Chronic stress has to steal to keep going.  Our stress response was designed for short-term action.  See danger, get away, recover.  Modern life usually has different stressors like work, money, relationships, etc.,  but the body interprets all stress as though that it is under attack and needs to flee and there is little or no recovery time.

For the body to continue its stress response, it keeps producing cortisol which causes the release of glucose. This fuels the cells and muscles for flight.  Excessive production of cortisol prevents the body from producing other needed chemicals like estrogen, testosterone, and progestrone.  It literally steals it away so that it can continue to make cortisol.  This not only causes deficiencies of many hormones, but ultimately adrenal fatigue and exhaustion.

So how do you tell this is happening?  You know you’re stressed but how bad is it?

Signs of Adrenal Fatigue

  • Fatigue – especially noted is difficulty getting going in the morning and getting a 2nd wind later in the day around 5 p.m. or so.  This is classic.
  • Irritability
  • Easily overwhelmed
  • Salt or sweet cravings
  • Urinary frequency
  • Hair loss
  • Light-headed or dizzy when quickly standing up
  • Decreased libido
  • Brain fog

Testing at home:

An easy test, best done with another person, in a darkened room.  Shine a flashlight from the side of the head across one eye.  Do not shine directly into the eye.  The pupil should constrict and be able to hold without wavering for a couple of minutes.  If the size starts to waver or enlarge in 10-30 seconds that is a positive sign for adrenal distress.  The shorter the time, the greater the fatigue.

Lab Tests:

One of the best test is a 4 sample saliva test.  Because cortisol levels change during the day, the 4 samples are needed to see if levels are in the correct range throughout the day.

How to Help the Adrenals

  • Decreasing stress is #1.
  • If you tend to repeat alarming thoughts or constantly worry, force yourself to think about something else, take deep breaths, focus on your breathing.  There’s very little that can be accomplished by racing thoughts at 3 a.m.
  • Exercise helps the body to better handle stress as well as clear out the various chemicals released because of the stress response.
  • Avoid stimulants. They further tax an already taxed system.
  • Sleep.  Ideally getting to bed before 10 p.m.
  • Eat nutrient rich foods, lean protein, wide variety of vegetables, good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and omega 3s from fish.
  • Food sources of vitamin C and B complexes and whole food supplements of vitamin C and B complexes.
  • Herbal Considerations:  There are a number of beneficial herbs.  It would probably be best to take a combination of these either in a liquid formula or as a complex.  Some good choices are Rehmannia, Eleuthero,  and Ashwaganda.

Stress can cause havoc in any area of the body if it goes unchecked.  Long term stress that’s been stealing resources will require nutrients, herbs and lifestyle changes to get you back on track.





It’s Just Stress

It is getting to be that time of year when our bodies can get really taxed. It’s usually a combination of having lots to do, people to see, places to go and things to buy, coupled with all the less than healthy food and drink. So how do you do things differently? How can you help your body cope through the rigors of the season?

One of the time-honored remedies for dealing with stress is to exercise and eat well. This is not a new idea. It is a very well known fact. What might not be as well known is how stress takes its toll on the body.

Our bodies have well honed and integrated mechanisms for coping with stress. Since the stress response is a very basic and primitive response, the body will sacrifice a great deal to cope. In days of yore, stress was easily displaced by running away from that chasing predator. The excitation, the physical exertion, and the later recovery were necessary to survive, regroup, and continue until the next challenge occurred.

The body’s response to stress has not changed: elevated heart rate, shallow breathing, flooding the body with compounds like glucose, cortisol, and adrenaline. What we don’t get is the physical exertion to respond and let the body burn off these chemicals. Our stressors today aren’t being chased by wild animals. There’s nothing to run from and the body often doesn’t get to reset. This cycle will eventually take its toll. There will not only be the tendency to feel physically fatigued. After a while, various glands and organs will also get exhausted.

The adrenals are the main glands that deal with stress. If they get exhausted, that exhaustion can set off a chain reaction that makes the body less and less able to deal with stress. Metabolism will slow down, digestion and the ability to get nutrients to the body will be compromised, blood sugar imbalances can occur, and the list goes on. It’s not just stress. It’s a cascade of events that can lead to a significant downward health spiral if left unchecked.

So if your stress is short-term, say Thanksgiving to New Year’s, then do your best to eat well when away from the parties. Get lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and eat whole grains. These will help supply the body with the tools it needs to rebalance. Drinking alcohol uses up certain B vitamins which are very important in helping the body to deal with stress. Whole grains are particularly high in B vitamins. Taking additional B vitamins can be helpful but make sure that you are taking a good one, preferably a food based vitamin.

Long-term stress will also be helped by diet and exercise, but the body may need some additional support to help shift it away from its ingrained stress response. Because digestion gets impaired, there could be nutritional deficiencies that need addressing. Since adrenal fatigue or exhaustion can occur, some additional support may be needed.