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, etc…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?