The stress response is a vital function of human health and survival. It is important to have a stress response, as it allows us to cope with physical, mental, environmental and emotional problems.
Issues can arise when the stress response is uncontrolled or a person is dealing with excessive, prolonged or poorly managed stress.
What is the Stress Response?
The stress response is a simply a cascade of events. It starts with a Stressor. Stress is registered in the brain. A signal is then sent to the adrenal gland, which in turn makes our stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine). The stress hormones have systemic effects.
Please Observe the image below.
- Stress can come from physical, mental, emotional disturbances.
Some examples may include:
- Financial worries / Job security
- Family and relationship difficulties
- Emotional distress/grief
- Environmental toxicants
- Disease Processes (for example, inflammation is a stressor to our body).
2. Also remember stress can come from things perceived to be good: even exercise is a form of stress.The Adrenal Gland is a tiny hormone-secreting gland that sits on top of your kidneys. The Adrenal gland receives the stress signal and responds by making cortisol (and other stress hormones).
3. The whole point of a stress signal is to have a systemic effect. Cortisol can affect every cell in our body. The digestive tract, cardiovascular system, brain and muscles are some of the obvious effected organs, but always remember, every cell and hormone in our body is affected by stress.
When the Stress Response is Good
In times of stress, we want the stress hormones to affect our whole body.
For example – say a dog is chasing you.
You want our heart to beat harder and faster, to pump blood to our muscles so we can fight or run away. You also need more blood flow to your brain, so you can think and execute a plan of action. We also see reduced blood flow to the digestive tract, because the priority during stress is to survive, not digest the lunch you had earlier in the day.
The stress response affects the whole body. It effects every cell in our body and hormone in our blood.
The stress response is a survival mechanism first and foremost.
When the Stress Response is Bad
The stress response described above is good because it’s controlled and appropriate. You want a stress response when a true stress is present. Furthermore you want an appropriate amount of stress hormone based on the stressor.
A stress response can be detrimental in the following circumstances:
- Response to non-stressors: what if that whole cascade of events occurs when there isn’t a stressor present.
- Prolonged or Excessive amounts of stress: Some people have everything piled on at once, and the stressors can overpower the whole system.
- An overly sensitive adrenal gland: We experience real stress, but the adrenal gland overreacts and makes too much stress hormone as a result. An example of this is women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) .
- Adrenal Insufficiency: A condition in which the adrenal gland is no longer able to work or keep up with the stress. Like any other gland or organ, the Adrenal Gland can get tired and stop working properly . Also, it takes various ingredients to make stress hormones, those ingredients can be used up leading to deficiencies. Those ingredients tend to be vitamins and minerals .
- The effectors cells cannot handle more stress stimuli: this is a big part of treating chronic disease. The other organs (gut, heart, brain etc) cannot handle the constant stress response. For example, patient with cardiovascular disease are usually worsened by stress . Or a person with IBS may notice their digestion is worse during times of stress .
How a Naturopath Can Manage Stress and Support the Adrenal Glands
Again, refer to the image below.
- Identifying stressors: This is very important; some people don’t realize what their stressors are or how those stressors are truly affecting them.
- Techniques to reduce stress: Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and exercise are a few things that are known to reduce the stress response. It takes practice and guidance, something a naturopath is equipped to help you with.
2. ADRENAL GLAND
- Various herbs, vitamins and minerals can work to nourish, modulate and repair the adrenal gland .
- In healthy adults, use of special herbs has been shown to help prevent adrenal insufficiency. In other words, we can help prevent against chronic stress .
3. SYSTEMIC EFFECTS
- Identifying how stress effects a patient is our priority
- Again, herbs and nutrients can help work specifically based on your unique needs
Naturopaths can test your stress hormones in urine and saliva. We can see your cortisol and how it changes throughout the day. We can test for signs of adrenal insufficiency. We can also see how your stress hormones are affecting other hormones, such as insulin (blood sugar regulator) and sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA).
- The stress response is important. We need it to survive.
- Chronic stress or inappropriate stress responses are common and affect our whole body.
- Naturopathic medicine can focus on the stress itself, plus the things the stress effects.
If you’ve ever thought “My stress makes my ____________ worse”, please understand a naturopath can help. Book in today!
To have your cortisol tested and come up with an actionable plan to decrease and manage your stress, book an initial assessment with Dr. de Chickera and get your stress under control.
Dr. Johann de Chickera
Dr. Johann completed his 4-year degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Toronto. His clinical focus lies in chronic disease, such as those related to the Gastrointestinal, Endocrine, and Immune Systems.
Johann joined Body Co. in 2019, with enthusiasm and desire to joint a forward thinking, integrity driven and results-based multi-disciplinary clinic. Having worked alongside physiotherapists, massage therapists, osteopaths and other health care providers, he is confident he will complement the current providers and help maximize new and existing patients’ overall care.
His approach to medicine relies on working with the patient to come up with a feasible, multi-factorial approach that addresses all complaints at once. He employs a strong background in diagnostic medicine and human physiology and pathology to diagnose and treat. His treatment involve a combination of nutritional counselling, botanical medicine, eastern medicine (acupuncture), nutraceutical supplementation and hands on physical medicine.
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