Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Dr. Stephens defines stress as any stimulus that disrupts the body’s internal balance. (Stephens, 2012)
Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress and a little stress is good for the body. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without health consequences.
So why does our body feel stressed?
When we overload on daily life activities- too much work, excessive time in the gym, little sleep, tragic life events (or all at once events) we begin to disrupt our HPA axis.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a set of three systems: the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland.
The HPA axis is used to regulate several body processes, including stress response, digestion, immune system, mood and emotions. It is the prominent neuroendocrine response to stress, promoting survival. (Ranabir & Reetu, 2011)
So, when we overload on excessive activities, our adrenal glands produce the stress hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that is produced in the adrenal cortex of the kidney and is best known for its involvement on the fight or flight movement.
Neurologically, humans function on a continuum between sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest).
In both females and males when we overload and overwork the adrenal glands stress takes over creating hormone imbalances that may affect:
Indicators you are experiencing stress:
· Disruption or no menstrual cycle for females
· Impairment of reproductive system
· Sodium retention
· Reduced intestinal motility
· Increased glucose
· Low on energy
· Low libido
· Mood swings
· Thyroid down regulation
· Decrease in insulin
Manage stress by:
· Prioritizing (focus on what is important at the moment)
· Sleep 8-9 hours daily
· Adapt high quality nutrition
· Reduce gym activity 3-4 days max (adjust volume and emphasize on recovery)
· Reduce work load in all areas of life
· Add adaptogens into diet to support adrenals
List of adaptogens:
Lee, S., & Rhee, D. K. (2017). Effects of ginseng on stress-related depression, anxiety, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Journal of ginseng research, 41(4), 589-594.
Ranabir, S., & Reetu, K. (2011). Stress and hormones. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 15(1), 18-22.
Stephens, M. A., & Wand, G. (2012). Stress and the HPA axis: role of glucocorticoids in alcohol dependence. Alcohol research: current reviews, 34(4), 468-83.
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