STRESS, and its impact upon our health well-being and happiness...

It is because people react differently to challenges and sustained pressures within professional or personal life, that the impact stress creates manifests differently depending upon the individual. For instance, nervous tension that begins in the brain and spreads throughout the body and which ultimately affects the adrenal glands, has the potential to influence endocrine system (thyroid / pituitary / hypothalamus), neurotransmitter systems, the entire digestive system and circulatory systems, including the heart. In order to truly appreciate the links between stress, adrenal dysfunction and inevitably ill health, one must first understand how the body adapts to stressful situations.

We have all heard of the 'fight or flight' response, with the accompanying symptoms being all too familiar – pumping adrenalin, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, raised blood pressure, raised blood sugar etc. However this acute response to stress may have been suitable to life over the passed thousands of years it is not so well suited to modern life, but instead leads to over-stimulation of the body's fight or flight mechanism.

Unlike animals who have adapted to offset the over-stimulation from fight or flight through shaking or running off excess energy, humans tend to carry the burden with them from one event to the next. If this over-stimulation is left unchecked, puts an incredible strain on all systems in the body, in particular the adrenal glands. Sustained nervous hyperarousal can lead to numerous nervous states, affecting sleep patterns, threatening emotional stability, and ultimately leading to what is commonly termed 'burnout'.

From a medical perspective, only the extreme deviations from normal adrenal function are recognized. These conditions of adrenal hyper-secretion, such as Cushing's syndrome, as well pathologies such as Addison's disease result from severe adrenal cortex insufficiency.

However, prolonged pressure experienced over time can become a serious threat to maintaining life-long wellness as so much energy becomes channeled into just coping, and, if left unchecked, can ultimately lead to adrenal exhaustion or 'burnout'.

The three stages of Adrenal fatigue could be termed as Wired, Tired and Wired, or Tired.

Wired (Alarm phase): Can be brought on by chronic infections, allergies, chemical toxins, use of stimulants, poor nutrition, physical trauma, poor sleep habit, persistent emotional
upset from either work or personal life.

Tired and Wired (Resistance phase): When stressors become long-term or multiple, the body enters this second phase. During this phase, Corstisol (mediation hormone, and powerful anti-inflammatory) directs the conversion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into glucose, to raise blood sugar levels, and aldosterone (mediation hormone) to promote the retention of water and sodium to keep the blood pressure up. If arousal continues long-term, cortisol out-put becomes excessive, suppressing the immune system, and results in increased wight gain and susceptibility to infections, chronic diseases.

Eventually, the adrenals become so weak that they can no longer sustain a stress response of any kind, and the body enters the exhaustion phase.

Tired (Exhaustion phase): No matter how vital the person once was, chronic stress can eventually lead to adrenal exhaustion, characterized by deficient production of hormones cortisol and aldosterone resulting in hypoglycaemia, low blood pressure. In the face of of this, insufficient glucose and electrolyte imbalance causes cells to not function properly, and the body to break down. The immune-modulating effects of cortisol are lost, meaning those who have moved into the exhaustion phase become prone to developing imbalances such as allergies and auto-immune conditions.

Nutrition consultation with an experienced practitioner can provide correct protocol ideas for adrenal health – what you need to know about diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15
Written by Anna Baudrain-Haynes, Naturopathic, Nutrigenomic & Functional Nutritionist
Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15

Anna Baudrain-Haynes NT is a fully insured & registered Nutritional Therapist with 15 years of clinical NT experience and 25 years of experience in the holistic healing arts.  Anna draws upon extensive training and knowledge in Naturopathic Nutrition, Optimum Nutrition, Kinesiology, Nutrige...


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