Toxic Stress in Difficult Times

We all encounter stress in our daily lives such as traffic, interpersonal conflict and work deadlines. Most of the time we can tolerate these stressors without any ill effects. But what happens when stress is exceptionally severe or prolonged? 

2020 has been an unusually difficult year for everyone thanks to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic shocks, and isolation. People have had to shelter in place and socially isolate for months which has led to a spike in depression and anxiety. When we are stressed, we release a cascade of hormones from the adrenal glands that prime us for “fight or flight”. Adrenaline, epinephrine, and cortisol are the most well-known of these hormones.  These hormones all have effects on the body that are helpful when dealing with a short-term stressor but become harmful over time if the body is not allowed to relax and recover. 

Chronic stress leads to high blood sugar, weight gain, increased blood pressure, a suppressed immune system, poor sleep, impaired memory, and mood disturbance. Cancer is a multifactorial disease, but almost all cancer patients have experienced a major stressor within 5 years of their diagnosis and is a piece of what we as Naturopathic Oncologists consider in our evaluation of why cancer grew. Eventually, adrenal fatigue sets in where the adrenal glands start to run out of “juice.” At this point, people feel chronic fatigue, depression, and low blood pressure to name a few. Breaking the stress cycle and supporting healthy adrenal function is crucial to a person’s long-term wellness, and reduction of one of the common cancer risk factors we see. 

What we do at Journey to Wellness involves treating the whole person and addressing all aspects of health and wellness. Your MD does the best they can with the 7-10 minutes they have with you, however, their hands are tied and can only address symptoms. This is why at our clinic, we spend 2 hours in the first visit, connecting the dots, with a full head to toe review of systems. Our job is to identify the cause and teach our patients how to take care of themselves. We need time to take a deep dive into each patient’s health history, symptoms, lifestyle, and goals. We use nutritional approaches, botanical medicine, targeted supplementation, and lifestyle recommendations to help patients craft a strong foundation for health and address the cause of their symptoms. We pride ourselves in helping our patients help themselves. Our job is to Identify and managing stressors and is critical to overall wellness.  

We are living in a very stressful time and it is important to take care to avoid being in adrenal overdrive all day every day, as this will eventually cause many health problems. If you are feeling “wired but tired,” excessively hungry, moody, or are having trouble sleeping, you are showing signs of excessive or imbalanced stress hormones. These are red flags that should be taken seriously. These difficult times will eventually pass but the decisions we make today influence our health outcomes down the road. At Journey to Wellness our philosophy is to treat the whole person and be proactive with your health by engaging you in your care. We are now open again and available to help you on your journey to wellness. Do not wait until you get something serious like a heart attack, bleeding ulcer, or cancer to address your underlying health issues. Be proactive with your health. 

As always, our motto is “the only person in charge of your health is you”.  Our job is to help you meet that goal.

Please stay healthy.

Cynthia Bye, ND, FABNO