Just after the birth of my second child, Oliver, I found myself alone with him and his 19 month old brother Chase. What was I thinking, right? I had just been to Costco, had way too much stuff that I probably didn’t need, when I smelled something fishy. My three Yorkies were unbelievably excited to see me, which is common when I leave for more than 3 seconds which added to the excitement. I placed Ollie down on the couch, got on my knees and commenced to removing the potpourri he had created when I noticed that this one was going to take a little more effort than normal. It was time to bribe Chase with an IZZE (green) to get the 2 minutes I needed to clean up the disaster Ollie had created. It was working swimmingly as I delved elbow deep in the process when Chase dumped the entire IZZE (green…because he would want me to explain this) on the hardwood floor. I can’t drop Ollie’s legs without irreversibly damaging the couch, so I could only yell “NOOOOOO”. The Yorkies, whom get diarrhea looking at pictures of food that is not theirs, immediately started walking in it and drinking it. Chase, who saw the look of ferocity in my gaze, tried to take off running and slipped and busted his head on the hardwood floor. Helpless, I sat there, Ollie’s masterpiece still pungently apparent inches from my face with one of his legs held high, when he commences a golden shower in my open mouth and eyes. There are no prostate issues with him I’ll tell you. The stream lasted long enough for Chase to rise out of the IZZE swamp and come over to help, where he froze with wild eyed wonderment at what was happening to his daddy. In the aftermath, after a second or two of silence, we all three laughed hysterically.
This stressful moment is pretty common for parents. A lot of us have stressful jobs, and sometimes even more stressful home lives. The stress that we are bombarded with on a daily basis can create long term detriment to our bodies. Everyday stressors stimulate the fight or flight mechanism of our brain via the HPA Axis. In short, to help your body get away from the stressor, your brain does the following:
- increased blood sugar for energy – the problem here is that you are not running from a bear, so the sugar has nowhere to go. It is a cause of visceral adiposity, or belly fat.
- increases vagal tone/vaso-constricts – this raises blood pressure, which I believe, is the most common cause of elevated blood pressure in the US.
- causes peristalsis – think of this one this way, have you ever heard of anyone that was running from a mountain lion, suddenly needing to take a crap?
- Pupil dilation
All these things and more, that happen to our bodies constantly, can have a lasting effect. The stressed person is going down a terrible, but REVERSABLE, path leading to stubborn belly fat that can’t be resolved, hypertension, insulin resistance and eventually, possible dementia. Let me explain. The hippocampus is your brain’s messenger to tell the HPA Axis to turn off. We are not being chased by the mountain lion anymore. The problem is we are stressed all day every day, so the hippocampus finally starts thinking that stress in normal and atrophy ensues.
The brain is really good about not wasting energy on processes it does not have to do anymore. Think of steroid abusers or people that use nasal sprays all the time. The brain will stop making testosterone if it doesn’t need to anymore, moreover, it will stop decongesting itself if this process is being taken care of exogenously. The same thing happens with the Hippocampus, which is responsible for long term and short term potentiation of memory. This is the down the line problems with chronic stress.
No worries. There are plenty of easy things to do to help our stressful lives. To get a complete snapshot of our adrenal situation, I recommend doing a 24 hour adrenal saliva test. They are cost effective, (about 130 bucks or so) and very telling. We can really dial someone in and see exactly where the issue is. If this is too big of a pain for you, adaptogenic herbs are safe and effective. I love rhodiola, ashwaganda, eleuthero, American ginseng etc. B-vitamins are very important along with vitamin C. To activate two of the substrates for cortisol, NE and EPI, the body uses lots of Vit C. All of these “tools” will help us better deal our stressful lives without stealing necessary hormones to make more cortisol.
Over time, we can fall into a more and more popular category that some practitioners are calling Adrenal Fatigue. This is when we are totally stressed out and have no more to give. These people are tired, cannot multi task anymore, have sleep disturbances and have mostly lost their motivation. With these patients I usually treat with some glandular, licorice or adrenal cortrex along with the before mentioned adaptogens and b-vitamins.
I have found that getting my patients adrenals under control, I have a much easier time with balancing all of their hormones, and improved weight loss outcomes and sleep are much improved. I see a much improved quality of life and most importantly, we are preventing diseases of aging. This is what it’s all about. We have got to start now, way before symptoms occur, to prevent these terrible diseases from happening. I have products from Xymogen, Thorne, Metagenics, Designs for Health, Pure encapsulations, Ortho Molecular and others to help each individual patient. Each company does certain things that I like and I believe that selecting the correct product for each patient individually is the key.