high cortisol levels**Disclaimer: this article about high cortisol levels is a collaborative piece between myself, and PrecisionBiotics (manufacturer of Zenflore). For my full disclosure policy, please click here.**

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid steroid hormone, produced in humans by the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. In other words, too much stress can lead to too much cortisol being produced. This can trigger a whole host of problems, including depression, weight gain and reduced libido.

Regular readers will know that I had a very unstable, dysfunctional childhood. There was so much change, and so much threat, that I spent it in a perpetual state of fight or flight. Unsurprisingly this caused an imbalance in my cortisol levels. Now that chronic stress provides the backdrop to my family life, I do everything in my power to lower them. I hope you find this piece useful.

Consider natural supplementation to help lower your high cortisol levels

I could write all day long about the importance of gut health, and the link between the gut and brain. If your gut has a disproportionate amount of bad bacteria to good, your mental health will absolutely suffer. Ever since doing the gut healing GAPS Diet in 2014, I have been a massive advocate for probiotics, which naturally boost the good bacteria. I make my own kefir, kombucha, goat milk yogurt and fermented veggies, which I eat and drink every single day. In addition I take good quality natural supplements in the form of 5-HTP (for boosting serotonin) and evening primrose oil (to help take the edge off PMT). Last month I started taking Zenflore, which is known as a physcobiotic. Which not only aims to increase good gut bacteria, but also helps to reduce high cortisol levels.

Zenflore contains 1714-Serenitas, a bacterial culture which increases the activity in the areas of the brain associated with emotions, learning and memory. The 1714-Serenitas culture in Zenflore is also involved in regulating the immune system which is vital for our health and wellbeing. Zenflore’s unique live culture and specially selected B vitamins work in harmony to support the mind and body during busy and demanding times. Check out the video below, for a more detailed explanation of the link between the gut and brain.

My experience of Zenflore

I eat a very natural diet of real food, and run a non-toxic household. Day to day we eat Paleo, which means no refined sugar, no starchy carbs and nothing processed (check out my YouTube channel for lots of tasty recipes). We simply do not do chemicals here – I even make my own deodorant. I truly believe, because of this, I’m very in tune with my body.

During the first few days of taking Zenflore I had mild diarrhoea and the start of a cold. This is quite a common reaction as the body adjusts to the influx of a new bacterial strain. By day five my stools were solid and I had no sign of the cold. I felt good within myself and healthy.

I have trialed many supplements over the years, and if they are going to have the desired effect (lots of them don’t!) then I feel it pretty quickly. After about ten days, I filmed a set of Instagram stories, which have been saved as a highlight on my profile marked Zenflore. I was in the midst of yet another super stressful time, as I’d had two weekends away a fortnight apart, and the kids were not happy with me. It was a pleasant surprise for me to not feel like they were pushing all my buttons and tipping me over the edge. Obviously it could have just been a coincidence, but I’m convinced it was the Zenflore working it’s magic.

high cortisol levelsSleep in my house has massively nose dived in the last few months, and my youngest is once again in the marital bed every night. He’s become a terrible bed sharer, and often wakes me up by kicking me in the head, laying diagonally across the pillows or pulling my hair. I also average one super early wake up a week – where I get up for the day anything between 3:30-4:30am, so I can write.

Although I’ve felt shattered, through tiredness, I can honestly say I haven’t been as stressed out as I have been previously. Which is absolutely huge for me. When you’re home educating three children – one of whom is autistic – you cannot underestimate the effect of trying to hold it all together while chronically stressed.

I would be lying if I said my sleep has improved ten fold and I’m as zen as I would be after a pilates retreat, every day. BUT I do feel like Zenflore has given me a much needed happiness boost, and that’s all I can ask for from a supplement.

Other lifestyle changes which help to lower high cortisol levels

Exercise. This gets bandied around a lot, because it really does make a difference. I don’t have spare time for long workouts or to go to the gym, but I manage to fit in what my husband calls “yoga snacks” throughout the day. They are my teeny tiny chunks of calm. For example, standing in tree pose while brushing my teeth, or sitting in the lotus position when I’m on the floor playing with the kids.

I go through cycles when it comes to more vigorous exercise. Sometimes I love it and sometimes it actually makes me feel worse. Truth is, when your cortisol levels are sky high, hardcore exercise puts additional stress onto the body. Earlier in the year I was doing twenty minute HIIT routines and feeling hideous afterwards, so took a break. Over the last few months I’ve been doing five or six minute standing abs workouts, a few times a week. This gives me a nice little adrenaline dump, without feeling like I’ve over exerted myself.

high cortisol levelsSleep. Even in the midst of severe child induced sleep deprivation, there is plenty we can do to help ourselves. A few years ago I stopped taking my phone up to bed, and noticed a dramatic improvement in my sleep quality. I rarely stay up later than 11pm, and have at least an hour, usually two, free of small screens before going upstairs. It doesn’t stop Freddy kicking me in the head half the night, but it makes all the difference to the broken sleep I do get.

