It will seem trivial to talk about stress but in reality, no one knows exactly what it is and its health-related damage.
Have you ever experienced pain or any other troubles of any nature and hearing that it is just the fault of stress? Have you been in therapy for months or even years, and between drugs and other miraculous pills, you still haven’t solved anything? It is just too much stress. Do you have any unsolvable health problems? It is always because of stress.
It never comes to mind, except for a few enlightened ones, to undertake a non-pharmacological therapy in order to completely modify lifestyle and eating habits. In the majority of cases, your problems only arise from the food you ingested, the lack of physical activity, food intolerances or vitamin deficiencies, but we always hear the same answer: “Dear patient, you are too stressed. Just have a nice vacation and you will come back as new! “
In most cases, the sentence “is the fault of stress” is an excuse that the doctors use to justify the failure of pharmacological therapies. But all this, despite having being always used as a loophole, has a great foundation of truth. Stress, if chronic and excessive, can make you seriously sick.
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is a persistent phenomenon that an individual perceives as an imbalance between the demands he needs to satisfy and the resources or possibilities he has. An example of stress might be too much work and short time available in order to accomplish it, or a physical effort too intense or persistent and not being fit enough to do it.
Everything is stress. Life itself is stress. But our body is equipped with stress-adaptation mechanisms, such as super-compensation, which allow us to strengthen our body-mind system to face the new demands.
Once we experience a stressful stimulation, such as a training session, our organism initiates physiological mechanisms that restores our energy stocks, the hormone system, and the nervous system to a higher level of performance than the previous one. We have overcompensated! Our body sees the stressful stimulus as a threat and compensates it, just enough more in order to prepare itself for a future threat and not be caught by surprise.
But if the stress becomes too much and chronic our adaptation systems are going to tilt with more or less serious effects on our health and physical performance.
In physiology, stress is translated into cortisol, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands whose primary functions are:
- increase blood glucose, increase liver glucose production (gluconeogenesis), stimulate glucagon secretion, and reduce the activity of insulin receptors;
- increase in cardiac output;
- lowering immune defenses and therefore inhibiting inflammatory reactions (cortisol is a potent anti-inflammatory and in medicine it is used as a medication under
- the name of cortisone);
- reduction of collagen synthesis and bone matrix, accelerating the process of osteoporosis;
- Increased protein catabolism (destruction of amino acids to produce glucose) accelerating sarcopenia
- increased mobilization and use of fatty acids as a source of energy, but in some districts, such as the hips and abdomen, it stimulates the accumulation.
It is a simple rule: the more stress, the more cortisol will be produced. Cortisol is the catabolic hormone par excellence and its hyper-production literally destroys muscle and bone tissue. In addition, an excess of cortisol can cause:
- visceral obesity
- muscle weakness,
- decreased libido,
- recurrent infections,
- impaired glucose tolerance and therefore greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes,
- osteoporosis and bone fractures,
- altered cholesterol and triglyceride levels,
- delayed healing of wounds
- in women can cause hypoprogesterone and menstrual cycle changes.
Therefore, keeping the cortisol, and consequently stress under control, is of crucial importance.
ADRENAL FATIGUE: THE DANGER IS AROUND THE CORNER
But there is worse: when stress reaches high levels that exceed the ability of the adrenal glands to compensate and recover, the adrenal fatigue phenomenon or occurs.
Adrenal glands are depleted and lose their ability to produce cortisol, causing hypocortisolysis, a condition that manifests with dangerous issues such as chronic hypoglycemia due to lack of hyperglycemic effect of cortisol.
Finally, other issues could be joint pain or fibromyalgia due to the absence of anti-inflammatory effect cortisol, autoimmune diseases and frequent respiratory infections due to immune system disorders.
The symptoms of hypercortisolism are very similar to those of hypercortisolism and the most common are:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Continuous fatigue and no resting sleep
- drives towards salty foods
- Reduced libido
- Difficulty in managing stress
- Increased time needed to heal diseases and injuries
- Tendency to depression and inability to have fun
- Difficulties in making decisions and memory problems
- Irritability to other people
- Sensation of strong apathy associated with lethargy and drowsiness crisis throughout the morning until afternoon and feeling of well-being and waking up in the late afternoon
Today, more and more people are suffering from hypocortisolysis without even realizing it. So you get plenty of energizing drinks, such as coffee and redbull, all through the morning until the early afternoon unexpectedly.
At around the evening, when cortisol levels begin to rise (and not because of the countless cups of coffee, but just because hypercortisolism inverts the circadian cortisol rhythms), you fill yourself up tranquilizers beverages like camomile and valerian always indefinitely.
You fall asleep, if everything goes all right, around 2 o’clock in the night and the next day you repeat this routine again and again. Then, it triggers a vicious circle that will make you feel worse as long as you do not go mad until the phsyco-physical collapse.
HOW SHOULD WE ACT IF WE SUSPECT TO BE AFFECTED BY IPER OR IPOCORTISOLISM?
Today we have a simple salivary test to measure the concentration of cortisol. The test involves 4 measurements per day: between 6 and 8 (about half an hour after rising) between 11 and 12, between 16 and 18 and between 22 and 24. This test is very reliable and gives us a complete picture of the function of our adrenal glands. Once hypertrophic or hypocytocytic is diagnosed, it is possible to undertake therapy based on various levels and above all without drugs.
