by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
In the honor of the upcoming Labor Day we started a conversation about work stress last week. Within this article we discussed work stress and provided some helpful tips to help shift this for you, ultimately leading to more happiness in your life. If you missed last week’s article, you can catch this here.
This week I want to address the health aspect of how you pay for work stress.
Stress in itself impacts every aspect of your being but I’ll walk you down the routine pathways in which this will impact your body.
Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system has two branches: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is often considered the “fight or flee” system, while the parasympathetic nervous system is often considered the “rest and digest” system. In many cases, both of these systems have “opposite” actions where one system activates a physiological response and the other inhibits it.
Your parasympathetic nervous system or “rest and digest” as referred above is the branch of the nervous system that simply carries out natural function of your body. You obviously do not have to put any conscious thought into your heart beating, digesting your food, breathing and every other “automatic” process in your body.
The sympathetic nervous system is your reactive or “fight or flee” branch of your nervous system. This will be the reactive side of your nervous system to stress in your life, or as we are discussing, your work stress.
To understand how your work stress is effecting your nervous system, it is first important to understand that when you are under stress, this will be activating your sympathetic nervous system. When you have a sympathetic nervous system that is overactive, long term this will effect your parasympathetic nervous system function. One area that is majorly impacted is your digestive system.
Your digestive system as you may have guessed by the “rest and digest” reference above, is a parasympathetic nervous system response. When you nervous system is balanced you will enjoy optimal blood flow to your gastrointestinal system, this leading to the proper absorption and assimilation of the nutrients from the food that you eat. When you are dealing with stress though, your body is a heightened sympathetic nervous system state which is the “fight or flee” state. When you are in this state your body feels as if it is in danger and will redirect the blood flow from your gastrointestinal system to your muscular system to “save your life.” While of course our work stress is truly not a life or death situation, your body will be perceiving it in this way. So the longer you are stuck in your work stress, the longer you are stuck in a sympathetic nervous system response which ultimately will lead to poor absorption and assimilation of your nutrients, with the end result of nutritional deficiencies.
Your work stress also has a major impact on your adrenal function. Understand that when you are under stress, your body will increase cortisol production. Cortisol is your body’s primary stress response hormone which is also tied into the “fight or flee” response. The challenge here is that when cortisol is elevated for long periods of time, as would be the case for those with chronic work stress, this will effect other hormones as well. Long term elevated cortisol will eventually deplete DHEA and other end result hormones such as testosterone and estrogen hormones as an example. When these hormones are depleted, the body is out of balance, thus effecting so many functional areas of your body as listed below.
- Mucosal lining
- Metabolism of fat and protein
- Regulation of body weight and fat
- Immune regulation
- Pro and anti-inflammatory states
- Cellular energy
- Blood sugar stability
- Bone and connective tissue turnover
- Muscular integrity
- Quality of sleep and mood
- Ability to memorize and learn
- Overall neural connectivity
So you can see the impact that work stress has on your adrenal function and then the after effect that the adrenal challenges will then create on the whole of your being.
If you are wondering how your work stress is impacting your adrenal function, take this complimentary adrenal stress profile assessment.
As mentioned above, your adrenal function impacts your pancreas and blood sugar but this is very often tied into stress. Most have been taught that elevated blood sugar (blood glucose) and insulin is truly a food issue. While it is true that eating too much sugar and processed carbohydrates can elevate blood sugar, stress has a huge impact here. Understand that when cortisol is elevated due to stress this effects the hormones insulin and glucagon, which together regulate blood sugar. If your body is in a “fight or flee” due to your work stress, to aid in you “escaping” this danger, you will release sugar (glucose) into your blood. While this would of course be burnt up if you truly had to fight someone or something, or if you have to run away from danger, most of our work stress does not require these actions. This then leads to the yo/yo effect of elevated blood sugar, elevated insulin to remove the sugar which in turn will also have and effect on adrenals and cortisol production, and round and round we go. This is why so many people that are under chronic stress also have challenges with blood sugar and weight.
In the end your work stress is creating some major issues for your health that should be addressed in two ways. Number one is to reduce your work stress as much as possible based on the tips from last week’s article and number two is to address the functional aspect of this stress on the one area that is most easily assessed and also balanced, which is your adrenal function.
If you took that adrenal assessment above and you scored a 40 or above, I would recommend that you assess your adrenal function. This is the same #205 Adrenal Stress Profile test kit that we use with our clients on a regular basis. Once these results are delivered to Depke Wellness, we will call you to set up an appointment to review results, make the necessary recommendations to assist your body in balancing your adrenal function and also discuss the underlying factors that creates this imbalance for you in the first place. Obviously one of them being your work stress.
Recognize that as you increase balance with your adrenal function, this will also positively impact your nervous system, pancreas, blood sugar stability and digestive system. Based on years of practice and reviewing approximately 5,000 adrenal test results through the years, I find this to be the ultimate starting line in regaining your health and balance.
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