Understanding The Effects of Stress
We are wondrously created with fully integrated biological systems. Let’s try to understand these systems. That’s what functional medicine is all about. There are many feedback mechanisms that control our endocrine system.
Sitting on top of our kidneys are 2 small glands, the adrenal glands that control our responses to stress. In our brain is a small organ, called the pituitary gland that secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH triggers the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Cortisol plays an inhibitory role, signaling the system to shut down the stress response via a negative feedback loop.
THE HPA AXIS (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal)
Cortisol (the stress hormone) has a strong diurnal (changes during a 12-hr. cycle) rhythm peaking within the first hour after awakening, declining rapidly over the morning hours, and then gradually decreasing over the rest of the day before reaching its lowest point at night.
In the beginning of stress, the adrenal glands secrete more cortisol. The effects of chronically elevated cortisol are:
- Fatigue/low energy
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbances
- Sugar and carbohydrate cravings
- Weight gain (esp. around the waist)
- Memory loss/”brain fog”
- Compromised immunity (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis)
Some of the conditions associated with persistent high cortisol:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (esp. constipation) by increasing intestinal permeability (leaky gut) and the gut bacteria
- Chronic stress
- Chronic migraine
- Bipolar disorder
- Memory impairment
- Melancholic depression
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Eventually, the adrenal glands start producing less cortisol that is sometimes called adrenal exhaustion. That’s why becoming more aware of the stressors in your life is so important. Yes, we are living in a very stressful world right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. I will be writing about this in coming days so be sure to check your emails and/or go to our website at: www.healingunleashed.com/blog/.
When the adrenal glands have been over stressed, the symptoms are:
- Fatigue – often extreme, esp. in the morning or after a stressor
- Anxious feeling, panic attacks
- Feeling paralyzed by fear
- Apathy, lacking motivation
- Memory loss/absent-minded/poor concentration
- Allergies (environmental, food, chemical intolerances)
- Depressions under stress, often worse in the evening
- Low blood pressure, esp. on standing
- Sleep disturbances
- Craving salty foods
- Craving vinegar, lemon, or spicy foods
- Anorexia, nausea
- Early onset menopause
- Decreased immunity (very important during this COVID-19 pandemic)
It is very important to assess the health of your adrenal glands. We do a special salivary test that includes the cortisol awakening response, followed by 4 timed collections of salivary throughout the day. The Adrenocortex Stress Profile with Cortisol Awakening Response is a home test. If you are interested, we can have the test kit shipped to your home. After the results are finalized, we will schedule an appointment for you with Dr. Bedinghaus to review the findings. This can be conveniently done through telehealth appointment.
Call us today @ 303-986-0492 and let’s get started gaining better health for you.
Your Healing Team,
Dr. Bedinghaus, Dr. Sloss and Tom Brady, RN