Functional health coaches regularly deal with clients who are chronically stressed. And because clients are tested, it is clear to see how high levels of stress are negatively impacting the health of those we work with. And yet, these clients already know that they need to better manage stress, and yet they rarely take the time to take care of themselves and ultimately wind up having to come to figure out exactly why they feel so terrible.
Chronic stress has become so common in this day and age that most people struggle with it on a daily basis. We know that too much stress is hard on our health, and yet stress related health problems are on the rise as the demands on our time increase.
What happens when we get stressed?
When we encounter a threat, whether it is real or imagined, the nervous system releases a large amount of hormones, one being Cortisol which is produced by the adrenal glands. As Cortisol is released in response to stress, you will experience a burst of energy.
As a physiological response to stress, your heart rate picks up, your muscles tighten, your blood pressure rises, your breathing rate increases and becomes shallow, and all of your senses sharpen so that you can adapt to the stress more appropriately. These reactions help to increase stamina and strength, increase your focus, and speed up your reaction time so that you can face the threat or run away if needed. This is known as the fight-or-flight response.
Unfortunately, as everyday stress levels remain high, the body releases increased amounts of Cortisol to keep the body ready to either fight or flee. But, such a high demand for Cortisol begins to tax the function of the adrenal glands and other functions in the body and disrupts biochemical balance. Ultimately, levels of Cortisol in the body become way too high and dysfunction and breakdown occurs.
Signs of too much Cortisol in the Body
If you are eating the right foods and are exercising regularly and still find that you are gaining weight, particularly in your abdomen, high Cortisol levels may be to blame. Cortisol also stimulates appetite and increases cravings for sugary, processed carbohydrate rich foods, which can easily help to pack on the unwanted pounds.
Lowered immune system problems.
You find that you catch colds, flu, and other viruses and infections much more easily than you did before. High cortisol levels diminish the effectiveness of your immune system, leaving you much more susceptible to falling ill.
You are having trouble sleeping.
When the adrenal glands are functioning properly, Cortisol levels drop at night, which allow you to relax so that you can go to sleep. But, when Cortisol levels are too high, then you may experience an increase in energy right before bed and may also find yourself feeling restless, tossing-and-turning in bed, unable to sleep well once you do get to bed.
High Cortisol levels take energy away from the gastrointestinal tract and also reduces the production of vital enzymes needed in the digestive process. You can experience digestive problems such as nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and heartburn as a result of lowered digestive functioning.
You feel depressed.
When the body produces Cortisol, production of the neurotransmitter Serotonin is lowered. Serotonin is the brain’s feel-good chemical and when levels of this neurotransmitter are low, you will tend to feel blue.
You feel anxious.
High levels of Cortisol in the body can make you feel anxious, nervous, or jittery.
The good news is that you can reverse high levels of Cortisol naturally. The best course of action is to work with a FDN Practitioner who has the tools to help you. With the use of appropriate functional lab tests, they can help you to determine whether your Cortisol levels and other hormones are unbalanced and if your adrenals and other systems are functioning properly.
A FDN Practitioner will then work with you to design a customized protocol with the right supplements, foods to meet your body’s individual needs, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep so you can reverse the symptoms that are causing you problems and making you feel ill. This will guide you down the road to feeling better soon!