Adrenal fatigue Pt 2

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Stress, adrenal fatigue and the brain

I talked in Pt 1 about the 3am wake up call, lethargy and many other symptoms related to adrenal fatigue.  I also talked about some of the science around stress and the adrenals.  And as a women’s health coach and natural medicine practitioner, I’m fascinated with emerging research that helps us understand the impact of the modern day lifestyle on our wellbeing and of course what we can do about it. Most of us are afraid of getting older so let’s have a look at:

Stress and its effects on the brain

There are many dangers from chronic stress that’s left unchecked and allowed to continue for too long.  Aside from the obvious heart attack we are now finding out that chronic (meaning long term) stress increases your chances of experiencing pain.

One example that has been studies is Irritable Bowel syndrome. The majority of patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) associate stressful life events with the initiation or exacerbation of their symptoms. Emerging evidence suggests that this association may be due to an alteration in the way the brain communicates with the gut during periods of prolonged or severe life stresses. 

While stress and stress related symptoms have long been regarded as a domain of psychology, tremendous progress has been made in our understanding of how the body responds to stress physically and chemically, hormonally and so on. This may be called psycho-neuro-immunology or psycho-neuro-endocrinology or other similar names.

How are the bowel and the brain connected?

The brain network which plays a central role in the stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cortex (HPA) axis which produces the hormone cortisol. The HPA axis interacts with other brain areas which are concerned with the responses to pain and in the autonomic (nervous system) function of the bowel during stress.

This is how the brain comes into it…

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that altered brain responses in IBS and other chronic pain syndromes, such as fibromyalgia, play a role in the body’s increased sensitivity to painful and non-painful stimuli resulting in chronic pain and other symptoms of discomfort and distress. People become more sensitive to pain than other people because of the brain!

Altered function of the brain in response to stress may play a primary role in behavioral abnormalities such as fatigue, lack of motivation, abnormal sleep and appetite, which are commonly seen in patients with functional bowel disease, such as IBS. These symptoms in turn play an important role in the impact of IBS on quality of life.

But wait, there’s more.

There is now a ton of research showing the effects of stress on other areas of the body. To give you some examples…

Stress and the rest of the body

I know that if someone is not doing well on thyroid support then we need to go back to the adrenals and work on what affects those. 

In effect you may think you have a thyroid problem but it really stems from stress or more accurately the HPA axis. Stress impacts the brain to reduce not just thyroid hormone but progesterone and estrogen as well!

Stress is also implicated in primary and secondary fertility, immunity and anxiety which we have now discussed in some detail. 

Contact Brenda to arrange your complimentary discovery session and to discuss the best approach for your adrenal health recovery plan at brenda@qwomen.com.au.

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Brenda Rogers

With over 25 years experience as a corporate trainer, naturopath, yoga teacher and wise woman educator, Brenda is the head clinician and coach at Quintessence Health.

"A healthy mind and body simply ensures you have the time and energy to fully express and manifest your life’s purpose – it facilitates the unfolding of joy."

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