Stress and Hormones – The Wider Picture
The popular concept of stress is one of emotional and psychological instability mostly used as an explanation for a variety of symptoms that cause a patient to visit their GP. If lucky, the GP will run several tests and if they prove normal will offer the explanation “It’s Stress”. Whereby the patient is no wiser, and is still experiencing the symptoms of un-wellness that took them to their Doctor in the first place. Yes it’s true, that if the Doctor has run appropriate tests that come back negative, that the patient has not a serious pathological illness. However the patient is unwell from a functional point of view, and dysfunction of the body will always precede physical illness.
So what is the Wider Picture of Stress?
There is such a thing as normal stress response, but in order to understand this it is necessary to understand what can cause stress and how the body responds to it.
The causes of stress is wider that just the mental aspects of anxiety, depression, and emotional strain. Stress is conveyed through our autonomic nervous system to a relay station in the brain called the Hypothalamus, which works with the Pituitary (The leader of the endocrine orchestra), which in turn uses the Adrenal gland to respond to the stress. During normal stress response there is a balanced “firing” of the Adrenal hormones ACTH, Cortisol, and DHEA.
Chronic stress response happens when a person is under stress for a long period of time without let up, or living their lives in an environment of constant stress be it Physical, Physiological, or Mental, which means the output of the adrenal hormones is no longer balanced. There is an excess of ACTH and the ratio of Cortisol to DHEA is unbalanced. As a result of this imbalance, energy is depleted due to blood sugar level highs and lows (functional hypoglycaemia). How we breakdown protein and fats becomes impaired. Our immune system becomes volatile.
The consequences of Chronic Stress Response are the development of ill health experienced by as:
As you can see, stress does not in itself cause illness but exacerbates pre-existing weakness’s be they genetic or acquired.
It is virtually impossible to eliminate total stress from our lives, as most of us have to work and live in environments that are far from perfect, and do not have control over other people that influence our lives. The solution therefore to handle stress is of course to minimise the stress, strengthen our weakness’s, correct our imbalances, balance our hormonal systems, and develop techniques to help us cope better with stress.
Treatment Programs for the Effects of Chronic Stress Response