Stress is a two edge sword. In times of crisis, stress hormones are released creating a “fight or flight” response enabling people to perform super-human tasks. These hormones have made it possible for people to lift cars off babies and animals. However, when these hormones are continuously released they can destroy the human body. According to Web MD:
Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to various physical symptoms or diseases.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems. Consider the following:
Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Stress can play a part in problems such as immune weakness, gastrointestinal/digestive disorders, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
It is my opinion that most people are unaware how dangerous chronic stress is. We don’t associate our state of health with these hormonal imbalances. The concept of “manning up”, or “getting your act together” trivializes the dangers of chronic stress and commonly interferes with correcting the underlying causes of this condition.
Two great researchers provide 6 helpful tips to reduce elevated stress hormone levels. Stephen Cherniske, M.S. (a pioneer in the field of anti-aging and chief architect of the ground-breaking Metabolic Model of Aging) and Shawn Talbott, Ph.D (researcher primarily focused on metabolism and the detrimental health effects of chronic stress), both emphasize the importance of increasing our “anabolic” metabolism, (the rebuild, repair and rejuvenate cycle of cell life), to reverse the consequences of elevated stress hormones and aging. Cherniske analogizes the Rebuilding/Breakdown and Degeneration process (anabolic/catabolic metabolic model) to a seesaw. You want to have the anabolic side up in the air and the catabolic side down as low as it can go. This process can be accomplished by following these 6 Tips to lowering Stress Hormone Production.
***ALWAYS CHECK WITH YOUR LICENSED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER BEFORE FOLLOWING ANY OF THE FOLLOWING RECOMMENDATIONS***
1. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It’s the quickest way to reduce cortisol production and elevate the production of DHEA, (the leading anabolic youth hormone.) 200 mg of caffeine (one 12 oz mug of coffee) increases blood cortisol levels by 30% in one hour! Cortisol can remain elevated for up to 18 hours in the blood. This is the easiest step to decrease your catabolic metabolism and increase your anabolic metabolism.
2. Sleep deeper and longer. The average 50 year old has nighttime cortisol levels more than 30 times higher than the average 30 year old. Try taking melatonin, a natural hormone produced at night that helps regulate sleep/wake cycles, before going to sleep to boost your own melatonin production that also decreases with age. You may not need it every night, but if you are waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, melatonin can help you sleep deeper and lengthen your sleep cycle. If you get sleepy during the day even though you had plenty of rest, back off the melatonin for a while. It’s a sign you are getting too much.
3. Exercise regularly to build muscle mass and increase brain output of serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression. Cherniske recommends taking DHEA supplements to shorten the adaptation period when out-of-shape muscles and cardiovascular system discourage people from continuing to exercise before they get in shape. DHEA also accelerates the building of muscle mass and increases the feeling of being strong and energetic.
4. Keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid sugar in the diet and refined carbohydrates to keep from spiking your insulin production. Eat frequent small meals balanced in protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats like olive oil and flax seed oil. Diets rich in complex carbohydrates keep stress hormone levels lower than low carbohydrate diets. Keep well hydrated – dehydration puts the body in stress and elevates stress hormone levels. Keep pure water by your bed and drink it when you first wake up and before you go to sleep.
5. Take anti-stress supplements like B vitamins, minerals like calcium, magnesium, chromium and zinc, and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid, grapeseed extract, and Co Q 10. Adaptogen herbs like ginseng, astragalus, eleuthero, schizandra, Tulsi (holy basil) rhodiola and ashwagandha help the body cope with the side effects of stress and rebalance the metabolism. These supplements and herbs will not only lower stress hormone levels, but will also help decrease the effects of stress on the body by boosting the immune system.
6. Meditate or listen to relaxation tapes that promote the production of alpha (focused alertness) and theta (relaxed) brain waves. Avoid jolting alarm clocks that take you from delta waves (deep sleep) to beta waves (agitated and anxious.)
If your licensed healthcare provider agrees with the safety and efficacy of these recommendations, applying some or all of these steps may just help you avoid serious complications resulting from chronic stress.
Prior to reading this article, were you aware of the serious dangers that elevated stress produced?
What are your coping methods for dealing with stress?
Are you more likely to deal with stress knowing the potential dangers of ignoring it?