The Impact of Constant Stress, Exhaustion, and Chronic Fatigue
The alarm sounds, you hit snooze, grunt, and finally stumble out of bed, desperately fumbling to turn on the coffee maker. Once caffeinated, you get yourself and/or your kids ready, pack the car, get into traffic. Work is stressful, then your back in traffic, getting kids to activities, rushing to figure out dinner, then get stuff done at home, Finally, it is time to relax, and you pass out, only to repeat the pattern the very next day. Constantly burning the candle at both ends leaves you exhausted. Weekends used to be relaxing, but now you even find yourself equally as busy. Exhaustion sets in and it seems to take over your life. Does any of this sound familiar?
The New Normal: Constant Fatigue, Stress, and Exhaustion
Sadly, this is often the normal routine for many Americans. Over 500,000 Americans suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome and millions more suffer from severe exhaustion or adrenal dysfunction. If you find yourself relying on coffee, sugar, energy drinks or other stimulants, you may be experiencing undiagnosed adrenal dysfunction. Some associated or accompanying symptoms are cravings for salty or fatty foods, anxiety, difficulty sleeping- falling asleep or staying asleep, muscle aches, irritability and pronounced PMS or menopausal symptoms.
How the Body Is Affected After Prolonged Stress
The cells in the body are constantly breaking down and then repairing. Much of the repair occurs during deep sleep. The liver for instance, detoxifies the blood between one and three a.m. Sleep deprivation combined with the constant barrage of daily stress can reduce the body’s capacity to repair itself. Stress can age a body very quickly. Just look in the mirror after a few sleepless nights. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones including cortisol from your adrenal glands. Cortisol is also important for regulating blood sugar, electrolyte imbalance and the production of other hormones.
Our bodies are designed to respond to a stressful situation, and then return to a normal, balanced state. When stressful events occur back to back, or become chronic, the stress response becomes impaired and the amount of cortisol our bodies produce becomes compromised. Though too much cortisol produced can cause damage to your body, too little cortisol is also a problem. Cortisol levels should naturally be highest in the morning and taper gently and gradually through the day, leveling off in time to sleep through the night. Implementing stress management counseling or techniques may help with the balance of cortisol levels.
Other events that interfere with normal cortisol production are unnatural eating patterns. Too much food or too long of gaps between consuming nutrients. When we don’t eat when the body needs fuel, cortisol is dumped into blood stream. The typical repercussion of this is that we may tend to reach for quick, unhealthy snacks out of desperation, because we hadn’t carefully planned our balanced meals.
Holistic Approach to Testing and Treatment
The most effective way to study cortisol levels is through salivary testing. The reason is that if we measure the hormones in the blood alone, we are only getting the reading of a moment in time – not a representation of the patterns throughout the day. Because the endocrine system is complex, issues that arise rarely stem from just one hormone. If there is a disruption in the balance of hormones produced by one gland, it can, and often does cause an imbalance in other hormones as well. It is for that reason that a comprehensive hormone panel is an excellent starting place for evaluating hormone function. This panel tests both reproductive (sex) hormones as well as adrenal hormones. I will commonly order a comprehensive panel to assess the following:
- Cortisol – four times during the day
Hormone Balance for Stress Management
You may eat right, (or not), get exercise, (or not), get plenty of sleep (or not). Have you had your hormones checked lately? Proper hormone balance can help you:
- Feel More Energetic
- Sleep better
- Reduce anxiety
- Improve memory
- Curb cravings
- Lose weight
*Results may vary from person to person.