Have you ever wondered why in this day and age, when we have the most advanced medical care in the history of mankind, so many people are exhausted, over-weight, can’t sleep, are full of anxiety or depressed? It just doesn’t make sense. We should have the healthiest population of people ever.
Well, this is why: although the human body has changed very little, the world we live in has changed dramatically. Two thousand years ago we were running from the saber-tooth tiger. Our cortisol levels would go sky-high, our adrenaline would go up as well, but when we found safety these “fight or flight” molecules would come back down to normal levels. However, in 2019 we are more likely to be running from the IRS or a former spouse. Our cortisol levels go up and our adrenaline levels go up, however the difference is these modern stressors tend to last for months or even years. Consequently, the levels of the stress molecules stay up. The human body was simply not designed to live in a persistent state of “fight-or-flight”.
Functional Medicine doctors call this syndrome Adrenal Fatigue. A state of persistent stress that leads to a chronically elevated cortisol levels, and when the condition persists, chronically low cortisol levels. Symptoms of “Adrenal Fatigue” are:
- High levels of fatigue each day,
- Difficulty with motivation, drive and lack of interest in new things,
- Unexplainable bursts of energy at night typically from 10 pm to 1 am,
- Inability to handle stress with a need to rest even after mildly stressful events,
- Lack of enthusiasm, have feelings of apathy or disinterest, irritability, anxiety and mild depression,
- Muscular weakness, swollen ankles and salt cravings,
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight,
- Frequent infections, chronic allergies or auto-immune issues.
Although traditional medicine has been slow to accept this syndrome as a true diagnosis, it is hard to deny that millions of people have complaints that look remarkably like Adrenal Fatigue. Perhaps we should simply call it what it is, Stress and recognize that the syndrome exists, it is common, and it is dramatically affecting the health and well-being of millions of people. “Stress in health and disease is medically, sociologically and philosophically the most meaningful subject for humanity that I can think of.” Hans H. Selye, MD
“Unfortunately, our country’s health system often neglects psychological and behavioral factors that are essential to managing stress and chronic diseases,” Norman Anderson, CEO of the APA said in a statement. Many people living with high stress are at a tipping point, faced with potential physical and emotional-health challenges if they are not able to get the support they need to manage their stress. If untreated, consistently high stress could become a chronic condition, which can result in serious health problems including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can even contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity, or exacerbate existing illnesses.
- When is it well documented that too much stress has untoward effects on a person’s quality of life and health,
- When we have reliable ways to test those at risk (Studies have been published showing salivary cortisol testing as a valid means of dynamic endocrine testing) and,
- When we have well studied, successful treatment modalities for those experiencing life & health-problems from too much stress,
It makes no sense for our health care system to treat stress as a personal problem and not as a health issue. “America is at a critical crossroads when it comes to stress and our health,” says APA Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Anderson, PhD. More Xanax is not the answer. Comprehensive wellness programs, like Lifestyle Medicine’s “Medicine Done Differently”, are popping up across the country. These wellness programs incorporate experts in fitness, nutrition, mindfulness and medicine and are specifically designed to deal with issues like stress, fatigue, weight gain and/or insomnia without prescription drugs that can often add additional problems to a person’s life. At Lifestyle Medicine we believe that, Living Life Well is a Life Well Lived.