Gut Healing Program: 3 Months to a Healthier You!

Overcome Stress and Adrenal Fatigue

Stress

Stress affects you chemically, physically, and emotionally. You may have heard the term “fight or flight”? How about “rest and digest”? The body’s first response to any stressor is an alarm reaction, a flight or fight response. Will you stay here and fight or run from the stressor? In cave man days it was “will run after lunch or run so you do not become lunch.” Today our lions and tigers attacking us are bosses, the IRS, the mortgage company, our spouses, even our children.

This fight or flight reaction is controlled by the adrenal glands. The Adrenal glands are two small glands about the size of a silver dollar that sit on top of each kidney. They are your first responders, your first line of defense.

When we have stressors, a response is triggered in the brain at the hypothalamus. This causes a chain reaction via the sympathetic nervous system, or our caveman instinct. The reaction goes on a non stop flight directly to the adrenal medulla, the inner part of the glands which in turn releases cortisol and adrenaline.

This is a good thing in an acute stress situation, such as being chased by a tiger, but not good when it occurs day in and day out at work, at home, as a parent, or as a wife or husband. When we are in a “flight or fight” mode for an extended period, which most of us are, many imbalances in our bodies occur because our bodies are so busy handling the stress there isn’t any energy left for the simple things our bodies need to do.

We are unable to get into the much needed “rest and digest” phase. When you are unable to “rest and digest” you suffer from conditions such as IBS, constipation, reproductive issues, skin problems, bladder issues, and kidney and liver congestion. Think of it like this, when running from a tiger, our body would not allow us to stop to have a bowel movement. All our energy is now focused on the stressful situation.

In this stressed state, the adrenal glands produce cortisol. Cortisol provides what we call a negative feedback loop, confusing the reproductive and endocrine systems when it spikes. Normally it should be highest in the am and decline throughout the day, in a stressful situation it gets confused and often increases at night and decreases in the morning. High cortisol can leave you in a state of pure exhaustion during the day and insomnia at night.

Elevated cortisol also decreases the transport of glucose to the cellular level, that creates a defective glucose mass action causing blood sugar problems. Elevated cortisol also contributes to obesity which is common in stressed out individuals; no matter how hard you try you are unable to lose weight. In fact, you may gain weight specifically in the middle abdomen area, belly fat. When cortisol is elevated, it deposits fat and decreases fat breakdown especially when insulin is also elevated. If you reach for carbohydrates, sugars, chocolate, fast food and other fats in high stress times, you may be a stress driven eater due to low glucose transportation, high cortisol and high insulin causing these cravings.

Cortisol surges for as long as it can before it is depleted; now we have an endocrinology condition that brings the thyroid gland into the picture. Our bodies, as smart as they are, do not let this go on for long. They know we can not stay in this state long term and try to slow down or system using the Thyroid gland. Someone with an adrenal problem will end up with a low-functioning thyroid by slowing down your metabolic rate. Now we have cold hands, loss of hair, bloating, slow metabolism, chronic fatigue, weight gain with the inability to LOSE ANY weight no matter how hard we exercise, eat right, ect…We are now diagnosed with hypothyroidism, given medication, but still have not gained our health and vitality back because the adrenal glands have not been addressed.

The good news is that this can be corrected, stopped, and reversed naturally with out using any drugs. There are tests we offer to see what the adrenal glands are doing, there are herbs that help balance cortisol, rebuild the adrenal glands and regulate other hormones. Do you know that the biggest factor in the reversal of adrenal fatigue is stress management, life style changes and relaxation techniques to control the cortisol output?

Stress, Cortisol, Insulin and Glucose

When your body gets stressed, such as in times of emotional distress, exercise, surgery, illness, or even daily living, hormones are produced by the adrenal glands called Glucocorticoids. One of them, Cortisol, should be highest first thing in the morning, to combat the stress of overnight fasting and to get the body ready for the day’s activities. It should gradually decline throughout the day, being lowest at bedtime and through the early night. Its gradual rise in the early pre-dawn hours is what naturally wakes you up in the morning.

Cortisol plays an essential role in immune function. It mobilizes the body’s defenses against viral or bacterial infection and fights inflammation. However, over long periods of time, high cortisol levels can actually suppress the action of the immune system and make you more likely to get frequent infections.

Cortisol also maintains adequate blood levels of glucose. The brain gets most of its energy from glucose, so this is an important task. After a period of not eating, the body’s cortisol production increases. This increase initiates catabolism, or the breakdown of protein into simple amino acids and their conversion into glucose to feed the brain.

How Stress Speeds Aging

Many things can speed up aging, including a diet high in fats and white sugar/carbohydrates, not getting enough exercise, lack of sleep and too much exposure to the sun, but stress is number one!

A little bit of stress is not always bad, it wakes us up and makes us alert. We learn better sometimes when we have a little bit of stress. The danger of aging comes when we have prolonged stress and don’t know how to counteract the negative stresses.

