Stress Hormones & Your Emotional Health
Most practitioners like myself find ourselves talking about the effects of stress to clients more often than not. Stress can be physical, mental and/or emotional, and is seen as a major contributor to many serious diseases. The effects of stress are due to the production of stress hormones — cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
Besides psychological stress, there are other factors that induce the stress hormone release, these being sensitising factors and they tend to amplify the effect that stress has on our bodies. There are four main groups of sensitising factors.
Toxins are chemicals that alter the normal function of our body often causing adverse reactions. These toxins can come from internal (bacteria, parasites), or external (pesticides/chemicals, heavy metals, drugs, alcohol, coffee) and typically increase release of stress hormones.
Immune dysfunction and Inflammation
Your immune system is directly linked to your nervous system which is one of the reasons why we feel so bad when we are sick. For example, hay fever and allergies make us feel irritable and depressed because the chemicals produced by white cells can stimulate stress hormone release.
Sex hormones have a huge effect on our nervous systems. PMT happens because high oestrogen activates the stress response. Men can suffer from depression and poor libido when testosterone and DHEA levels are low.
Blood sugar imbalances
Sugar abnormalities cause stress and nervousness. We often see people with low blood sugar being irritable and people with high blood sugar being confused and tired. The most effective way to normalise stress hormone levels is through a four phase process.
Phase 1 – Reduce response to stress. This can be achieved by A), reducing an overactive nervous system with neurosedative herbs, B) correcting brain nutrient deficiencies — amino acids, vitamins, minerals, C) reducing stimulating foods/beverages D) use of stress reduction modalities such as massage, microcurrent, meditation, yoga exercise, rest and relaxation.
Phase 2 – Reduce the cause of stress by supporting the nervous system and sleep support. Dealing with the mental/emotional issues. (Have you read Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now?) Supportive modalities for pain and neuromuscular dysfunction — anti inflammatory herbs, microcurrent etc.
Phase 3. Correct underlying sensitising factors which amplify the stress response.
There are numerous hormones that trigger the nervous system. These hormones need to be in the correct ratios to maintain balance. The major hormone ratios that may be affecting you are: oestrogen, progesterone, cortisol, DHEA testosterone/androgen, and thyroid. We now have saliva hormone test kits available through the clinic to assess the levels of hormones. Many people have their hormones tested by their GP via blood and are told that their hormones are within normal limits, but it is the saliva hormones that give the true picture of what is going on. Why? Your saliva hormone value gives you an excellent picture of your ‘free’ hormone levels. This free portion of your total hormones is extremely important because it is these hormones, which are available to carry out critical jobs in different parts of your body. About 95-99% of your total blood hormones are bound to carrier proteins therefore not available to your tissues. On the other hand the remaining 1-5% are free to move into your cells and make changes. In general, if you have had blood hormones measured, these results reflect your total hormone levels and not the crucial ‘free’ fraction.
Gut and liver detoxification
Having good digestion and intestinal function is vital for vigorous health and critical for normal mental and emotional control. Factors that may contribute to poor gut function and need addressing are: the elimination of reactive foods (see last month’s allergy info), elimination of bad bacteria, yeasts, parasites, and to support digestion. Restore good bacteria. Help repair leaky gut wall. Enhance liver detoxification. (Check them out with live blood analysis, and clear with combo of herbs and colonic irrigation.)
Blood sugar/insulin control. Blood sugar regulation is important for stress hormone control. There are several recommendations we can use to help normalise this important area, such as: reduce carbohydrates, use insulin sensitising nutrients, correct body composition, correct fatty acids, and incorporate an exercise program.
Phase 4 Maintenance, anti-stress program
This is a very important part of everyone’s ongoing health and vitality. Unfortunately many people forget that it is easier and healthier to stay healthy than it is to try and regain health. The first of these important steps is nutritional. The nutrients we need to have balanced stress hormone levels include; the B vitamins, minerals (esp. magnesium and chromium), and herbs for extra support. The important second step relates to your immune system and ensures that you have a robust defence system against infections and immune disorders which cause nervous system agitation. Finally, there are some dietary and lifestyle recommendations that are critical for us to keep functioning at our best.