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Combating The Impact Of Stress On Your Body And Your Health

Index
1. Hormones and Stress
2. Supplements that can help
3. Causes of Stress and suggested tests for your doctor

 

We live in a very stressful world. It doesn’t surprise anyone to find out that researchers have shown that the impact of stress is a major contributor to development and progression of many health conditions (e.g. heart disease, dementia, cancer etc.) as well as having a negative impact on aging, immune function, as well as breakdown of muscle and bone mass.

It’s unlikely that stress is going to disappear anytime soon, so you have to incorporate stress-combating strategies into your daily game plan to help reduce its impact on your health and your body. Regular exercise is a significant stress-reducing practice, as exercise releases endorphins, lowers baseline adrenaline levels, reduces the impact of stress on your heart and vascular system, supports lean mass and bone mass and improves your overall sense of wellbeing and coping ability. In addition, things like yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and other mind-body practices are also beneficial in helping to lower stress hormones and calm hyperactivity within the brain and nervous system.

Hormones And Stress

One of the main features of chronic stress is the over secretion of a hormone called ACTH from the pituitary gland in the brain. ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to synthesize and secrete cortisol into the bloodstream. It is the high levels of cortisol that produce many of the negative effects of stress on our health. The high levels of cortisol that result from the body’s adaptation to stress contribute to the following negative health outcomes:

  • Increases inflammation in arthritic condition and all other inflammatory problems
  • Weakens the immune system making us more prone to infections and cancer
  • Blocks the effects of thyroid hormone at the cell level and may inhibit release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland – this slows metabolism leading to weight gain and unhealthy changes to your hair and skin, and can increase feelings of depression and hopelessness
  • Causes resistance to insulin, which raises blood sugar, and may trigger or worsen diabetic or pre-diabetic states
  • Produces cloudy thinking, lack of concentration, and mental fatigue
  • Encourages a breakdown of muscle tissue and bone mass, which contribute to osteoporosis, muscle weakness, frailty and slower metabolic rate

Supplements Can Help

Fortunately, there a natural agents known as adaptogens that can decrease the over secretion of cortisol and protect the adrenal glands against injury and enlargement from the constant stimulation of ACTH. The best and safest adaptogens to use are Rodiola, Schisandra, and Ashwaghanda. Some B-vitamins, such as pantothenic acid and B6, as well as vitamin C and zinc have also been shown to keep the adrenal glands functioning normally under periods of stress.

If you have any of the health problems mentioned above and you feel that stress may be a contributing factor then you should consider taking a supplement each day that contains meaningful dosages of:

  • Rodiola
  • Shisandra
  • Ashwaghanda
  • Pantothenic Acid
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc

Other Considerations

Signs and symptoms that result from stress (due to too much circulating cortisol) can also be caused by other factors. If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above then you should ask your doctor to include the following tests on your next appointment:

  • Thyroid Function (TSH. Free T4, Free T3)
  • Adrenal Function (DHEA and Cortisol levels, as well as diurnal salivary cortisol levels)
  • Serum Ferritin Levels
  • Tests for antibodies – in some cases a chronic, low-grade infection can produce many symptoms that are similar to those caused by stress (chronic mono, Epstein-bar, candida, hepatitis etc).

I have seen in some cases more that more than one test may show an abnormality. To feel really good again and rediscover your vitality, each abnormal finding must be individually addressed through targeted nutrition, exercise, supplementation, and sometimes medication practices.

In this month’s feature article I explain more details about this comprehensive work up that should be done on individuals who have any of the symptoms outlined above. I also explain how to interpret each test, and what are the best strategies to apply to correct any abnormality. Many doctors over look this important clinical work up, and may even misinterpret the test results (thinking a finding is normal when in fact it is not). So, I would encourage you to read the feature article, get a copy of your blood test and salivary cortisol results and compare your findings to the ideal ranges I outline in this month’s feature article. This is the only way I can be certain that you are on the right road to get your energy and zest for life back on track, if it has been waning of late.

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