We’re all familiar with stress — it’s a constant element in our busy lives. But what we aren’t so familiar with is the body’s response to stress and the ways in which the stress we face today goes far beyond the kind of stress we faced as we evolved — and ends up depleting our energy and health.
When faced with a stressful situation, our body relies on the adrenal glands to monitor our “fight or flight” response. This healthy stress response has evolved from short-term events, for example, crises that came and went.
If we had to run from a predator, for example, our healthy adrenal glands responded by releasing adrenaline, which makes us more alert and focused, and cortisol, which converts protein to energy and releases our stored sugar, glycogen, so our bodies have the fuel needed to respond quickly.
This adrenal response rapidly increases our heart and respiratory rates and blood pressure while releasing energy, tensing our muscles, sharpening our senses, and slowing our digestion so we are primed to escape or fight back, whichever is needed.
When the stress is gone, the body returns to normal — quickly with the adrenaline levels, less quickly with cortisol levels. And so the cycle of homeostasis in the body continues until the next crisis or stressful event comes along.
Times have changed greatly and our lives are busier than ever. Multi-tasking is now regarded as normal. Between raising a family, stressful jobs, mortgages, caring for aging parents and many other responsibilities, we are all very aware that life challenges are more difficult than ever before.
In today’s society, we are all inundated with some or all of these stressors and unfortunately this stress just doesn’t seem to let up.
So what happens next?
When chronic stress repeatedly forces the adrenal glands to sustain high levels of cortisol the body can be affected.
The adrenals glands can become fatigued and can’t attend to their broader role in hormonal regulation because the same resources they use to make hormones like estrogen are required to make cortisol.
Elevated cortisol can lead to the damage of healthy tissues.
Your adrenals are your stress coping glands and when they are continually bombarded by stress, which keeps the cortisol elevated, they may lose their ability to perform well.
Eventually, adrenal fatigue may occur and people may experience symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, fuzzy thinking, depression, food cravings and mood swings.
Once the adrenals become depleted, it can lead to adrenal exhaustion and potentially serious health concerns.
How do you help adrenal function?
At Burnett House, our Naturopath Trish understands that we cannot avoid stress completely in our day to day lives and so she offers a focused plan to help you manage your response to the stressors in your life which may reduce your emotional and physical symptoms.
Trish prescribes herbal and nutritional supplements that may help to nourish and support your Adrenal glands and also takes a broader look at other systems/organs in your body that may be affected such as your Thyroid gland, digestion and nervous system.
By also using saliva testing to investigate correct levels of DHEA, cortisol and other hormones, a clear picture of what you need nutritionally can be seen.