Eating well. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of eating good quality nutrient dense food. Since eating my own way to better health, I don’t think there is a better head start we can give our children than a clean diet. Among a multitude of other things, nourishing ourselves appropriately will boost our brains, clear the mental fog and ensure our blood sugars aren’t riding on a rollercoaster all day long.

Get in tune with your cycle, ladies. It won’t actively lower your cortisol levels, but there is much to be said for knowing our bodies inside and out. It’s a tough pill to swallow at first, but I have long just accepted that I’m going to be ruled by my hormones for anything between 24 and 72 hours per menstrual cycle. Yes it sucks, but it’s part and parcel of being a woman. I never make plans around that time, and am super gentle with myself. I have zero expectations, and if anything asides from the bare minimum gets done, I consider it a bonus.

My overall verdict of Zenflore

I’m going to be brutally honest, as I always am. Zenflore hasn’t changed my life – because I am already massively ahead of the gut health game, compared to most. However, I can absolutely see that it would be a game changer for a person who has never taken probiotics before.

I’ve definitely noticed a nice boost, and given the high stress levels inside this house, it goes a long way. In fact I’m so confident that it’s helping me that I’ve started the kids on half a capsule each. Zenflore is perfectly safe for children over the age of three, but do head over to the Zenflore website for all the official info.

To keep up to date with all the news on this wonderful supplement, follow Zenflore across social media:

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

I spent most of the week before Christmas totally floored by mum flu! It couldn’t have come at a worse time, as hubby had to work…  

I don’t do low level coughs and colds that last all winter, and I don’t get properly sick very often. When I do though, it completely wipes me out. Not very helpful with three lively home educated children to look after.  

Almost everyone else in my little family had been under the weather for the two weeks before I got sick. Freddy had literally spent days coughing in my face, so it wasn’t a surprise when my head started feeling fuzzy. Having been stone cold sober for weeks I knew it wasn’t drinking related, and went to bed that night fully prepared to wake up feeling rubbish.

Truth be told I wasn’t banking on being hit square in the eye with mum flu, but that’s what happened. Here’s what I did to ensure a super speedy recovery, just in case any of you lovely lot are feeling it now.

Don’t be a martyr, you need bed rest

mum fluTop of the list of things that will get you back on your feet, is proper rest. Now I know that as a busy mum, you don’t want to hear that. Especially not on the run up to Christmas / a birthday / a holiday / busy time at work. BUT, if you don’t get adequate sleep you will prolong your illness. It really is as simple as that. Plus if you have full blown mum flu, chances are you also have a forty degree temperature and horrible fever. You’re probably shivering under a hoodie, blanket and duvet, and your arms and legs more than likely feel broken.

You couldn’t soldier on even if you wanted to. So go to bed, and let anyone and everyone do everything else. The world will not stop turning, I promise. Proper rest is the only thing that will get you back to functioning. I was fortunate that I came down with mum flu on a Saturday evening, so had all day Sunday for hubby to take the parenting reins. After that though, it was business as usual with my three. Which is where all the things listed below came into play. 

Probiotics for your gut

Those who have been following me for a while will know that I am all about the gut health. New followers will learn this pretty quickly (you can read this for more info). Hippocrates said that all disease begins in the gut, and I firmly believe this to be true. I currently drink around one litre of home made water kefir every day, but when I was ill I was drinking at least two litres, and also supplementing with a potent multi-strain probiotic.

I will do everything in my power to avoid antibiotics, and I view probiotics as the ANTI antibiotics. They replenish your gut with healthy flora, rather than wipe out the good along with the bad (which is what antibiotics do). Obviously if I had a severe infection and needed antibiotics, then I would of course take them. In most cases though, mum flu isn’t a serious infection, it is your body’s way of telling you to slow down.               

Turmeric to help with inflammation

mum fluInflammation is the way the body responds to viruses, which is why it can be impossible to move when we have the flu. Also, if the lungs become inflamed it can lead to breathing problems and phlegmy coughs. Turmeric is a natural way of combatting inflammation and I’m a huge fan of the stuff. For details on the ridiculous number of health benefits to be had from it, read this comprehensive post from the fabulous Dr. Josh Axe.

I made a tonic at the beginning of the year by fermenting 500g of organic turmeric with cider vinegar (probiotic, anti-inflammatory) and some cold pressed honey (natural antibiotic). It’s not a nice taste, but my word is it potent. I would highly recommend making your own tonic, so you have it on hand for emergencies.      