A stress response starts in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus, which is called the mind-body connection, or where the brain and body intersect. When the hypothalamus and pituitary are stimulated, they activate the adrenal gland, which releases chemicals into the body that rev the body for a “fight or flight” action. When your body gets stressed, such as in times of emotional distress, exercise, surgery, illness, or even daily living, hormones are produced by the adrenal glands called Glucocorticoids, one of them being Cortisol. Prolonged adrenal stimulation will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, a condition I speak more in depth about on my website.

So what can you do about stress? Lifestyle change is by far the best antidote to stress.

First is to breathe correctly from your diaphragm, this powerful muscle in your stomach can calm the vagus nerve which helps aid in balancing your body. This nerve sends branches to the heart, the lungs, and the intestinal tract. And what it’s saying to your system is to calm down.

Second is through meditation or prayer. This can strip decades, literally, off your life. If you find still meditation difficult, you can also use techniques like yoga, tai chi, or chi-gong. Just spending as little as 10 minutes alone, in silence will reset your endocrine system. You may say you don’t have time, or you can’t afford to take ten minutes. You really can’t afford not to.

Third, as we’ve all been told before, eat more fruits and vegetables! Specifically those rich in antioxidants like tomatoes, blueberries, carrots and broccoli. They can boost your immune system and help your body fight off the negative effects of stress.

Fourth, add magnesium to your diet. Magnesium is a well known anti-stress mineral. Look for it in whole grains, beets and raisins. Magnesium can also be taken as a supplement monitored by a health care practitioner.

Fifth, let it go! Relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff….and it’s all small stuff. Learn to keep from letting the little things in life drive you crazy. Don’t focus on the negative and stressful. Most of us need some help with this. There are many relaxation techniques out there such as guided visualization and hypno-therapy that can help. Check out the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” by Richard Carlson, PH.D, highly recommended!

Lastly, and this may be needed in cases of extreme prolonged stress and exhaustion, is monitored Adrenal Gland rebuilding by a certified doctor. Each gland in your body can be rebuilt using proper herbs and supplements. Adrenal gland testing my need to be performed to see just how stressed your body is and the rebuilding starts from there!

So What Happens When You’re Stressed All the Time?

a woman, surrounded by post it notes, pulling her hair out

Chronic, excessive stress (emotional or physical) can cause the adrenal glands to become exhausted so they can no longer produce adequate cortisol. Low cortisol levels lead to low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), excessive fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infection.

Constant emotional, physical or mental stress, excessive intake of alcohol (more than one glass of wine per day), and even minor amounts of sugars and refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin resistance, which in turn can increase levels of cortisol. This can create symptoms of high blood pressure, joint pain throughout the body, insomnia, restless legs, aging rapidly, loss of muscle tone, and weight gain through the middle of the body. Eventually, if very high Cortisol levels are untreated, it can lead to sudden death through cardiac arrest.

Adrenal Dysfunction

 

The Adrenal glands reside atop the kidneys in your body. The glands are a small piece of tissue with vital functions and a large burden. They secrete the hormones Adrenalin and Cortisol, as well as Androgens; all are vital parts of our survival. You can live forever without your reproductive organs, but without your adrenal glands you would quickly die within days. Because of this, the adrenal hormones are considered a top priority by the body, and your body will wisely sacrifice the functionality of your reproductive organs and digestive tract in the attempt to repair your adrenal glands.

Adrenal fatigue can also be a genetic weakness with your mitochondria (your energy source). In our office we offer genetic testing and nutrition based on your genes. We can find out if the culprit of your fatigue runs as deep as your genes. Listen here for more info about genetic defects and fatigue:

Symptoms of Cortisol Imbalance

  • Hypothyroid
  • High Cholesterol
  • Bloating
  • Catch colds easily
  • Craving carbohydrates and sweets
  • Chronic stress reactions
  • Lack of vitality and energy
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Anger and irritability
  • Migraine headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Poor memory
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Low sex drive
  • Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
  • Low body temperature or get cold easily when others are comfortable
  • PMS and cramps
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating, mental confusion, Brain fog
  • Aching, sore joints
  • Increased tension in muscles
  • Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas, nausea
  • Sudden bouts of bloating
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions
  • Increase in allergies
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, loss of balance
  • Changes in body odor
  • Sleep disturbances and apnea
  • Heavy Periods
  • Food allergies
  • Fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Heel and foot pain
  • Restless legs at night
  • Inability to relax
  • Panic attacks and anxiety
  • Excess facial hair
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Impotence or soft erections
  • Indifference to life
  • Weight Gain, especially through the waist
  • Chronic back pain
  • Painful or irregular menstrual periods
  • Bouts of rapid heart beat
  • Crashing Fatigue
  • Feelings of dread
  • Gum problems, increased bleeding
  • Osteoporosis (after several years)
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, ‘whooshing’ buzzing etc.
  • Lupus/SLE
  • Early menopause
  • Hypoglycemia

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