While comfort and convenience are certainly improved, they’ve come with a price – poor nutrient-deficient foods, sedentary lifestyles, and chronic external/internal stress.
While it may seem as though we’re constantly bombarded with stress and on the verge of overload, there are physiological mechanisms that allow us as human beings to call on reserves of energy during times of stress or danger – reserves that result in either a “fight or flight” response. These mechanisms were built into our biology from our ancestors who at the drop of a dime had to quickly respond to an acute stress in their environment.
We’ve traded acute stress for chronic stress
The challenge is that our world today is a lot different from the world of our ancestors, and we have far fewer of those acute stress situations. However, in exchange we have far more daily, constant chronic stressors in our environment.
The problem is, our physiology hasn’t changed. Today, we still respond to external stressors by those same physiological mechanisms that our ancestors once did.
Unfortunately that’s not how our bodies are designed to work. Constantly calling on these mechanisms over time begins to fatigue our bodies, throw our hormones out of balance and eventually results in dysfunction and disease.
Cranking out the cortisol
The primary mechanism that responds to external (and internal) stress is the release of Epinephrine/Norepinephrine (adrenalin) from the adrenal medulla, which puts us in fight/flight mode and prepares our bodies for action. The cascade then results in the adrenal cortex releasing cortisol to mobilize energy.
Cortisol is essential to our survival and acts as a natural painkiller and anti-inflammatory agent. The problem is that it’s designed for periodic and acute situations.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, results in too much cortisol being release and over time, these elevated cortisol levels results in:
- Increased glucose formation and protein breakdown
- Increased glucose utilization by the CNS
- Suppressed gastric emptying, slows digestion
- Inhibition of sex hormone effects and altered reproduction
- Increased sodium retention = High Blood Pressure
- Suppressed immune function
- Altered thyroid function, production and effectiveness
- Depletion the body of precious minerals
The ratio of cortisol to DHEA gets knocked out of balance
Under normal circumstances the hormone Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) acts as a counter-regulatory agent to cortisol, helping to negate the harmful effects of excess cortisol and to assist in the repair of muscle tissue. However, over time, as our bodies continually “crank out ” cortisol, the ideal ratio of cortisol/DHEA becomes unbalanced, leading to potential health implications.
The physiological effects of an unbalanced cortisol/DHEA are extensive and far-reaching, affecting everything from memory to immunity to carbohydrate metabolism; developing a proper cortisol to DHEA ratio is crucial in ensuring optimal health along a number of essential bodily functions.
The key to re-balancing your cortisol/DHEA ratio is multi-faceted, and lies first in identifying stressors in your life. Then, through lifestyle change, you can work to enhance proper hormone balance and eliminate blocking factors that will inhibit your progress.
Begin today by listing your primary stressors in the following categories:
1. Physical :
Untreated injuries and trauma, sedentary lifestyle for example.
Poor diet, processed foods, excessive alcohol and/or caffeine for example.
Toxic household cleansers, hygiene products, etc.
Lack of exposure to sunlight, excessive exposure to electromagnetic devices for example.
Relationships, unresolved conflict for example.
Once identified, choose one main stressor to begin working on and reduce your overall stress. As you eliminate the source of stress, you may begin to feel a shift towards greater well-being. Then select the next area to tackle and work to incorporate daily lifestyle habits and behaviors that maintain better life balance.
To discover potential internal stressors such as pathogens, consult with a qualified practitioner to perform accurate lab testing, much of which can specifically identify your cortisol to DHEA ratios, and uncover hidden stressors.
Jason is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist. Through his Lifestyle Coaching, he works to enhance the quality of his client's lives and overall health.
As a student of the prestigious Reebok University, Jason completed work in Reactive Neuromuscular Training and incorporates corrective exercise into the training routines of many of his clients. To progress and remain at the cutting edge of an ever-changing field, Jason also maintains professional member status with the IDEA Health & Fitness Association and the Holistic Health Network.
He has worked in large health-club facilities and has extensive experience in individualized training and program design. Jason is committed to utilizing the most innovative fitness techniques.
As part of his commitment to the community, Jason volunteers with the American Cancer Society through their Hope Lodge Wellness Program, and has been appointed to the Maryland State Council on Physical Fitness.
Jason's areas of specialization include functional training, core training, postural improvement & corrective exercise, nutrition/supplementation, and integrative/natural health. Jason's ultimate mission for TheFitRx.com is to provide a platform that empowers individuals to improve the way they feel, function, look and live.
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