In episode 88 of his video series, Dr. Larson discusses:
November 7, 2018, was National Stress Awareness Day, so it is a good time to talk about how stress reacts in the body, and to discuss strategies to manage your stress response for better health. There are three different general triggers for stress. Mental/emotional stress, which can create feelings of being overwhelmed or “stressed out”. You can experience physical stress from things like unresolved pain issues or chronic illness. And then there is biochemical stress like blood sugar imbalances in the body or a toxic chemical burden.
Chronic stress in your life can lead to the system being “tied up”. The symptoms of an overtaxed system are things like brain fog, weight gain, inability to focus, inflammation and insomnia. Chronic stress can influence multiple organs and systems in the body. DR. CHAD LARSON
Stress can lead to excess or chronic inflammation, which can be measured using a test like CRP (C-reactive protein), which is an inflammation marker that can be measured on a simple blood test. All three types of stress tap into your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the center of your stress system. They are about the size of a walnut and rest just above your kidneys. They are the powerhouse of hormone production in the body.
The adrenal glands are like two glands in one. There are two main components, the outer portion, or the adrenal cortex, and the inner portion, or the adrenal medulla. The outer portion produces the hormones cortisol and DHEA. Their levels can be tested using a salivary test and they can also be measured in a basic blood test. The outer portion is responsible for the HPA axis or hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain signal the adrenal gland to produce hormones, which creates a loop from the brain to the adrenal glands.
The inner portion is responsible for the SAM system. The Sympathetic Adrenal Medulla is part of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system triggers the “flight or fight” response. The parasympathetic system (opposite of the sympathetic nervous system) is most active when your body is relaxed and calm. The sympathetic system triggers the adrenal medulla to produce other hormones, which are more like neurotransmitters like epinephrine (adrenaline), nor-epinephrine. The SAM system reacts faster to stress than the HPA axis.
Responding to immediate stress is completely healthy and necessary for short-term situations like when you notice a threat that makes you go into action. When you need extra strength and to react fast, the sympathetic system is completely normal. But when stress is chronic, that taxes the adrenal system. Chronic stress in your life can lead to the system being “tied up”. The symptoms of an overtaxed system are things like brain fog, weight gain, inability to focus, inflammation and insomnia. Chronic stress can influence multiple organs and systems in the body. That is why if you feel as if you are experiencing chronic stress, it is essential to identify and find ways to manage it.
You can test and evaluate the integrity and the function of your adrenal system by measuring adrenal hormones. When there is an imbalance, then you have to find strategies to combat it. Simple breathing technique apps that you can download can help to manage stress. Things like yoga and meditation are also an excellent tool for stress management. They all work by inducing the parasympathetic system to take over and relax your body.
If you have a combination of multiple stressors in your life that can lead to a significant imbalance. To effectively manage stress, approach it from more than just one angle. Foods can be the key to balancing chronic stress, avoid sugar, sweets, and inflammatory foods like processed oils and refined grain products. Nutritional supplements like ginseng and rhodiola are botanicals that have been shown to help support and nourish the adrenal glands. Vitamin B, specifically B5, is essential for supporting your adrenal system. So, making sure you are getting a healthy supply of Vitamin B5 is an excellent tool to manage stress.
Another huge stressor is not getting enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, or the right kind, you are missing out on the rest and recovery that it provides the body and brain. Not getting enough sleep is a key risk factor for chronic stress. If you aren’t sleeping, you need to schedule it just like you schedule anything else. Otherwise, you can’t combat stress effectively.
To determine if chronic stress is affecting you, find someone who will test for imbalances and guide you through the process of finding proactive ways to combat it. Don’t let chronic stress run wild. Seek advice from qualified healthcare providers who can test your stress hormones and markers of inflammation and develop a plan of action to manage the stress that life throws your way.