During Acute Stress – our body’s fight and flight response – the body responds to immediate danger, and, when danger has passed, the body quickly returns to normal.
During Chronic Stress adrenals must work to maintain consistently high levels of epinephrine and cortisol (‘stress hormone) hormones.Remember, the body does not distinguish between ‘stressors’. Divorce, death of a loved one, food sensitivities, allergies, illness, physical trauma, over and under eating, surgery, delivery of a baby, insomnia, etc. – all of these cause the same long-term stress response.
Here is a brief summary of the effect of chronic stress on the body:
- Depletion of Vitamin C, A, E and the mineral selenium – Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of cortisol and other endocrine hormones. Overproduction of cortisol can deplete the body of vitamin C, which is and important antioxidant. This, in turn, can increase oxidative stress and free-radical damage, which are forms of stress. Other antioxidants, including Vitamin A and E and the mineral selenium, are also consumed by stress.
- Slows metabolism and leads to weight gain
- Increase of caffeine, prescription drugs, nicotine, and alcohol consumption. All of these substances exhaust nutrient stores.
- Depletion of Vitamin B5 – which is needed for the production of cortisol
- Reduction of iron absorption – due to insufficient hydrochloric acid secretion by the stomach
- Increased need for zinc, calcium, and magnesium – Zinc supports the immune system and neutralizes free radicals. Magnesium and calcium are required for healthy nervous system function.
- Increase in gastrointestinal problems – Stress initially increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid (a strong stomach acid necessary for the breakdown and digestion of many foods). This is a time when peptic ulcers can be initiated or aggravated. Eventually HCL secretion diminishes, and certain digestive enzymes are rendered ineffective.
- Increase in constipation and diarrhea – due to decreased blood flow to the intestinal tract
- Depletion of probiotic bacteria in the intestine – resulting in reduced nutrient absorption
- Increase in blood sugar – cortisol stimulates glucose production by the liver
- Increased LDL (‘lousy’) cholesterol – cortisol promotes protein breakdown and increases the mobilization of fatty acids
- Muscle wasting and protein deficiency – The need for protein increases under the effects of cortisol/stress. Proteins are split into amino acids and utilized for the production of glucose.
- Fatty acid deficiency – As fats are mobilized and converted to glucose, fat stores are depleted (along with fat-soluble vitamins).
Stress is leads to inflammation which, in turn, is the culprit for so many diseases: Cancer, Autoimmune Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, and many more. Stress and resulting chronically elevated cortisol levels must be addressed in order to achieve optimal health. We may not be able to remove all of life’s ‘stressors’, but we most certainly can
- rebalance your cortisol levels
- identify possible food allergies or sensitivities
- help you regain restorative sleep
- fortify your body with the nutrients it needs to deal with the ups and downs of life.