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Are You Stressed Out?


 Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with the brain regions that control mood, motivation and fear, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

During times of stress, cortisol levels increase and accelerate the breakdown of proteins to provide the fuel to maintain body functions. When under the influence of high release of cortisol, the body can adapt to new stresses and survive until the physiological defence mechanisms are exhausted. Then the steroid hormone is meant to return to its normal circadian rhythm.  

Normal production of cortisol by the adrenal glands and the HPA-axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) comes in a circadian rhythm or repeats the cycle every 24 hours. In the mornings about 8am is when our cortisol levels should be at its peak and then declines throughout the rest of the day as well as into the night, while the production of DHEA should be lower in the morning and start to rise throughout the day. This process should repeat like that daily. 

However, when people perceive great stress, post-traumatic stress disorders and/or have major depression they will typically produce sustained high cortisol levels and depressed levels of its counterpart DHEA.

Long term low levels of DHEA can have negative effects on our system. One of which may be stress-induced damage to the hippocampus, an area in the brain involved in memory processes and can especially be affected in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

When we are chronically in this state of stress we can benefit greatly by eating properly, practicing meditation, resting well, practicing forgiveness and supplementing your diet with whole food nutrition and herbal therapies.  

Here are a few supplements that have been clinically proven to help those with a high cortisol level as well as a low DHEA level in the system.

Omega-6 fatty acids are specifically depleted in individuals with high cortisol output, consider Black currant seed oil or evening primrose oil. 

Muscle protein breakdown caused by increased stress hormones can lead to a greater loss of B-complex vitamins. Try a full spectrum natural B vitamin complex. 

Vitamin C can be added to prevent or reduce tissue depletion, vitamin C can be rapidly diminished by the adrenal stress response. It can also suppress the inflammatory response as well as impairment of wound healing and bone building matrix. 

Adaptogenic herbs that have been clinically proven to benefit the adrenals during  heavy stress loads include- Ashwagandha, Licorice, Astragalus, Chinese Skullcap, Schisandra, California Poppy and Korean ginseng. 

Remember, stress is relative to how you respond to it!

If you feel you are in a chronic state of stress and want to add supplementation to your life, please consult your healthcare practitioner to decide which route is best for you. 

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