By Kimberly Blend, MS, ARNP-BC –
Anyone out there not feeling stressed? For many people today, stress overload has become a “normal” facet of everyday life. But repeated exposure to high levels of acute stress (or even chronic daily “background” stress), whether emotional, physical, or psychological, is anything but normal and its detrimental effects are cumulative, often leading to discomfort and disease within the body.
Human Illness Related to Stress
In fact, some experts believe that up to 75% of all human illness is related to stress, among these are included high blood pressure, suppressed immunity, a tendency toward increased “belly fat,” bone loss, blood sugar imbalances, high cholesterol levels and insomnia. Treating the symptoms of illness or disease may help an individual to feel better in the moment, but unless the underlying stress is dealt with, symptoms may return or disease may show up in another, seemingly unrelated, part of the body.
Have you ever had the experience of “just feeling sick?” Your symptoms may be so vague as to be indefinable, yet you just don’t feel well. Or you may have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, a blood sugar abnormality, or high cholesterol. Some of us simply associate these conditions with the normal aging process, or perhaps as our hereditary destiny, but this need not be the case. All of these symptoms can be related to stress exposure and may be brought on gradually, over time, as individuals deal with increased levels of stress in the workplace, at home, and on roadways crowded with rush hour traffic.
The Effect of Stress Hormones is Cumulative
How we feel about an event (which we may or may not define as stressful) may not be nearly as important as what’s going on inside our body. Whether we feel happy or sad will cause our body to produce stress hormones to deal with the situation. When major life events, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, or even a much-longed-for promotion or move to a new home, occur, stress hormones are released in our body. Likewise, chronic, minor, day-to-day stresses cause these same hormones to be released. The effect of stress hormones on our body is cumulative, so one event may not cause us any particular problem, but repeated stress over time does begin to take a toll.
What is Adrenal Exhaustion?
Repeated, long-term exposure to stress causes our adrenal glands (which secrete the hormones and chemicals required for responding to stressful situations) to become exhausted as they are constantly kept working on high alert, with no time to rest and rejuvenate. As the adrenals become exhausted, they are no longer able to meet the body’s demands and we begin to suffer symptoms of ill health, aging, extreme fatigue, and other symptoms. Chronic health problems, long-term nutritional deficiencies and emotional problems can also contribute to adrenal exhaustion in a cycle that begins to feed on and perpetuate itself. So, in a sense, the sicker we are, the sicker we become.
When our adrenal glands are functioning properly, we feel better, can think more creatively, and are able to handle stress in a healthier, more productive way. When stressful situations cannot be avoided, learning to recognize how our body reacts to stress can go a long way toward mitigating the harmful effects we might otherwise experience. Our body is constantly sending out messages about how it is doing and what it needs to continue functioning optimally. We have, for the most part, forgotten how to listen and interpret these messages. When we learn the body’s signals, we can also take steps to reduce the amount of stress our adrenal glands must deal with. Or, when stress is unavoidable, as it often is, there are things we can do to reduce the damage caused by stress and allow for our adrenal glands to rebuild and our body to recover.
The Progression of Stress on the Body
If the effect of stress has been unaddressed for too long, we may need to give our bodies a little extra help. Hans Selye, MD, pioneered the field of stress research. He observed certain symptoms common to many diseases and described the syndrome of “just being sick.” Selye classified the three stages of the progression of stress on the body as the “General Adaptation Syndrome.” What happens is that initially, we face a stressful situation, whether we define it as “good” or “bad,” and internal mechanisms within our body go on “high alert.” This is as it should be. In step two, we address the situation and resolve it. If it is resolved, our body returns to a resting state; if it is not, or if additional situations occur, the body may remain in a chronic or repeated state of high alert. This can lead to step three, in which we eventually reach a place of “exhaustion,” which can manifest as anything from vague symptoms of illness to poor functioning of specific organs or even collapse of our entire system.
Natural, Individualized Approach to Treatment Restores Health and Vitality
It is easy to find out what stage of this process your body is in through testing some of the critical markers to overall health. These include saliva testing of sex and adrenal hormones as well as urinary neurotransmitter testing. Together, these tests can tell a great deal about how your body is responding to stress. After testing, treatment utilizing a natural, individualized approach, including bioidentical hormones and nutritional and herbal supplementation to restore the body’s chemical balance, allows the practitioner to see concrete evidence of improvement in the critical markers, while you experience restored health and vitality in your everyday life. This treatment approach can go a long way toward helping you achieve and maintain the healthiest, most active, and most stress free lifestyle possible.
Kimberly Blend, MS, ARNP-BC
Kim is the Mental Health Director at The Blend Institute. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Nutrition and an Associate of Science degree in Nursing. She has also earned a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a specialization in psychiatry from the University of South Florida. Kim is a national board certified nurse practitioner.
After several years of teaching at a collegiate level, she turned her focus to Integrative Psychiatry. Over the last 9 years, Kim’s focus in her private practice work combines her nutrition background with her traditional psychiatric treatment practices, including psychotherapy and psychiatric medication management. She works to view patient symptom presentation from a biochemical and psychological perspective. Kim’s expertise in biochemical diagnosis allows her to provide patients with targeted, natural treatment options as well as pharmaceutical options.
Kim is a national speaker on the topic of neurotransmitter testing and amino acid therapy and often travels teaching other clinicians on the utility of neurotransmitter testing and the efficacy of amino acid therapies.
In 2010, Kim and her husband, Dr. Timothy Blend, MD, founded The Blend Institute. The Institute is a unique, collaborative medical practice and wellness center in that it offers the expertise and services needed to assist individuals in reaching total health, including both the mind and body. Institute professionals are dedicated to helping patients achieve and maintain optimal physical and mental health.
If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, call The Blend Institute at 941-722-5600 or visit us online at www.blendinstitute.com.