28TH MAY WRITTEN BY FLORA CRICHTON
Stress can take many forms; it is not just the feeling of being stressed out.
* psychological stress - anxiety, fear, anger, isolation, early life trauma, child abuse
* Social stress - relationships, work, performance, exams, finance
* Lifestyle stress - poor diet, too much/too little exercise, blood sugar imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep, obesity or underweight
* Sensory stress - injury, infection, pain, food allergies and intolerance.
The hypothalamus in the brain receives a stress input when we are stressed, which sets of a cascade of triggers and ultimately cortisol (known as our stress hormone) is pumped out from the adrenal glands. Cortisol levels will come down over a couple hours in most individuals. Appropriate levels of cortisol help with our mood, emotional stability, immunity, energy and reproductive function.
When someone is under a lot of stress and cortisol is chronically elevated, we may experience feeling edgy, anxious, have panic attacks, pain/inflammation, startled responses and anticipatory stress (worrying about future events).
When cortisol levels have been chronically elevated for a long period of time, the brain is not able to give the adrenal signals to produce adequate amounts of cortisol. There is a dysregulation in signaling from the brain. This is when depression can set in, psychological burn-out, SAD or insomnia. Complications with fertility, digestion and immunity can also be present, as well as neuro-dégénérative diseases and cognitive decline longer term.
Nutritional therapy can provide a huge amount of scope in bringing back appropriate signaling between the hypothalamus and our stress hormones. Calming down the nervous system and essentially telling the brain that the world isn’t a dangerous place.
(Sometimes psychological or CBT therapy must be carried out, alongside nutritional therapy, because suppressed emotions and/or trauma must be dealt with, in order to heal fully and reap the benefits of nutritional therapy).