your immunity. This may increase your risk of contracting infections and may lead to worse outcomes following COVID-19 and other illnesses. For long haulers, the key to recovery may lie in keeping cortisol in check.
Lower your cortisol in a few natural steps
Combating excessive cortisol is a complex problem. Too many people are turning to extremely unhealthy substances — comfort foods and even opioids — to deal with the stress, when there are far healthier choices.
The first step to lowering cortisol is to remove anything you’re doing right now that weakens your immune system. Eliminate so-called “comfort” foods that lack nutrition but contain sugar, flour products, and dangerous seed oils (canola and vegetable oils seem to be everywhere now). These contribute to higher cortisol levels.2
Cut out smoking, limit alcohol, and avoid using other drugs recreationally. People have begun to use — or, we should say abuse — opioid drugs in record numbers. Opioids decrease DHEA levels.3 As DHEA helps keep cortisol in check, opioids are certainly not a solution. DHEA and DHEA-S are two hormones that have been shown to reduce inflammation.4
Ongoing, unresolved inflammation is a characteristic of long haulers.
Look into a natural detoxification aid that may help cleanse your body of toxins associated with these behaviors. Use meditation, not medication, as an effective tool in managing stress. There are a number of studies that now show just how helpful meditation can be in lowering cortisol and mediating other symptoms of stress.5
While you’re getting a handle on your less-desirable habits, it’s a good idea to find ways to minimize the stressors in your life, wherever possible, and to look for healthier options for buffering stress that can’t be avoided. This might mean exploring ways to be in the moment, setting healthy boundaries, and staying social and connected to people you love to be with. Instead of seeing schedules as another source of stress, use the power of scheduling to support yourself.
If you’re just starting out with a meditation practice, the new Apollo Neuro wearable wellness device can help with guided meditations. (Click here for a 10-percent off discount and listen in on an exclusive interview with the inventor of the device here.) The key to managing stress is being aware of factors that can raise cortisol and implementing strategies, like those described above, that will make a real impact.
Soothe with 3 different types of supplements
Although it’s not recommended to take DHEA supplements without the supervision of a qualified medical professional, there are a number of natural supplements that can offer extra support during times of stress and recuperation.
Here are just a few of them. You may know others:
Adaptogens are botanical herbs (that can be formulated together with other ingredients) that may improve your body’s ability to manage stress. They don’t change your experience of a stressful event, but rather, they may help enhance the way your body responds physically or “adapts” to that stress. At therapeutic doses, adaptogens help raise levels of hormones that may be suppressed and lower levels that may be elevated to bring your body into better homeostasis.
These are some examples of adaptogenic herbs:
- Fermented ginseng
- Holy basil
- Rhodiola rosea
- Schisandra chinensis (an adaptogen and berry)
- Siberian and American ginseng
2. Amino acids.
Tyrosine, tryptophan, and GABA act as precursors to neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and GABA. Supplementing with these amino acids may help increase levels of these neurotransmitters.6 Julia Ross, leading expert in the use of nutritional therapy for the treatment of mood problems, eating disorders, and addictions, has a simple neurotransmitter test you can take to see which amino acid(s) you are low in.
3. Vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins/minerals are also vital for a healthy response to stress and to help boost resilience when recovering from any kind of illness or infection. We’ve already talked about vitamins A and C in the context of COVID-19, as well as zinc and vitamin D.
Keep in mind that:
- It’s particularly important to pay attention to vitamin D in the winter.
- This is because it becomes harder, if not impossible, for us to make our own vitamin D through sun exposure after October into April in many parts of North America.
Magnesium also helps keep cortisol levels low.7 While magnesium deficiency may be linked to muscle cramps, headaches, and fatigue, we suggest trying the form of magnesium known as threonate for calming anxiety. It’s a unique type of magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier and enters the brain.8 Four capsules once or twice a day is the recommended dosage.
Your health matters. Register for our Antiviral Protocol, and congratulate yourself on taking the first step to help your body recover.
Fight stress with 9 diet ‘best practices’
There are also plenty of ways in which your diet can help or hinder any battle with cortisol and stress.
In practice, this means making it a priority to:
1. Stay well hydrated. Drinking water with minerals may help keep cortisol in check.9
2. Avoid caffeinated drinks, including soda, particularly after midafternoon. Green tea with the calming amino acid theanine is a better choice.
3. Choose soothing herbal teas, especially chamomile and passionflower.
5. Eat healthy whole grains and grain-like seeds (millet and quinoa) rather than simple carbohydrates. These can be extra-helpful when eaten with vegetables for the last meal of the day; many people report a better night’s sleep. Oatmeal sprinkled with Lakanto sweetener for dinner, anyone? (Note: On Stage 1 of the Body Ecology Diet, when you have infections like yeast and Lyme disease, grains should be avoided. We recommend grain-like seeds, such as quinoa and millet, instead.)
6. Eat antioxidant-rich foods, like blueberries that have been shown to help reduce cortisol levels.11
7. Choose small portions of animal proteins and combine them with veggies: cultured, dark green leafy, root, and ocean. Proteins eaten with non-starchy veggies are easier to digest.
8. Add in pulses of legumes, nuts, and seeds. But watch carefully to see how they make you feel. Many of these are high in oxalates, so if you’re sensitive to oxalates, they may not be right for you.
9. Include foods high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish, to help keep cortisol under control.12 Vegan sources of omega-3s include walnuts, hemp, and chia seeds, but be aware that all three of these are also very high in oxalates.
Many of the suggestions above are based on the idea that oxidative damage and inflammation raise cortisol levels because they elevate bodily stress. Research shows that pro-inflammatory cytokines (cells of the immune system) increase the conversion of inactive cortisone to active cortisol.13 Keeping inflammation in check can, therefore, help keep cortisol in check too.
It’s also worth noting that studies have shown that probiotics can both help lower cortisol levels and support improvements in psychological wellbeing.
In one placebo-controlled study in France, Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum taken together for one month by otherwise healthy adults led to significant improvements in depression, anger, and anxiety and lower levels of cortisol compared to the placebo.14
In another study, a fermented milk beverage or a placebo drink was given to healthy adults for eight weeks before they were exposed to a stressful situation (a national exam).15 The group receiving the fermented milk had reduced salivary cortisol levels and reduced physical symptoms of stress, compared to the placebo. Fermented milk is a good source of GABA.
And finally, because cortisol is also regulated by DHEA, and excessive cortisol can mean lower DHEA, here are some tips on natural ways to raise or restore your DHEA levels.
It’s comforting to know that better nutrition and lifestyle interventions can have a profound effect on supporting your body as it rebounds from infection, helping to make the process less stressful and shortening your road to a full recovery.
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