What is Stress?
How often do we say "I am so stressed out!"? We probably feel stress more often than we should. We live in a very fast paced world and are very busy people. Sometimes I wonder why, with all the technology that is supposed to make our lives easier, we are busier than ever? I often feel like I am on "technology overload". Do you feel like that?
Stress has become a normal and natural part of everyday life. Stress occurs when the demands placed upon us exceed our body's ability to cope. The body's response to stress, often referred to as the “flight-or-fight” response, occurs automatically at these times. The adrenal glands release stress hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline and corticosterone, which gives us a boost of energy for our “fight or flight” response. This makes sense when faced with a physical threat, but this same response also occurs with stressful psychological or emotional demands.
Stress hormones have other, not as obvious, effects. They play a role in metabolism, inflammation, and immune system responses. So when our body is continually stressed and continually bombarded by high levels of cortisol and corticosterone, our digestive function can become impaired - leading to increased appetite and weight gain; our immune system can be suppressed - leading to sickness or even autoimmune diseases; and our nervous system can be damaged - leading to anxiety or depression; . Anyone who lives in a constant state of stress or anxiety or uses stimulants (caffeine is a big one) runs the risk of burning out the adrenals to the point where they don’t produce enough pre-hormones to help regulate the body.
What Happens When You Are "Stressed Out"?
When you are stressed out, your body releases excess cortisol into your system. If your body is producing too much cortisol on a regular basis, it is also making it harder for the adrenal glands to produce the other hormones it needs to manufacture. So, if you have more production of cortisol you have less raw materials to produce other hormones. One of the pre-hormones that the adrenals produce is pregnenolone which is a precursor to hormones like progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone. If your adrenals are busy pumping out cortisol, the production of pregnenolone takes a back seat. This can affect ALL of your hormone levels.
If you are wondering if you may have adrenal fatigue and either high or low cortisol levels, here are some of the symptoms you may be experiencing.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
If you think you might be experiencing adrenal fatigue the first step is to get your cortisol levels tested. This can be done with a saliva test. We do have saliva test kits on our website that you can order and find out where your levels are. You can get more information here: Saliva Testing. The collection of saliva samples is very easy and you send your samples directly to the lab for evaluation. The lab sends us the report which we forward to you.
There are natural remedies that can help with stress relief and can bring your cortisol levels to a more normal level. We will explore some of these herbs, vitamins and lifestyle changes in a future article.
For more information on the different tests available: