Everybody deals with stress at some point in their lives. Whether it be a job interview, a huge deadline, a project, or even a test, stress is there to keep the body functioning in each scenario that the body is going through. Stress can help regulate the body’s immune system and help metabolize homeostasis as the body increases its energy throughout the day. When dealing with chronic stress can cause metabolic dysfunction in the body like gut disorders, inflammation, and an increase in blood glucose levels. Chronic stress can also affect a person’s mood and health, eating habits, and sleep quality. Today’s article will look at if stress is a good thing or a bad thing, how it affects the body, and the effects of what chronic stress does to the body. Refer patients to certified, skilled providers specializing in gut treatments for individuals that suffer from autonomic neuropathy. We guide our patients by referring to our associated medical providers based on their examination when it’s appropriate. We find that education is critical for asking insightful questions to our providers. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC provides this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer
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Do you feel anxious all the time? How about feeling headaches that are constantly being a nuisance? Feeling overwhelmed and losing focus or motivation? All these signs are stressful situations that a person is going through. Research studies have defined stress or cortisol as the body’s hormone that provides a variety of effects on different functions in each system. Cortisol is the primary glucocorticoid that is from the adrenal cortex. At the same time, the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis helps regulates the production and secretion of this hormone to the rest of the body. Now cortisol can be beneficial and harmful to the body, depending on the situation a person is in. Additional research studies have mentioned that cortisol begins and affects the brain and the rest of the body as stress in its acute form can cause the body to adapt and survive. The acute responses from cortisol allow neural, cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic function in the body.
Now cortisol affects the body’s metabolism when controlled in a slow, steady sleep cycle that decreases corticotropin‐releasing hormone (CRH) and increases growth hormone (GH). Research studies have shown that when the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, it starts to have a complex interaction with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the nervous and endocrine systems. This causes the adrenal and thyroid function in the body to be closely linked while under the control of the hypothalamus and tropic hormones. The thyroid competes with the adrenal organs for tyrosine. Research studies have found that tyrosine is used to produce cortisol under stress while preventing cognitive function decline that is responsive to physical stress. However, when the body can not produce enough tyrosine, it can cause hypothyroidism and cause the cortisol hormone to become chronic.
Have you experienced headaches that randomly show up out of nowhere? Have you constantly gained weight or lost weight? Do you feel anxious or stressed out always that it is affecting your sleep? These are all signs and symptoms of your cortisol levels turning into their chronic state. The video above shows what stress does to your body and how it can cause unwanted symptoms. When there is chronic stress in the body, the HPA axis (neuro‐endocrine) is imbalanced due to the stress‐mediated activators involved in autoimmune thyroid diseases (AITD). When there is chronic stress in the body, it can cause excessive production of inflammatory compounds in the body can generate IR. The inflammatory substances can damage or inactivate insulin receptors leading to insulin resistance. This then contributes to the breakdown of one or more factors needed to complete the glucose transport process in the body.
When there is chronic stress in the body and has not been treated or reduced right away, it can lead to something known as allostatic load. Allostatic load is defined as wear and tear of the body and brain due to chronic overactivity or inactivity of the body systems typically involved in environmental challenges and adaptation. Research studies have shown that allostatic load causes excess secretion of hormones like cortisol and catecholamine to respond to chronic stressors affecting the body. This causes the HPA axis to do one of two things: being overworked or failing to shut off after stressful events causing sleep disturbances. Other issues that chronic stress does to the body can include:
These symptoms cause the body to become dysfunctional, and research studies have pointed out that various stressors can damage the body. This can make it extremely difficult for a person to cope with stress and alleviate it.
Overall, stress or cortisol is a hormone the body needs to function correctly. Chronic stress in the body from various stressors can cause many metabolic dysfunctions like hypothyroidism, weight gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, to name a few. Chronic stress can also cause sleep disorders since the HPA axis is wired up and can seem to calm down the slightest. When people start to find ways of dealing with these various stressors, they can reduce their stress levels back to normal and be stress-free.
Jones, Carol, and Christopher Gwenin. “Cortisol Level Dysregulation and Its Prevalence-Is It Nature’s Alarm Clock?” Physiological Reports, John Wiley and Sons Inc., Jan. 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7749606/.
McEwen, Bruce S. “Central Effects of Stress Hormones in Health and Disease: Understanding the Protective and Damaging Effects of Stress and Stress Mediators.” European Journal of Pharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 7 Apr. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2474765/.
McEwen, Bruce S. “Stressed or Stressed out: What Is the Difference?” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1197275/.
Rodriquez, Erik J, et al. “Allostatic Load: Importance, Markers, and Score Determination in Minority and Disparity Populations.” Journal of Urban Health : Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, Springer US, Mar. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6430278/.
Thau, Lauren, et al. “Physiology, Cortisol – Statpearls – NCBI Bookshelf.” In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL), StatPearls Publishing, 6 Sept. 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538239/.
Young, Simon N. “L-Tyrosine to Alleviate the Effects of Stress?” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1863555/.
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The information herein on "Metabolic Dysfunctions In The Body Caused By Stress" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*
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