We all experience stress. Researchers have learned that any event, including illness, that moves us away from normal expectations of life can trigger a stress response. And whether these events are real, such as with an actual sickness, emergency or trauma, or perceived, as in worry about a potential event, the body’s response is surprisingly similar.
The physical or mental stress of your circumstances can overcome your body’s ability to cope, straining your stress response mechanisms to the limit. This is known as adrenal fatigue, which can ultimately lead to adrenal exhaustion.
When we are under stress, the body’s stress handling system (the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis) triggers a fight-or-flight reaction, releasing the hormone cortisol to set off a series of reactions to help us handle it. When this system is responding normally, it’s possible to step back, refocus and assess the situation once it’s over, giving the body a chance to recover from the stress and for hormone levels and body rhythms to return to normal. When it’s not, and the stress is long lasting or constant with no recovery period in between, response mechanisms become disjointed and lose their ability to self-regulate. The constant demands on cortisol production eventually fatigue and then exhaust the adrenal system and set off a biological domino effect that causes lethargy, unhealthy cravings, weight and mood fluctuations, and other health problems.
There are three stages of adrenal exhaustion: early/acute adrenal stress (stage 1), mid-phase adrenal fatigue (stage 2), and late phase (stage 3) adrenal fatigue. Each of these stages affects the body in different ways by creating an imbalance in hormone production, blood sugar handling, disruption of sleep/wake cycles, increased frequency in muscle and joint injuries, and the likelihood of illness in varying degrees.
At Whole Body Health, we can test the health of your adrenal system by performing functional testing to measure your neurotransmitter and adrenal health levels, which helps identify neuroadrenal fatigue and determines which stage of fatigue you are in.
Once there is a thorough understanding of your stress response status, we’ll have the tools to formulate a wellness plan for balancing your body systems and return you back to living the rewarding life you long for.
For a more in-depth look at the three levels of adrenal exhaustion and stress testing, click here.