Stress and It’s Mess

Adrenal health

I’m so stressed out! — what does that quote mean to you? What is the first thing you picture in your head when you read that line? For me, just reading that easily causes an internal feeling of exhaustion. But why? Even better — did any of you get a good feeling reading the word “stress”?

Well in fact, stress can be good, or bad, and often even both at the same time! What a mess! 

Your adrenal gland is the coach of the stress response for the body and it can play offense or defense depending on what you are facing in life. Pretty cool, huh! Yep, your adrenals are your ultimate superhuman power, but if you aren’t careful they can cause all kinds of messes and they can creep up on you when you least expect it! 

Our adrenals are what makes us superhuman in times of challenges but can easily turn us into a total mess!   

Let’s look at a couple of examples — starting with the caveman era 

We are made as humans to “fight or flight” in our stress responses that are often “automatic” for the most part. So a predator is coming and cortisol increases causing a release of sympathetic hormones from the autonomic nervous system and this helps us to FIGHT or FLIGHT and ultimately your body can do things that you didn’t think were possible for about 20 secs to 20 minutes… and then the battle or the getaway should be over and  resolved for that whole system to reset – this is full cycle in the human body is actually quite protective and releases endorphins and has many downstream effects that can be very positive overall both physically and mentally. 

So fast forward to today’s world – we still have a “stress’ ‘ that can attack us at any moment but these are rarely dinosaur-like predators and the stress is not resolved within 20 minutes. However, our human bodies know no difference so we are often mounting a similar response to our caveman days “inappropriately” and this continues on indefinitely because the subacute stress is chronic in nature often without clear resolution in sight. Over time, the first thing we can see is that our adrenal gland resets to a higher baseline of cortisol as it thinks maybe this will help give us what we need – often during this phase we feel “great” and like we are handing “life” surprisingly quite well — maybe too well? Like we are superhuman? Well, rightly so, because our adrenal glands have risen to the occasion and are really working for us. This phase can go on for quite some time — about 5 years on average, then when life finally settles down and that stage of “life stress” has resolved, the adrenal glands can “run out of steam” and upon the slightest inclination that your superpower is no longer needed, the adrenal glands say bye bye and goodnight – i must go to sleep and get some rest – and all of a sudden you feel extremely exhausted and “just don’t know why” because “it all doesn’t make sense”! I have heard this story so many times and it’s almost predictable when certain patients start to tell me their concerns. They say, “I’m just so confused, I should’ve felt like this years ago, why now? WHAT A MESS!” But actually when you talk through the adrenal response system, it can often spark a light of clarity and begin to make sense.  

Moreover, cortisol is a vital communicator to other “hormone” glands and talks closely to your sex hormones and thyroid gland. So if you are working on balancing any of those three things, and not looking at adrenal function at the same time, then you are doing your body a disservice! Additionally, when you are in a stressed state, your body will crave carbs and have insulin fluctuations based on the fact that it thinks you need to be prepared for the fight or flight! So the body is trying to do what it thinks you need but is actually confusing things by nature of our ancestral built processes stuck in the “modern american life”. So, the body will be in a state of conservation and craving inappropriately driven by the subacute stress that often perpetuates healing and well-being. 

Because our stress response is for the most part “autonomic” by definition then when things go awry this response can create a multitude of clinical scenarios of “autonomic dysfunction”. This is where our body responds to even the slightest stress with an over-exaggerated reaction that seems to “come out of nowhere” and can show up as panic attacks “for no reason” or sleep disturbances, or even sudden dizziness.

With that said, stress often makes a mess in fertility…and infertility causes more stress… you see where i’m going? Elevations in cortisol can cause suppression in sex hormones which is actually protective in nature as God doesn’t want you to conceive if you’re in “stress”. Further, thyroid hormones can fluctuate with elevations in cortisol as well for the same reason… oftentimes adding multiple minimal hormonal imbalances that become additive to full infertility issues. I often say, “it’s rarely ONE BIG THING that is wrong with us, it’s more likely a couple of little things that add up to a big thing because of the complexity of the way we are beautifully made, so you must address all the little things to get the big outcome you are looking for”! – but hey, isn’t that more fun anyway! Who really wants a big thing to be wrong with them? NO ONE — but most people know that “something is just not right” and come to me frustrated that they have been told “well everything is fine, the good news is your labs look perfect”! That’s enough to make someone feel totally crazy! 


So what can we do about it – well I believe that HIT TRAINING is so popular in America because it mimics the fight or flight response in a positive way and most people respond well to this both physically and mentally. Why? Because you are pushing your body in intervals and then allowing the next interval for RECOVERY. The average American has some sort of adrenal dysfunction on any given day, therefore HIT type workouts quickly show results in this type of metabolic state for all the reasons above.

The adrenal diet uses low carb approaches to helping stabilize related insulin dysfunction caused by cortisol imbalance. (see well world suggestions) Supplementation and nutriceuticals based on findings of zrt testing can be markedly helpful and improve symptoms quickly and ultimately restore the adrenal function back to a healthy state. Genetic analysis can dial all of this down to a personalized cellular approach for a comprehensive path to adrenal well-being.