Many aspects of 'modern' living don't tend to go hand-in-hand with staying healthy. Toxins, processed food, eating on the run, over reliance on prescription medications, too little sleep and exercise, and last but certainly not least, the pace and tone of life.
For many people, any given day is often one low grade stressor to the next. Waking up after too little sleep to a jolting alarm, rushing to get out the door for work, dealing with traffic or public transit en-route, arriving just in time to then rush to a morning meeting or a pile of work, followed by a short lunch or eating at your desk, then more work, then leaving to go get kids or deal with the commute home, rushing to get some dinner on the table, and then maybe, we finally get to relax. If, there isn’t homework to help with, kids to put to bed, crying infants to nurse, etc. etc. The list is endless, and relentless!
Now while it may seem that the ideal solution is just to eliminate all stress, of course that really isn’t feasible for the vast majority of us nor is it really necessary, thankfully! The body is equipped to deal with stress and that is inherent in our physiology. The problem is however is that it ISN’T equipped to deal with stress hour after hour, for almost the whole day long and then repeated the next day, and the next and so on.
So let’s explore some of the repercussions of constant stress on our neuroendocrine system, involving the thyroid and adrenal glands, and look at a few simple measures we can take to try and turn things around.
The Brain Stem, Thyroid, Adrenal and Reproductive Glands Communication System
When you look at systems like this, the body truly is a marvel of communication. Chemical substrates secreted from one part of the body move to another, causing a chain reaction of events to happen there, then go to other places and often return to where the chain of command began (which is usually our brain). So, when you think about it, it also seems very unfitting that when we are trying to address a fatigue problem or a thyroid problem or even an ovarian problem, we would simply just try and ‘target’ that gland and think that is going to be enough. All of these organs and others such as the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, and testes communicate in various feedback loop systems (some of which we don’t even fully understand yet) with each other.
Chinese medicine talks a lot about ‘Qi’— our vital inherited and acquired energy/life force – and it is helpful to understand that our whole body, when healthy and vital, should be ‘brimming’ with Qi. So, if stressors are depleting our energy faster than we can rebuild it through good food, enough rest, enough activity, etc. our ‘Qi’ can become depleted overall, causing a downturn in the functioning of whole systems and feedback loops. In this case, the adrenals and thyroid tend to especially take a strong ‘hit.’
Our modern state of overwork, inadequate rest and exercise, toxins, poor diet, etc. is a recipe for depletion. We are chronically pushing our neuroendocrine systems into ‘sympathetic overdrive’ (i.e. the ‘fight and/or flight response’), with inadequate amount of time being spent in parasympathetic mode (i.e. our ‘rest and digest’ phase). A hundreds years ago, when life was much more communal and not plagued by many of the modern stressors that we often face now, people didn’t have nearly as many problems with exhaustion, premature hormone decline, and even many lifestyle linked illnesses such as cancer. Thus feeling chronically tired even after a good night’s sleep (or several), needing stimulants like sugar or caffeine to get through the day, low body temperature, hypoglycemic episodes, weight gain, muscle loss, heart palpitations, low sex drive, infertility and more may all be indications there are serious issues at play with your neuroendocrine regulation.
Following the lengthy list of suggestions from the first article in this series a ‘first-line’ therapy for fatigue is definitely warranted here. Start with looking at your habits when it comes to sleep, stress management, and exercise. Implementing simple things like deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation may be extremely helpful. A great resource that discusses therapies such as these and others to help you tackle stress is the Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (Mary Davis, et al). I think every busy person nowadays would do well with a copy at home!
Exploring herbs and supplements to help support a healthy and more regulated stress response may be warranted and necessary for many individuals to also consider such as holy basil, rhodiola, magnesium, licorice, and others. Discussing your options with a qualified healthcare provider of course is encouraged when considering to incorporate such items into your daily regimen!
Fiona Caddies is the Founder of www.whitezebra.com
Fiona Caddies lights up a room. Her electric energy, dreamlike love for life and boundless knowledge of health and nutrition is contagious. With an active interest to engage a community of those who are ‘hyperactively healthy’, Fiona dreamed of, and later co- designed, WhiteZebra; a health website set to centralize the teachings of a credible suite of esteemed health professionals which feature a high concentration of current news and practical ideas.
Qualifications: Cert III & Cert IV in Fitness, Poliquin BioSignature Level 2 (Advanced Nutrition, Fat Loss & Hormone Balancing), FMA Strength Coach, Thump Boxing Advanced Instructor, 200 Hour Power Living Yoga Teacher Training
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