We have an increasing number of things that demand our time and attention every day. Many of us aren’t sleeping as well as we should and we lead fairly sedentary lifestyles. And many more of us consume a diet filled with chemical additives, preservatives, flavorings and sugar, all which leave us feeling even more stressed and fatigued. We have gadgets that allow us to be accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is seemingly bad news everywhere you turn. We are increasingly becoming a society that is stressed out, overwhelmed and burnt out!
In a healthy body, once the stress has passed and cortisol levels decrease, the hypothalamus signals to the pituitary and adrenals to stop hormone production. But this doesn’t happen when chronic stress is involved. It becomes a loop of continual release of all of the stress hormones. The result is dysfunction in the HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal). When levels of these hormones, particularly cortisol, remain elevated in the body, specific symptoms will begin to occur.
Symptoms that indicate that stress is causing a hormone imbalance include:
1. Poor digestion
When cortisol is released, digestion slows down. This happens so that energy can be conserved and diverted to where it’s needed. The production of HCL also slows along with the digestion process. This can often lead to acid reflux, H.Pylori, ulcers, and Leaky Gut.
2. High blood sugar levels
When faced with stress, the body releases glucose to help provide fuel to the body. This increases blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels remain high for an extended period of time, such as during periods of chronic stress, it can result in blood sugar dysregulation. And the higher the fat in your diet, the less sugar is able to get into the cell to fuel it. This sends signals to your pancreas to release more insulin to get the glucose into the cell, resulting in insulin resistance.
Also high levels of fat in your blood put a major strain on your liver, pancreas, and adrenal glands, which work together to manage your blood sugar levels. With high-fat diets (such as in a Keto and at times Paleo Diet) they can make the liver sluggish and unable to store and release glucose as it should. Excess fat burdens your pancreas because it needs to release enzymes to aid fat digestion. And this also impacts your adrenal health because they flood the body with additional cortisol when your body senses higher levels of fats in your blood. Your body tries to compensate with excess adrenaline to help move the fat out of your blood, which can also tax the pancreas, reducing its ability to produce enough insulin (and enzymes) to keep your glucose levels in check. Ultimately leading to a vicious cycle of a burdened liver, pancreas and adrenals.
4. Lowered immune system
When you first deal with a stressor, the body actually stimulates the immune system. This is a defense mechanism that is designed to protect you against infection and help to heal wounds. But ultimately, the longer the chronic stress remains a problem, the weaker the immune system becomes, because it just can’t keep operating on overdrive forever. The immune system becomes so weak that it leaves you susceptible to viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungal infections. And if the liver is over burdened due to an unhealthy diet, this decreases its ability to detox toxins from your body..so what does it do with them? The toxins get stored in your brain, bone, fat and other organs (including your liver, pancreas and thyroid.
5. Loss of fertility and libido
When cortisol levels are elevated, other systems of the body are put at a level of minimal function and the release of certain hormones is suppressed. This is true for the reproductive system. When stress and Cortisol are high, sex hormone production is kept at a minimum. This causes a loss of reproductive function and libido.
6. Weight gain
While in the midst of a continual stress response, the appetite will increase along with the release of insulin. When facing stress, after the release of Cortisol by the adrenal glands, the body believes that it needs carbohydrates or fatty foods that can easily be stored as an energy reserves in the form of fat. So with chronic stress, your appetite for carbs and fatty food increases….and so does your waistline. Cortisol induced weight gain tends to happen around the abdomen, where the fat cells are more sensitive to the effects of Cortisol. Others have an opposite effect of a lack of appetite from the result of chronic stress. Skipping meals forces your body to use up your liver’s glucose storage, driving the body to run on adrenaline reserves which may be little to none, which can damage your pancreas and lead to insulin resistance as it looks for any type of fuel it can get.
8. Memory loss
When stress becomes chronic, it has a damaging effect on the brain. Production of new brain cells slows or even ceases completely and the brain actually begins to shrink. Cortisol damages the hippocampus…the part of the brain that is responsible for memory, learning and regulating emotions. The result is memory loss, decision making problems and loss of impulse control. Let’s not forget (pun intended) a lowered immune response from stress also allows for other viruses, bacteria or fungus to “come out and play” or seek further refuge in the brain leading to brain fog or memory issues and potential neurodegenerative issues such as Parkinsons, Alzheimer’s or ALS.
If you’re struggling with any of the above issues, it’s time for you to get to the root cause and heal your body for good. This is why I created the Regenerative Health Program™. It uses my custom-tailored labs to help you finally understand why symptoms are showing up, despite what others are telling you that everything is “normal.”