Wine glasses on table with candle

Christmas spirit burst your bubble?

In Health and Nutrition by LivingNowLeave a Comment

Recent research shows that women of today are consuming more alcohol, struggling with their weight and experiencing greater levels of prolonged stress. And to top things off we are also losing our libidos at a greater rate than our mothers and grandmothers – great news hey!


Why is this happening?

Is it simply just a matter of being too tired, or maybe there’s something else going on there as well? Let’s explore Motherhood and multi-tasking, especially around Christmas, are enough to burst anyone’s sanity bubble. There is no doubt about it – Christmas is a time for running your adrenals ragged. On top of the social commitments, there are longer working hours (to prepare for taking just a few days off), the shopping, cooking, kids concerts and getting the house in order to accommodate for the generous flow of visitors and of course the alcohol.

It is little wonder we all pop on a few extra kilos and our sex drive ain’t ‘happening’ at Christmas. It’s not just the yummy foods and bubbles. It’s our adrenals being thrown into ‘festive overdrive’.

Adrenal hypersensitivity simply means your adrenals have been, and perhaps still are, working over time. Unlike our ancestors, you live with constant stress. Instead of occasional demands followed by rest, you’re constantly over-worked, exposed to environmental toxins and worrying about others – with no let-up. The effects of adrenal hypersensitivity can be profound.

Alcohol cravings – why and what’s healthy?

The worst thing is that prolonged stress can decrease dopamine levels – leaving your craving alcohol. The reason it does this is because alcohol stimulates your pituitary gland to release dopamine (your feel-good hormone). So as you begin to feel flat at the end of the day, your body naturally craves the substance that it knows will increase it.

A person is defined as being dependent on alcohol if he or she reports three or more of the following symptoms in the past year.

  • Tolerance (e.g., needing more alcohol to become intoxicated)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Alcohol use for longer periods than intended
  • Desire and/or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use
  • Considerable time spent obtaining or using alcohol, or recovering from its effects
  • Important social, work, or recreational activities given up because of use
  • Continued use of alcohol despite knowledge of problems caused by or aggravated by use.

What is heavy drinking?

Heavy drinking is consuming alcohol in excess of one drink per day on average for women, and greater than two drinks per day on average for men (NIAAA, 2004). Ideally, women should not consume more than three glasses of alcohol per week.

Understanding stress – the four stages

Stage 1:
Restlessness, insomnia, trembling, changes in menstrual flow, body temperature changes, and decreased appetite – rapid weight loss.

Stage 2:
Intense anxiety, insomnia, poor appetite, poor immune system, increased weight – about 5kg, increased breast size, low libido, and increased alcohol intake.

Stage 3:
Apathetic, increased sleep, steady weight gain – especially around the middle and arms and thighs, lethargy, fatigue, auto immune responses such as fibromyalgia, food cravings, excessive alcohol intake, digestive irregularities.

Stage 4:
Sore throat, mild fever, painful lymph nodes, muscle weakness, myalgia, headaches, excessive weight gain all over and stubborn weight loss, sleep disturbance, extreme alcohol consumption.

Your adrenal glands provide you with crucial hormonal support needed to get through the day with energy, enthusiasm and efficiency. Adrenal hypersensitivity means you are much more likely to suffer from fatigue, forgetfulness, mood swings and sleep disturbances. Living in the ‘fast’ world of today exposes you to unavoidable levels of stress – and with that stress comes elevated cortisol levels.

In its normal function, cortisol helps you meet these challenges by converting proteins into energy, releasing glycogen and counteracting inflammation. For a short time, that’s okay. But, at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually tears your body down.

Sustained high cortisol destroys healthy muscle and bone; slows down healing and normal cell replacement; co-opts biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones; impairs digestion, metabolism and mental function; interferes with healthy endocrine function; and weakens your immune system.

Not tonight honey – I have a headache

You may be reassured to know that the national average is a little over once a week.

There’s plenty of pressure on women to achieve quite a lot in just one normal day, and, you know, by the time you’ve ‘sorted’ the kids, the washing, the housework and perhaps even catching up with a friend for your own mental sanity, the last thing you want to do is slip into any sexy lingerie at the end of the night. You just want your comfy, cosy, warm pyjamas … and to go to sleep.

Your libido is an indicator of your general health status. A low libido means you may need to look at your physical or emotional health status more closely. Stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, hormonal imbalance and psychological aspects all affect your libido.

Herbs can be the answer to hormonal happiness

Herbal medicine and tailored dietary changes can help in a number of different ways. Some herbs support the body to cope with stress and help emotional balance and some increase circulation to the reproductive organs. Herbs can also address common problems associated with hormonal imbalance such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, thyroid imbalance, menopause, PMT and poor vitality or energy.

Nutritional imbalance can also have a major impact. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for proper functioning of all sex hormones, yet it is one of the most common deficiencies. Zinc also plays an important role in fertility.

The B group vitamins are also important in regards to feeling alive. The B vitamins help with fatigue and stress management. They tend to be low in many women due to the over processing and manufacturing of foods.

The amino acids tyrosine and taurine help to regulate dopamine levels. Research has shown that taking these has been positive in increasing these levels and decreasing the cravings for alcohol.

Eating a balanced diet tailored to your individual needs is the critical cornerstone to optimal health and support to a busy lifestyle.

Tip: Having a targeted herbal formula dispensed by a qualified practitioner can be one of the most important steps in re-establishing health.

Exhaustion and being overworked may just be part of the picture

Some women experience the effects of depleted testosterone levels especially when they are under prolonged stress.

It’s become quite controversial, but there’s general belief that testosterone is important for libido in both women and men. In some women, having low testosterone is a major factor in their having a loss of sexual interest. Herbalists for centuries have successfully used herbs such as tribulus, damiana and panax ginseng.

If you’re feeling flat, you are not alone

Find comfort in knowing all women experience changes in adrenal balance at some point in their lives. With so many factors to consider, keeping your health in balance is almost another chore in itself! The most important thing to remember though is not to ignore it. Identify what is causing it and address it. Speak to a health professional, get answers, and get healthy!

Remember – if the woman of the house is happy, everyone is happy!


Narelle Stegehuis ND ANPA, CEO of MassAttack, is a practising naturopath specialising in the research and development of natural treatment programs for women with hormonal imbalances, which have contributed to such symptoms as weight gain, cravings, anxiety & mood swings. Reviewed by the Australian Naturopathic Practioners Association, Narelle was the recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. 

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