Chronic stress is defined as a response to emotional pressure for a long period and involves the endocrine and immune systems, which causes damage to both physical and emotional health. Our modern lifestyles include demanding jobs, lack of quality sleep, poor nutrition and financial stress, which if combined with emotional factors such as loneliness, the ill health of significant others or relationship issues, can keep the body in a state of chronic stress. The body’s response to stress is to increase the output of stress hormones readying us for action by raising blood pressure, increasing heart rate, and improving mental reactivity. A reaction that was designed to work effectively for short term stress has become an issue in our society, where it is continuously responding to chronic stress.
The adrenal gland produces adrenaline, cortisol and DHEA, the hormones which create the short and long term stress hormone responses. Adrenaline handles short term emergencies, our fight or flight response. Cortisol suppresses the immune system and breaks down tissues and is generally balanced out by DHEA, which activates the immune system and builds up tissues.
Chronic stress responses wear our bodies down causing us to become physically or emotionally ill. Anxiety, chronic fatigue, depression, gastrointestinal issues, hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, insomnia, migraine, thyroid issues, weight gain, ulcers, and a weakened immune system are all conditions that can occur from chronic stress.
There are several stages of adrenal dysfunction that can be identified:
- High cortisol and normal DHEA normal – will give the symptom of hypoglycemia, a pre-diabetic state.
- High cortisol and high DHEA – indicate chronic stress. The adrenal glands are functional although the stressors causing this reaction must be addressed to alleviate the symptoms of stress mentioned above.
- High cortisol and low DHEA – the adrenal glands are dysfunctional and can no longer produce DHEA. In addition to hypoglycemia, this patient may also have insomnia, mental, physical or emotional exhaustion.
- Low cortisol and low DHEA – indicate extreme adrenal insufficiency and this patient will be severely fatigued in addition to experience the above-mentioned symptoms.
Testing for these hormones is most effectively done through saliva.
If you have any of the above symptoms or think you may have chronic stress or are concerned about adrenal dysfunction call or visit us for more information. Crosby Chiropractic performs these tests at their office in St. Peters.