Stress is a reaction of the body when you face adverse situations whether they’re real or perceived.
When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent harm. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response.
Stress comes in many forms and can be acute or chronic.
For instance, in an emergency situation, the acute stress response can literally save your life. Stress is what gets you to slam on the breaks to avoid hitting the car in front of you.
However, intense and long periods of sustained stress (for example, in today’s fast-paced culture, many of us are overworked and under pressure from too many obligations) set our alarm system, that once was a body’s way to protect our survival, against us.
Stress causes a chain reaction in the body and stressful events engender numerous neurochemicals, neurotransmitter and hormonal alterations by primarily activating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones released by the adrenal in response to stress. This hormone has a pattern curve and a healthy one begins with cortisol levels highest in the morning, but not hours before dawn.
Cortisol levels are normally lowest around 3 a.m., then begin to rise, peaking around 8 a.m. then it tapers off through the day and evening.
When under stress constantly, the body releases cortisol at all hours and it is linked to increased risk for physical (cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases), psychiatric and neuro degenerative disorders (depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease). It also contributes to a greater risk for infection, prolonged infectious episodes, and delayed wound healing.
Imbalances can as well, lead to inflammation and thyroid issues.
After a prolonged period of producing extra cortisol, the adrenals eventually
get fatigued and quit making the hormone.
If your Cortisol pattern is disrupted a saliva test can confirm if this is the
problem (It can be done in the clinic).
Here are some of the common patterns malfunctioning cortisol levels tend to follow:
Fatigue/ Low energy
Sugar and Carbohydrates craving
Memory loss/brain fog
Exhaustion Low cortisol
Anxious feeling, specially under stress (panic attacks)
Feeling paralyzed by fear
Apathy, feeling unmotivated
Memory loss, absent mind, poor concentration
Depression under stress, often worse in the evening
Low blood pressure
Craving salty foods
Craving vinegar/lemon or spicy food
Early onset menopause and perimenopause
Summing up, our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress without ill consequences.
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune.
There are clear evidences that various keys nutrients are critical for stress response activation and regulation, cognitive and functioning and hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis, therefore having a proper diet and supplementation play an important role in stress management.
Book an appointment if you wish to find out the best use of nutrition to distress your life.