How Mismanaged Stress Wreaks Havoc on the Body
Stress is one of the biggest threats to good health. We often think of stress in its more obvious manifestations – during busy times at work, large life transitions, relationship troubles or illness, to name a few. However, stress is a complex and constant factor, and it plays into our daily lives more than we realize. If not properly managed, stress can wreak havoc on the body and mind. In fact, mismanaged stress can lead to a common condition called adrenal fatigue, which (as demonstrated in my migraine patients) can lead to chronic illnesses and conditions.
What’s adrenal fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is the result of overworked adrenals caused by chronic and uncontrolled stress. Under stress, the body undergoes three stages - alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. The adrenal glands release and secrete varied levels of hormones – specifically cortisol and DHEA, which equip the body with appropriate energy to handle stress.
When placed under constant stress, the body lives in fight or flight mode (alarm stage). And, with little or no time to recuperate, the body adapts to a constant state of arousal. Stress hormones may appear normal, due to adaptation (resistance stage), but this ultimately leads to adrenal “burn out,” where cortisol and DHEA are almost completely depleted.
Taxed adrenals pass the burden on to the rest of the body, and research is only beginning to uncover the many symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which include:
Adrenal fatigue in my practice
Many of my colleagues are slowly catching on to the prevalence of adrenal fatigue in their patients’ chronic diseases and conditions. I, personally, wanted to see for myself. In order to measure the effects of adrenal fatigue in my migraine patients, I analyzed cortisol levels at four points of the day – morning, afternoon, evening, and night. I was astounded to learn that a whopping 90% of my migraine patients are in some stage of adrenal fatigue. Clearly, this is a huge factor in chronic ailments that cannot be ignored.
How to treat adrenal fatigue
Because adrenal fatigue is often present in tandem with other diseases and conditions, you must consult a physician. Together, you’ll examine lifestyle factors such as diet, environmental stressors, physical activity, sleeping habits, and more.
I generally ask my patients to observe the following as a part of their adrenal fatigue treatment plan: