How many times do we hear we shouldn’t be stressed out? I believe the COVID-19 pandemic has stressed us out to max capacity. We’re at home, maybe out of a job, possibly homeschooling, many with significant others 24/7 and we have organized our homes until there’s nothing left to do. We’re stressed about being the next statistic and undoubtedly stressed about the unknown.
What does all this stress do to our bodies? Where should I start? Let’s start with the hormone cortisol. In our primitive ancestor’s time if we were face to face with a saber tooth tiger the adrenals would fire adrenaline to give us the burst of energy to our muscles to run, noradrenaline to mobilize the brain and body to act, and cortisol which increased blood sugar for fuel or energy. When the threat has passed the adrenals stop firing and these hormones return to normal levels. If you put that example in today’s situation the saber tooth tiger is all the external tasks coming at you head on. You’re dealing with daily life challenges in this “new normal’.
Why would having chronically elevated cortisol levels disrupt the balance of the endocrine system? When you’re constantly stressed the elevated cortisol can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which can lead to even more dysregulation like insulin resistance, poor sleep, low DHEA, low T3, depression, increased cancer risk, obesity, intestinal dysbiosis. The list can be overwhelming just from elevated cortisol.
In addition to the issues named above, your liver takes a huge hit. The liver is responsible for removing hormones that are in excess or no longer needed. The hormones need to be broken down, chemically restructured, and removed from the body. Elevated cortisol levels decrease the effectiveness of the liver pathways that perform the restructure.
The pancreas also takes a hit from high cortisol levels. Insulin can’t get into cells and this puts a huge strain on the pancreas to secrete more insulin to try to move glucose into the cells. Chronic high insulin levels can result in diabetes and can lead to obesity.
Chronic lack of sleep has been associated with several possible health consequences. These include lowered immunity with increased vulnerability to infections, lowered glucose tolerance, low morning cortisol levels, and increased carbohydrate cravings. Lack of sleep can also elevate the circulation of estrogen levels, upset hormonal balance, and slow healing and prolong the recovery period. Our physiology is so delicate and a cascade of dysfunction of any of our systems will lead to additional dysfunction.
Do you find yourself waking between 1 am and 4 am? If so, this could be from low nighttime blood sugar. When low cortisol and low glycogen reserves occur at the same time, blood glucose will most likely drop, disrupting sleep.
As you can see stress management is important to our health. What do you do to de-stress? Please share it below.
Pat Garner holds certifications as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Professional, Addiction & Recovery, and Wellness Coach, and a Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor. In addition, she is a Sedona Method Facilitator and Certified Canfield Success Principles Trainer. Furthermore, she is well-versed in the Ketogenic and low carb lifestyle.