Vitamin C to help quash your cold

Vitamin C is vital for body tissues to repair themselves. When it comes to getting the immune system back to fully functioning after being sick, or healing wounds, the more the merrier. My wonderful neighbour sent over an elderberry based tincture for me, which was very kind of her. It tasted disgusting, but as my lovely 8yo Polly said:

“Mummy, all medicine that gets you better tastes horrible.”

She has a very good point, and herbal tinctures never taste nice, but they are amazing when it comes to healing. Elderberry, which are the tiny little black berries which come out late summer after all the buttery elder flowers disappear, are exceptionally high in vitamin c. These trees are plentiful where I live, and next year I plan to pick a load of berries when they are at their best, and freeze them for times like this.

Any other immune boosting supplements you can get your hands on

Two years ago I started making what I call wellness bombs, which are home made organic vitamin capsules. The shell is pure gelatin, and inside is an even mix of turmeric, dried rosehip and dried amla fruit – which are both high in vitamin c. Here’s a little video I did with the kids, to show how easy they are to make.

What are your best natural healing tips? Tweet me @mummytries 

Gut Health: 3 Low Cost Ways to Get Probiotics in Your LifeWhen I first embarked on the GAPS Diet in 2014, gut health was still considered a little bit woo. Nowadays it’s becoming mainstream, and was recently discussed on the BBC program Trust Me I’m A Doctor. On the show, home fermented foods came out winning as a method of promoting gut health.

Why you might ask?

Fermented foods are rich in probiotic bacteria (also known as good bacteria or beneficial bacteria). A lack of good bacteria is said to be the root cause of many autoimmune conditions, and when we eat fermented foods we add these good bacteria to our intestinal flora. This increases our gut health, which in turn increases the health of our digestive system and boosts our immune system.

Fermented foods are also easier to digest than regular food, as a lot of the work has already been done for us in the fermentation process.

Whilst taking probiotic supplementation is the most convenient way of promoting gut health, there’s no denying that quality supplements cost a small fortune. Low cost supplements are pointless taking, and yield little value if any to our gut. Home fermented food and drinks are the very best – and most cost effective way – of getting probiotics into our lives. Here are three easy wins for you to get your gut health on track without it breaking the bank!

Kefir

Kefir is a fermented drink, and is one of the most powerful natural sources of probiotics we have readily available. In a nutshell kefir grains are little live strains of good bacteria and yeast, and are exceptionally good for us. Note: they are not an actual grain, as in wheat, but are referred to as grains.

You can ferment kefir in water or milk. Perhaps because of my long standing issues with dairy, I find the milk kefir too potent. It bloats me, whereas I tolerate water kefir just beautifully. I swapped out my probiotic supplements for water kefir about a year ago, and have continued feeling the benefits.

Check out the video below for a full tutorial, and Q&A session on the benefits of water kefir. Click here to buy quality low cost grains.

Sauerkraut

3 Cost Effective Ways to Get Your Gut Health on TrackOnce fermented, cabbage is a fabulous source of probiotics. Although tasty, most commercially made sauerkraut has been pasteurized, which destroys the good bacteria. Home fermented sauerkraut is a delicious and simple way of adding probiotic goodness to your diet. 

Making it for the first time can be a little daunting, but once you get into the swing of fermenting your own foods it won’t take up too much of your time.

Ingredients (to fit into a 500ml jar)
300g cabbage
3 carrots
1.5 tbsp sea salt
Sterilised glass jar

Method
– finely slice (shred) your cabbage and grate your carrots, then put everything into a large bowl and sprinkle over the salt
note: you can leave out the carrot, and bump the cabbage up to 500g if you’d prefer 

– cover with a loosely fitting plate or a tea towel, and leave in a warm place overnight (as you would with home made bread). By morning your veg will have wilted down to about half and the salt will have naturally drawn out a lot of the probiotic juices. It will also kick start the fermentation process

– pack the veg tightly into your sterilised jar, and cover with the juice at the bottom of the bowl. Top up with a little water if needs be, to ensure the veg is completely covered. It is imperative that you don’t leave any space for air to get into the jar. Put the lid on loosely 

– leave to ferment on your kitchen side for 3-5 days, depending on how hot it is. Check daily to ensure that there is still no air getting into the jar, and there is no pressure building up 

– once it’s ready store in the fridge, and serve with savoury dishes 

Yoghurt

3 Cost Effective Ways to Get Your Gut Health on TrackCommercially made yoghurt is widely available, but again it’s never going to be as good for you as home made. I’ve been making my own out of a mixture of goat milk and goat double cream for a few years now, and the whole family adores it.

I’ve never gotten around to posting a tutorial, however my lovely friend Vicki who writes the Free From Fairy has done. 

Check out Vicki’s comprehensive yogurt tutorial here.

For my recipe, substitute the 600ml of double cream for 775ml whole goat milk, and a 125ml goat double cream. The rest of the process stays exactly the same.

Happy fermenting ❤