One of the important things about stress is that many different things can add up and sneak up on you. These include poor diet, too much coffee, too much sugar, health problems, allergies, overwork, not enough exercise, not enough sleep. Add a life changing event, like family death or divorce to this, and one may well end up feeling incapable of coping, feeling burnt out.
When preparing to deal with an immediate stress, our bodies have a mechanism called the “flight or fight response” that prepares the body for stress in the short term. This causes increased stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system which prepares us to fight the proverbial tiger in the jungle. This causes dilated pupils, dilated airways, faster breathing and faster stronger heartbeat. Muscle tension also occurs, as well as the release of glucose, adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones.
This response is only designed to be short term. However, in our everyday lives, we run our bodies at high gear and as a result, this response does not return to normal in many people, and then ends up causing the following problems:
- Neurotransmitters (brain messengers) and vitamins are depleted.
- Stomach acid is reduced.
- Bowel flora is unbalanced.
- The immune system is affected.
- The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (explained later) is affected.
- Creates and increases inflammation which causes disease.
- Depletes hormones.
- Breaks down proteins – this includes collagen.
It does not matter whether the stress is mental or physical, the messages will all go to the primitive brain and stimulate the hypothalamus. This in turn sends a message to the pituitary gland, which is the master hormone gland. This in turn then stimulates the adrenals glands which are triangular glands that are situated near the top of the kidneys.
The function of the adrenal glands is to regulate blood pressure and to make stress and sex hormones from cholesterol. The adrenals put out adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol to help the body cope with stress initially. However, with long-term stress, the adrenals can get tired and the feedback system to stop the hypothalamus stimulating the adrenals by the pituitary, starts to fail and the person does not know that they are chronically stressed and then they can suddenly run out of steam. That is called “burn out”.
Burnt out people are “wired and tired”.
They wake tired, drag themselves through the day, crave sweets, get fatigued in the afternoon then pick up at night and can’t sleep. The cycle continues and they can’t think or function properly and become depressed.
If some people are stressed enough, they can develop high blood pressure, heart problems, migraine, pain conditions and even rashes and peptic ulcers. Chronic severe stress and acute stress can contribute to conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
High levels of stress can also cause low mood or depression. Depression interferes with quality of life. Depression is commonly caused by hormone imbalance, serotonin deficiency, menopause, long term stress, low DHEA, underactive thyroid, food and chemical sensitivities, heavy metal contamination.
Nutritional support for stress includes high dose Omega 3, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, B vitamins and supplemental probiotics. Medical attention should always be sought when there are symptoms of depression.
For further advice and to arrange an appointment please call the Medical Clinic on 01243 771455.