By Lorraine Ereira
26th Nov 2019
Unfortunately it’s a pretty big part of all our lives. In our western society we are exposed to an ever-increasing amount of stress, and its responsible for wreaking untold havoc on our bodies.
To a certain extent we need stress. Stress makes all the other body systems slow down so that the body can devote its energy to increasing the blood
supply, heart rate and hormone production, in order to deal with the stressor.
This kind of response is only meant to be short term – like fighting off a predator or fleeing from danger, and once the danger has passed the body should return to normal function. However we are exposed to long-term, low-level stress on a constant basis, from our need to pay the bills to providing a comfortable home for our family, or keeping up with pressures from our job. Even in our leisure time we are unable to switch off our stress responses as we are compelled to answer a message that simply can’t wait or to check on social media to see if anyone has commented on our latest post or even watching the news which fills us with concerns. We send messages to our central nervous system through our thought processes maintaining a low-level of constant stress.
Common stress responses include reducing the digestive function, affecting our ability to gain nutrients from our food, and disrupting gut flora; increasing blood sugar (to give you the energy to fight or flight) – making us crave low quality fast foods; increasing blood pressure; increasing heart rate; the adrenals calling for more cholesterol in the blood; a rise in adrenal hormones (cortisol, adrenaline), which slows down thyroid activity. (Our thyroid is responsible for weight management, controlling heart rate, supporting our immune function)
When we are exposed to prolonged stress we experience adrenal fatigue- this is when the brain sends the signals to the adrenals to produce the hormones needed to deal with stress but nothing happens because
they are so depleted. We experience prolonged lethargy; poor sleep patterns; feeling “wired”; reduced sex drive; lowered immune function.
When the adrenals become compromised due to prolonged stress the body continues to call for cortisol in its endeavours to deal with the stress but this means that the production of another hormone is effected. The body will “steal” progesterone to make additional cortisol, which causes a reduction in the hormone DHEA (the “mother” hormone), which is necessary to produce other sex hormones – testosterone, progesterone and estrogen– making our hormones very out of balance. This can lead to constant fatigue, depression, poor memory, systemic inflammation, lowered immunity, decreased libido and in women – hot flushes, night sweats, infertility and emotional instability. It can also reduce our bodies’ ability to prevent the development of hormone related cancers.
All our lives are more stressful now than ever, and its so difficult to avoid – but the good news is there are ways to avoid the effects that stress has on our physiology by managing the way our bodies deal with it. Through the right nutrition and practicing techniques that reduce adrenal hormone production such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing we
can protect our adrenals, and hopefully ensure that they will resume normal function- enough at least to kick in when we meet that tiger!