Most people experience stress, and most people think stress is only a mental problem. It is only in our “head”. However Hans Seleye MD and others discovered that stress causes many measurable physical and chemical changes to the body. There are different types of stress. Mental, physical and chemical. We all known about mental stress. It usually caused by time pressure or deadlines, relationship problems or money concerns. Physical stress comes from non-healing injuries, pain and physical over-exertion. Chemical stress comes from immune problems such as infections (virus, parasite, bacteria, yeast) or allergies. The other cause of chemical stress is high or low blood sugar. Blood sugar imbalances are one of the most common problems.
There are three stages to the Adrenal Stress Response:
3.Alarm Reaction stage
There are two primary hormones that the Adrenal Stress Response effects. They are Cortisol and DHEA. These hormones in turn effect and interact with other hormones and systems in the body. Disruption of cortisol and DHEA has wide reaching effects. Cortisol’s main functions are: to break down muscle and convert it to glucose (blood sugar), stimulate the liver to release glucose and to inhibit insulin so that blood sugar stays elevated. This provides fuel for the body to burn when under stressful conditions. Other functions are to provide: a quick burst of energy for survival reasons, a burst of increased immunity, and lower sensitivity to pain. The stress response is an ancient physiological mechanism designed for short term support to help in emergencies or when food supplies were low or when we are sick or injured. It wasn’t meant for the long term.
Changes in the levels of these hormones in people undergoing the different stages of stress can be measured using saliva and blood tests. The Alarm Stage is the beginning response to stress. This is the body’s first attempt to stabilize itself. I n this stage cortisol is elevated and DHEA remains steady. In the resistance stage the body has been battling whatever is causing the stress and its reserves are beginning to decline. Cortisol remains high and DHEA begins to drop. As the person transitions through the Exhaustion stage the adrenal glands are failing and the levels of Cortisol and DHEA drop. In the end phase of Adrenal Exhaustion cortiosl is very low and DHEA plateaus.
In all stages fatigue and more frequent colds and flus are common. In the Alarm Stage the person won’t be able to fall asleep very easily, perspire easily, wake up tired even after a good night’s sleep, and gain weight easily during periods of stress. As they transition into The Resistance Stage they will begin to have insulin resistance and high blood sugar, which causes: fatigue after meals, crave sweets, craving that isn’t relieved by eating sweets, frequent urination, increased thirst and appetite. When they begin to into the Exhaustion Stage they will have they following symptoms: cannot stay asleep, craves salt, afternoon fatigue, dizziness when standing up quickly, weak nails, headaches with exertion or stress, slow starting in the morning and afternoon headaches. By this time they will now have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and they will also have: irritability if meals are missed, feel shaky, jittery, tremors, agitated and easily upset, nervous, poor memory, get lightheaded if meals are missed, crave sugar during the day, blurred vision and need more and more coffee to function.
These imbalances also have negative impacts on thyroid function, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone production. Also adrenal and blood sugar imbalances also cause immune system over-activity and/or weakness, which leads to inflammation, allergies and chronic infections. These effects are too much for this article. We will save them for future articles.
The bottom line is: stress is a major player in the poor health many people are experiencing today. So what can you do? Learn how to manage time. Give yourself extra time to complete projects or do your errands. Take stress vacations. Take a day off now and then and don’t do any work or chores. Do you the things that you enjoy the most. Learn stress exercises. Learn to forgive. See the light at the end of the tunnel. Follow my basic diet guidelines from my previous blog. If you really want to get your health under control, I highly recommend that you get a salivary Adrenal Stress Index test performed. This test is done by DiagnosTechs Laboratory. It is simple and pain free. They have been doing salivary hormone testing longer than any other lab and very accurate and thorough. I also recommend comprehensive blood chemistry testing to measure blood sugar levels, thyroid function and assess the functions of your other body systems.