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:

  • Chronic tiredness
  • Foggy thinking
  • Headaches
  • Inability to focus
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Body aches
  • Feeling burnt out and overwhelmed
  • Difficulty waking after a good night sleep

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:

  1. Rest. How mismanaged stress wreaks havoc on the body Allow the body to catch up and recover. Get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Ayurveda suggests a 10 p.m. bedtime to allow the body to detoxify while asleep. In time, the body restores its natural rhythm and feels ready to wake up around 6 a.m. Lay off the strenuous cardio, which can tax the adrenals further.
  2. Go inward. Meditation and yoga can help us come to terms with unresolved emotional conflicts that we carry day in and day out. Clearing out the mental chatter is sometimes all it takes to shine a spotlight on the areas in our lives that need the most attention.
  3. Eat cleaner. Allow the body to focus on recovery. Eliminate foods that place undue stress on digestion, such as processed, sugary or chemical-laden foods. Aim for organic, whole food. Identify and eliminatefood allergens. Also avoid caffeine, as it taxes the adrenals.
  4. Take Supplements or Teas. Herbals or nutrients can also help strengthen the adrenals, and restore harmony in the body and mind.  Zira Calm Mind is one of our most popular adrenal-balancing herbals.  Sipping on Vata CCF tea is also extremely therapeutic as warm cumin, coriander and fennel tea calms the mind, detoxes the liver and supports digestion.  All of this combined helps the adrenal system stay in a rest and relax mode that eventually leads down the path to recovery.
  5. The positive news is that many practitioners are catching on to the concept of adrenal fatigue. At a conference last month, I was surprisingly swarmed with questions from medical professionals about my presentation on this very issue. If you think you suffer from adrenal fatigue, see your doctor today to get to the root of your health issues.