Are you hanging on for dear life? Stress is certainly a part of our lives, and some stress can be good for you. For example, using your muscles will make them stronger. Walking and running and jumping put stress on your bones and make them stronger. But, too many of us are stressed out! And too much stress wrecks your hormones, wrecks your gut, wrecks your health.

Stress triggers the adrenal glands to release the fight or flight hormones called cortisol, adrenalin (also known as epinephrine), and norepinephrine. If you need to escape danger, these hormones send blood and energy to your muscles so you can run and help your brain focus exclusively on escaping the danger. They also shut down your digestion and reproductive functions, because digesting and having babies are not as important as escaping danger.

After you are no longer in danger, then everything is supposed to go back to normal. Here’s the bad news: most of us have stress every day from

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  • Sleep deprivation
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Smoking
  • Polluted air and water
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Emotional and mental stress
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Chronic medical problems
  • Digestive problems or infections
  • Skipping meals
  • Deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids
  • Abnormal gut bacteria (dysbiosis)

You can easily identify some of these stressors, but others are invisible, silent, and sneaky. As a result of these daily stresses, your body thinks it is in constant danger and the level of cortisol is too high all the time. This can cause

  • Weight gain
  • High blood sugar, prediabetes, diabetes
  • Osteoporosis and osteopenia
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Brain fog

How you deal with these many stresses has a huge impact on your health and well-being. The good news is that there are so many things you can do to lower your stress level and reset your hormone function.

blog10Start eating more of the good stuff, like organic vegetables and fruits, grass-fed beef, free range chicken and eggs.

Get a water filter and ditch the plastic water bottles.

Get rid of the sugar, the high fructose corn syrup, and the artificial sweeteners.

Get enough sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, please discuss this with your doctor or your functional medicine practitioner.

Get some exercise, but not too much! Find some ways you like to move and some things you like to do. Schedule your exercise! Write it on your calendar!

Reduce your exposure to as many chemicals as you can. Start learning about how to do this at the the Environmental Working Group website.

If you are still struggling, there is more help available. I use a test that measures cortisol levels in your saliva four times in one day to help me see how your brain and your adrenals are working together. The brain will actually reduce the adrenal gland production of cortisol if cortisol stays too high for too long. Many people call this adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion, but there really isn’t anything wrong with the adrenal glands.

Here is an example of a saliva cortisol test panel result. The X marks the patient’s results. Normal levels should be between the ∆ and the ◊.

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Depending on your results, I use small doses of hormones to help reset the connection between the brain and the adrenals, while we are working on identifying all of the other stresses that are making you sick, tired, fat. I recently tested myself, and found that my own results were not normal! After starting the adrenal program, I am sleeping much better and my brain feels clearer.

Most endocrinologists do not currently use the saliva cortisol test panel to check adrenal gland function. You will most likely need to find a functional medicine practitioner who can order the test for you, and help you identify your particular problem areas. The Institute for Functional Medicine, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the Kalish Institute , and Primal Docs all maintain databases that will help you locate one near you.

To your health,
Dr. Patty Powers

Patty Powers, MD, is an expert in helping kids and young people who struggle with weight, thyroid and blood sugar problems. Learn more by picking up her free report at www.drpattypowers.com