Too often the experience of seeing a medical practitioner involves temporary fixes that may have long-term side effects. This is coming from the daughter of a pharmacist who grew up surrounded by the pharmaceutical industry.
This is particularly true of chronic health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and autoimmunity, but is also true for other conditions such as insomnia, memory loss, depression, anxiety, chronic viral infections and skin rashes of various types.
I observe something different every day in my naturopathic health practice. In working with patients who have a goal to address their health issues by resolving the underlying cause and subsequently supporting their bodies to heal, I have the privilege of seeing people resolve health concerns that are considered untreatable other than by surgery or prescription medication.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic Medicine is a philosophy of medicine that addresses the root cause of health issues by looking at the body as a whole, containing a number of integrated systems within it – and then choosing therapies that allow the body to heal itself.
The approaches may include dietary changes, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, and/or homeopathy. This process can occur alongside the use of medications, when they are necessary, or even before and after surgery to support the healing process. The overall perspective is to support the body to come back to balance and optimal functioning.
It has been well established, looking back over thousands of years, that there are four key elements to wellness (besides air to breathe and shelter):
- Food and water
- Adequate sleep
- Stress reduction such as vacations, meditation, prayer, conscious breathing, hobbies and the like
With these four elements in mind, we can therefore presume that any disruption in our ability to access any or all of these things will have a negative effect our health. And what has the potential to throw off our ability to access them? Stress!
Over 90% of health issues can be traced to stress. That means that stress – in all its various forms – is the most common root cause of ill-health.
Top 10 stress triggers in modern life:
- Sugar and excess carbohydrates
- Genetically modified foods (GMO)
- Airplane travel
- Skipping meals
- Disrupted sleep
- Overuse of antibiotics, antacids, and anti-inflammatories
- Too much to do, too little time
- Overstimulation from communication
So how can we, and how do we, address stress? It starts with optimizing your adrenal wellness.
What Is Adrenal Wellness?
The adrenal glands are the main stress responders in our bodies. When your brain gets the first signal that you are experiencing some kind of stress, it sends a message to the sympathetic nervous system (the ‘fight or flight system’), and to the adrenal glands telling them to make adrenaline and cortisol to prepare your body to either run away or stay and fight the thing that is causing you stress.
Cortisol and adrenaline then spread this message of stress throughout the body, shifting hormones, digestion, the immune system and the nervous system in a way that makes you ready to respond to the stress. Then when the stress is gone, a similar sequence of messages brings everything back to balance. But on days when you are triggered by one stress after another, all day long, your body doesn’t have much chance to come back to balance. In some cases, you might not even get to de-stress enough to sleep at night.
If this continues day in/day out, and depending on your genetics and your exposure to stress as a child, your body could get stuck in what I refer to as “stress mode” or get run down by it, in which case you can feel more and more burnt out.
By this point, you may be experiencing fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, heartburn, irritability, anxiety, joint pain, weight gain, hives and rashes, recurrent infections, blood sugar or blood pressure issues, and/or decreased memory and focus.
When we take a step back from the symptoms and diagnoses, and look at the big picture, we can see that how you are feeling is really about stress, or what I refer to as “adrenal distress.” From that standpoint, it is much easier to see what we need to do to help your body recover.
When we address our health from the root cause, we are doing more than simply a quick fix that may make us feel better in the short-term. We are re-stabilizing our bodies and resetting our ability to stay healthy even while exposed to stress in the long-term.
How to Restore Adrenal Wellness?
I wish I could say that there is one single answer to restoring adrenal wellness. One thing I have found is that it is extremely helpful to be able to see your current cortisol and adrenaline levels as these will tell us exactly how your body is adapting to stress at this moment in time.
All of these stress recovery tactics can be referred to as “adaptogens”, meaning that they help your body adapt to stress. And, not only is there no ‘one size fits all’ solution to restoring adrenal wellness, our unique requirements also change over time – what helps your body now may be different than what helps it in the future. So, addressing adrenal wellness is something we need to pay attention to each and every day over our lifetimes.
In fact, research indicates that when we address adrenal cortisol and adrenaline production, we can influence a wide range of health issues from fatigue, depression, anxiety, and insomnia – to autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and viruses, such as HPV, herpes virus, EBV, shingles, and more.
Bottom Line – Address Your Stress!
So basically, no matter what health issue is ailing you, addressing the stress that’s disrupting your ability to feel well and helping your adrenal glands function as well as possible is one of the best ways to ensure your wellness now and into the future.