Tis the season to be stressed?
With the holidays just around the corner; we all can become bogged down with the travel, shopping, and all the preparations that go along with them. The good news is that there are effective ways to help deal with the stress that we inevitably find ourselves in. Stress is defined as a specific response by the body to a particular stimulus, which disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism. Of course stressors are not limited to negative situations, but can come in the form of traditional happy experiences such as weddings, a new baby, or moving to a new house. All of these stressors can take a toll on our adrenal health.
Our bodies were designed with the capacity to sense and respond quickly to danger or a threat of some kind. Our adrenal glands pump out hormones such as cortisol, preparing us for the “fight or flight” response. After the stressful event is over, our hormones return to a baseline. However, modern acute stress often doesn’t stop. At first our adrenal glands respond to this constant stress by maintaining the increased cortisol levels. Eventually we lose the ability to sustain these levels, and our cortisol levels drop. Because cortisol is a catabolic (breaks down tissues) hormone, consistently high levels can have quite the negative effect on our overall health. At this point, we begin to experience the symptoms of adrenal fatigue: burnout, exhaustion, erratic and intense perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms, increased PMS, decreased pain tolerance, over-reaction to minor stressors, and extreme cravings for sugar and salt.
Poor dietary habits, continuous stressors, unhappy relationships at work or at home, lack of exercise, lack of fun, no time management or feelings of powerlessness can all make adrenal fatigue worse. On the other hand, exercise, rest and relaxation, prayer and meditation can work to improve adrenal fatigue. Daily supplementation of a multi-vitamin/mineral, vitamin C, and B-complex vitamins support the adrenal glands. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is loaded with antioxidants to combat the free radicals released during the stressful situations. We should also limit caffeine and sugar intake and fatty food consumption. Stress can depress the immune system and has been associated with a wide variety of diseases including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, inflammatory illnesses, cancer, and others. Adrenal dysfunction can have a direct effect on the rest of the endocrine system. It is important to deal with the short-term stressors before it becomes chronic. Adaptogenic herbs (ginseng, rhodiola, ashwaghanda), alpha-lipoic acid, 5HTP, an, and phosphatidlysterine are all useful to help the body deal with the complications under chronic stress.
If you feel like your stress has gotten out of control and are concerned with your adrenal function, please make an appointment with me to discuss options.
May the blessings of Christmas be with you this holiday season.
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