Lifestyle Modification: Avoid chronic and intense stress such as daily workouts. Do not be a fitness addict: training hard every day thinking of getting better results will get you nowhere. The body does not reason logically, so more workouts do not mean better condition. So, give yourself enough time to recover from one workout to another. If you like instead spending time on your sofa between TV series and talk show it is time to get up and do some healthy physical activity.
Nutrition: Low carbohydrate and ipocaloric diets prolonged for long periods of time are harmful and stimulate a massive cortisol production to cope with the lack of energy, leading to the adrenal glands collapse. Rather than limit carbohydrate consumption to zero, take them from sources such as fruit, vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes and only in some contexts unbridled rice. Zero carbohydrates diets such as ketogenic and metabolic diet can work very well if performed occasionally and for very limited periods of time.
Avoiding foods, which triggers allergies and intolerances: we are all sensitive to lactose and gluten, who most and who is less, who can not even see them from afar. Each time you ingest these foods or any other non-specific food, your body is forced to fight against them, triggering inflammatory processes leading to a consequent cortisol production. The more you ingested food that does not match your DNA, the more you become inflamed and the more stress your body is exposed to.
Food supplementation: vitamin C, group B vitamins, fish oil and other natural extracts such as ginseng are important compounds, which ensure the proper function of adrenal glands, maintaining and modulating optimal cortisol levels.
Give up alcohol and smoking: poisoning the body with alcohol, nicotine and all the other highly harmful components present in these drugs will only bring your body into a state of chronic inflammation with the relative hyper cortisol production.
OUR ANCESTORS TEACH US
If we observe our relationship with stress during the history of human evolution, we figure out that the average man’s day belonging to the Paleolithic era was characterized by a relatively low level of stress with the exception of hunting, being hunted by wild animals or being attacked by rival tribes.
In any case, it was another type of stress, not high and chronic as it is today, but short and intense. In few words, our DNA is simply set to express itself to the best according to an intense but infrequent stress type (no hunting takes place every day), while it does not respond well at all if exposed to a high-chronic stress. And the list of the chronic stress disorders, previously listed, further confirm these theories.
Adapting the lifestyle of our progenitors to the present day is the key to controlling high-chronic stress and consequently preventing and / or healing associated disorders and pathologies. It is not a simple task but once you get into the mechanism of your lifestyle revolution, results will be extraordinary and above all what you will get will not be a temporary feeling of well-being (as drugs can do well) but definitive.
In addition, we want to give you advice and recommendations that we have been adopting for years. The following are in part opinions, personal experiences and philosophy of life which are not supported by scientific evidences.
- Surround yourself with healthy social relationships: if you have to fight and fight every day in a relationship, get out of there as soon as possible. It is definitely not your partner or friendship relationship that suits you and remaining in combat will bring you to the utmost strength and raise your stress on the stars.
- Follow your passions and do what you love: 80% of people hate their job. Hating the Job you are doing every day brings you a huge psycho-physical stress. If you are in the conditions to choose, leave that office and colleagues so hated and do what you love. If you are still in time, choose the course of study that you enjoy, not your parents and the career you want to undertake.
- Own few possessions: a home, good food, restful sleep, decent social relationships, family, a good partner, a job you love, holidays and some hobbies is all you can aim to. Everything else will bring you stress. Do not bond yourself to objects rather to the people who love you. Remember that the more stuff you own, the more stress you have. Do not waste your life working to surround yourself with objects and fill your ego. Do not waste your time to buy the latest sports car model to show the neighbor that you are the best. Suppress your ego and live peacefully.
- Do not fill your life with commitments: act by giving priority to what you do. If you do not have time, do not fill your appointment agenda. You risk doing too many things and doing all them wrong, taking away energies addressed to your priorities and greatly increasing your stress.
- Get rid of drugs (including cigarettes and alcohol): drugs, in addition to the effects listed above, alter the perception of reality. Once you get rid of them you will be able to see life in another perspective and see clearly social and psychological situations and contexts that were previously dark or obscure.
- Meditation and autogenic training: along with other relaxation techniques, help to control stress and modulate cortisol secretion.
DID YOU KNOW THAT …
In the morning you wake up because of the cortisol. Our physiology provides, in a healthy person, that cortisol levels reach the peak in the morning, usually between 6 and 8, in order to give us the charge and then getting out of the bed.
As mentioned earlier, the cortisol hyperglycaemic action brings a greater supply of glucose to the brain, making us awake and more active. During the day, cortisol gradually decreases to the lowest concentration in the evening, allowing us, together with the secretion of melatonin, to fall asleep without any problems.
Stress has always been a part of our life and our physiology and we are able to handle it best through stress-adaptation mechanisms such as supercompensation. When the stress becomes excessive and especially chronic, these mechanisms crash with more or less serious consequences for our health.
Stress is in physiology represented by cortisol hormone whose levels vary during the day within precise physiological limits. When cortisol is too high (hypercortisolism) or too low (hypocortisolism following the “outbreak” of adrenal glands) we can develop a wide range of serious disorders and illnesses.
Our DNA tolerates intense but brief stress as opposed to moderate-high chronic stress because it is the kind of stress, which has accompanied us along our evolution by forging the mechanisms of adaptation to stressful agents.
Cortisol levels can be measured by salivary swabs and once hypertrophic or hypocytocytic is comfirmed, you have to act according to a therapy that has the main purpose of lifestyle modification.
Stress should not be underestimated and above all should not be used as an excuse in order to justify any type of health problem.
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