National Stress Awareness Month
April is National Stress Awareness Month for all of you who didn’t know. Due to all the stress we put on ourselves both personally and professionally it’s no surprise that an entire month is dedicated to stress awareness.
Stress is a normal emotional response to the demands of life. Everyone experiences it, and the effects of stress can range in intensity from being in a bad mood to more complicated illnesses.
Many studies have shown that stress is one of the biggest health concerns today. In fact, it is estimated that 75% to 90% of all illnesses are stress related.
Given that stress has been linked to so many other complications such as heart problems, depression, obesity and others, it is important for us to understand the physically impact that stress has on our body.
So to help, I called upon the expertise of my good friend and naturopath Mark Kibyuk to give us some insight into exactly what happens in the body when we are stressed and how it dramatically impacts our health and well-being.
“You are correct Courtney the World health Organization (WHO) states that 90% of all illness is related to stress. I wanted to outline some of the physiologic responses the body has when we are stressed and how it related to your wellbeing, as well as wellness plan.”
We cannot discuss stress and its relation to illness without first understanding the physiology or the moving parts of the stress system. This system is very complex, however I want to simplify by just focusing on one major part of the physiologic stress system, it is known as the Adrenal Gland.
The adrenal gland is located on top of both your kidney’s it is about the size of a walnut and has a very important job. It sends hormones to the body! The adrenal gland has many reactions which it shifts cholesterol (yes the stuff that everyone is so concerned with killing them) into different hormones. So basically the adrenal gland is a large factory for the production of Hormones.
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers placed in a bottle and sent to a target cell, much like we send letters or invitations to friends. The hormones in the body work to do some very important job. Let’s talk about some main ones (this list is not complete)
Cortisol- THE stress hormone, responsible for you perceiving stress, as concentrations of Cortisol increase in the blood different reactions happen, the alarm mechanism is sounded, which activates the fight or flight response, which comes back to our primal days. When you were hunting food or were being hunted for food, this response gave you the ability to move quicker, dilate blood vessels in the eyes, legs, and arms, increase heart rate, and close off many other important organs for a short time as they are not needed to run away from a sabre tooth tiger. Like reproduction, digestion, and toxin cleansing. Cortisol and corticosterone (like the stuff doctors give for rashes) are closely linked; they work with each other to reduce inflammation in the cells and tissues, while also affecting immune function.
But Cortisol is made when we have good stress as well termed Eustress which brings your body into maximum performance, like before a big game, or when you finally meet that woman or man of your dreams, those butterflies are eustress. Which I may quickly add is quickly overtaken by our innate primal sense to reproduce, which activates my next hormone pathway, Androgens. These consist of Testosterone, and Estrogen.
Adrenal fatigue a 21st century issue.
Have you ever experienced any of the following?
Excessive fatigue and exhaustion, non-refreshing sleep (you get sufficient hours of sleep, but wake fatigued) , overwhelmed by or unable to cope with stressors, feeling rundown or overwhelmed , craving salty and sweet foods , you feel most energetic in the evening a feeling of not being restored after a full night’s sleep or having sleep disturbances, low stamina, slow to recover from exercise, slow to recover from injury, illness or stress difficulty concentrating, brain fog, poor digestion, low immune function ,food or environmental allergies, premenstrual syndrome or difficulties that develop during menopause, consistent low blood pressure, extreme sensitivity to cold.
You could be experiencing Adrenal Fatigue; this is an issue affecting more and more people every day, what happens?
The body’s adrenal gland gets tired of producing hormones when it does not have to. You see here is what physiologically happens. When you perceive danger, or fear your body will have a hormonal response, Keep in mind we are all very sophisticated cave people, so we used to worry about when our next meal was coming, where can I find enough water to survive, what is trying to eat me, and where can I go to stay warm to go to sleep. And the body would respond hormonally to these issues and give us the ability to seek answers to all these questions through activity, or using our brain power to figure out the answer to our stressful questions.
Now a day’s however, the body’s hormonal system hasn’t changed that much, however our stressors have. We think about things like do my clothes fit in with my friends, does he/she like me, when is my next pay cheque coming because I want to go down town this weekend, deadlines are work are too strict and I don’t think I can have that report done, is my significant other cheating on me, am I fat, how can I lose weight for my vacation, should I get plastic surgery, and the list goes on and on and on. Stress is becoming a daily battle with people and the body’s hormones are still responding. So in reality your cells, because they have no brain, eyes, nose or mouth are wondering where the sabre tooth tiger is, when is it going to pounce and kill me, the body’s glands don’t know the difference between you thinking about stressful situations and living a stressful situation, the alarm sounds no matter what. As mentioned above all the systems of the body are on high alert, so your muscles swell with blood, blood pressure is spiked, reproductive organs are shut down , digestion slows, all in preparation to run or fight. BUT THERE ISN’T ANY FIGHT. This is the problem, the cells get tired of seeing this stress hormone so the body will down regulate it, which basically means tone it out, so what ends up happening is the gland secretes more and more hormone to get the cells to respond this is when the gland itself runs into trouble.
What can you do?
Decreasing stressors in your life is key, the more you can realize that stress is causing your body to respond unfavorably, the better off you will be at coping with it. There are many techniques to deal with stress, take a walk, exercise, have sex, do yoga, ask for help, prioritize your time, make sure you do something every day that you love, laugh every day, smile every day and most of all have fun. By taking the stress out of your life as much as possible, the body will heal itself rather quickly. There are also foods that can help with adrenal fatigue, stop drinking caffeine for one, lay off sugary foods and drinks, stay hydrated, 6-8 glasses of water minimum per day, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and increase the levels of “good” fats in your diet. There are also some supplements that will help, they should be taken under the advice of a practitioner, but some include, ginseng’s, rhodiola, skull cap, valerian root, and a host of other supplements.
If you think you may have this issue, please speak to a professional, there are plenty of options for treatment out there and many great therapies to help eliminate stress.
Thanks again Mark for always providing such great insight into health issues and concerns that so many of us struggle with and for doing so in such a simple way that helps us better understand what we can to heal ourselves.
To help bring more awareness about how stress dramatically impacts our health and well-being, I have invited Mark to host an information session at the LYL Studio on Sunday, May 26 at 10:00am.
During this sessions Mark will be focusing on hormone issues, how they impact your libido, fat loss, menopause and PMS. He will talk in depth about adrenal issues, stress response, ways to eliminate stress, and will also go into much more detail about what you can do to help with some of your stress issues.
I highly encourage you to join us on Sunday, May 26th 10am, and bring a friend. It’s FREE!
The session will be held at Global Gym on 92 Elizabeth Ave. Space is limited; so please email us at email@example.com to reserve your seat.
See you there!