Food is NOT the foundation of good nutrition. The operative word here is good. While the majority of our nutrients do come from food, the majority of our food choices, do not. If our food choices came from an objective selection of food items based on the nutritional value of each food, we would look like a very different nation on the whole.
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If all of your food choices are solely nutrition-based, then you need a patent and your own video series. For the rest of us, food choices are affected by a myriad of things, including convenience, time, emotions and physiological needs.
So what is the foundation of good nutrition? Sleep. Sleep is the foundation of good nutrition, or better said, good nutritional choices. Sleep is what resets us and gives vital body parts a chance to power down and recharge for the next day (1).
Not enough sleep and the body will produce higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the fullness hormone leptin.
Sleep also allows the adrenal glands to re-charge. When sleep is neglected the adrenals don’t function as well as they should, and the adrenals, being an integral part of the body’s system, can’t function fully when the nutrients put into it aren’t able to be metabolized efficiently (1).
So what roles do adrenals and sleep play in this machine of ours? Let’s look at three ways.
1.Bodyweight Is Regulated In Part By The Adrenal Glands
When the body is stressed out the adrenals release cortisol into the blood stream. How well balanced the body is determines how the cortisol will react in the brain, liver and belly fat. If undernourished and/or sleep deprived, cortisol will cause the body to slow down and store fat.
When well rested and thriving the body will not send the message to store fat. Stress doesn’t cause weight gain until there is a disruption in the adrenal rhythm (3), and part of that rhythm is getting adequate sleep.
2. Adrenals Play A Part In Regulating Blood Sugar
When blood sugar gets low, it can set off a domino effect of problems. The main one being, energy levels go down and hunger levels go up, telling the body to store fat. Why is that? Well, if you haven’t eaten for a few hours your adrenals release cortisol (there it is again, cortisol).
This moves carbs out of the stores in the muscle and liver and into the bloodstream to keep the brain fed. In a well-rested individual that is making healthy nutritional choices, this can happen mostly through the pancreas, with little work from the adrenals.
But if blood sugar drops off, suddenly the adrenals have to work more and make extra cortisol. If you miss a meal, or are choosing foods that involve either too few quality carbs or too many processed carbs, it will create elevated cortisol levels that in turn may make you feel stressed out (3).
And the cycle continues because a stressed out and hungry person is going to go for the quick fix, and the quick fix usually means reaching for some kind of processed food that will quickly bring blood sugar levels up again.
A drop in blood sugar triggers the same fight or flight response that fear does. If you are well rested and making healthy food choices then your blood sugar is probably well controlled, leading you to feel energetic and keeping you lean. But when you aren’t getting enough sleep to make healthy food choices, it can create too many ups and downs, resulting in weight gain.
3. Adrenal Issues Can Affect Your Thyroid
When your adrenals are constantly stressed, according to Dr. Kent Holtorf,”It can set off an autoimmune, inflammatory response in your entire body. The adrenal-hypothalamus-pituitary feedback loop regulates the secretion of cortisol.
All of your organs and your immunity are impacted negatively by the resulting constant of cortisol.” The body is intricately connected and low adrenal function can actually cause a thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise.
What You Can Do
Some steps you can take to help improve your sleep or get in more quality sleep include shifting your mindset to make sleep a priority. Sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity. Schedule it in just like you would any important activity in your day.
Also in order to get a good quality sleep make sure your sleeping area is cool, dark and free of electronics. For those who like a nightly beverage to unwind at night, switch from an alcoholic drink to a caffeine free herbal tea. Alcohol can disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to restless sleep.
As you can see, being well rested makes it easier to make balanced and informed food decisions and keep your body functioning at its finest.