The impact of stress
I am sure I am not alone in saying that each year just seems to be flashing by quicker than the last. Our lives have become so full of commitments that there barely seems anytime left to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. As a result, we are sadly seeing more and more clients in our clinic with symptoms associated with stress, fatigue and anxiety. Mental health conditions have become a major health complaint for our society and antidepressant medications are now in the top 2% of pharmaceuticals prescribed. I recently attended a conference in Melbourne that was promoted as 'The STRESS EPIDEMIC'.
It seems that 'STRESS' has become the number 1 cause of many of today's health issues that range from mental health complaints to physical exhaustion. In fact, the list of health conditions associated with the body's natural stress response termed 'flight and fight' response includes; insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, low libido, hypoglyceamia (low blood sugar), hormonal imbalance, Thyroid problems, memory issues, skin problems, PMS and menopausal complaints as well as Blood Pressure and autoimmune conditions. What has gone wrong?
Our bodies automonic nervous system was certainly designed to handle stress on a short-term basis. Unfortunately, today we are being continually hit with demands in our daily lives that exceed our body's ability to resolve one event and prepare for the next. This constant demand keeps the body in a state of 'flight and fight' that over time raises blood pressure levels as well as insulin out put and blood sugar regulation. People living in this state often complain of weight gain, muscle weakness, mood changes, headaches and mental fog, sleep disturbance, feeling' wired and tired' and eventually exhausted.
The impact on the Adrenal system is now termed a twenty century disorder. Melissa, our new clinic Naturopath offers some great insights into adrenal function and its effect on mood.
Adrenal function and its Effect on Mood In an ideal world, our adrenal glands would release stress hormones only for short bursts and then they would have ample time to recover, replenish and restore. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of us that live in such a world.
All of life’s responsibilities and the very nature of our contemporary world leads us towards a constant state of “fight or flight” – with an elevated and continuous release of stress hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) surging from our adrenals. This incessant cascade manifests in physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, a racing heart, dizziness, nausea and a dry mouth. Digestive function and the ability to attain restorative sleep are sacrificed while anxiety, panic and agitation become the norm, impacting on every facet of life.
The adrenals are not designed to run like this and eventually they become exhausted and the hormonal response becomes blunted, resulting in what is commonly referred to as “adrenal fatigue”. In this state we may experience exhaustion, mild to moderate depression, brain fog, difficulty concentrating and less acute memory recall. Recent research from the University of California Berkeley confirmed that exposure to ongoing stress can trigger long-term alterations to the human brain. This could help clarify why those enduring chronic stress are more likely to experience anxiety and mood disorders.
How do we manage this condition? Assessment of Adrenal function is important to determine a treatment protocol. A simple at home salivary hormone profile can identify your current level of adrenal activity as well as your response to daily stressors. A nutritional program can then be prescribed to aid adrenal recovery alongside dietary and lifestyle recommendations. A big part of recovery is to identify and eliminate lifestyle stress factors that are contributing to the condition. This may include work/life balance, over use of technology, family or social commitments, chronic health conditions, dietary factors and poor sleep patterns.