Balancing Stress Hormones is the Secret to Good Health
Do you suffer from stress? If you are like nearly every other person living in Houston, Texas, or even the United States at large, you are dealing with stress. I bet if I asked you to list the stressors in your life you could immediately name several. In contrast, if I asked you to tell me what you do for fun, I bet at a minimum you would hesitate prior to answering. Interestingly this is something that I ask all my new patients when we are first beginning to work together. You might think this a little odd, but it speaks volumes about the lack of balance in most people’s lives. Some of my patients are not even able to provide me with a single example of what they enjoy. This can only result in dire consequences.
As I have been witness to, stress robs us of good health. The problem with stress is that it often disguises itself. We often think about stress as being mental or emotional, but the tentacles of stress reach far deeper than this. Stress is looming everywhere and depending on how we react to it makes a difference in our long term health.
An ironic point about stress is that regardless of the source of stress, your body is going to react the same. There is only one inherent response to stress. This is through the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol carries out some very necessary functions in our body, but when increased demand is placed on this stress hormone, ill effects begin to accumulate. In contrast, the secret to good health is keeping the stress hormones, especially cortisol, balanced.
Keeping the stress hormones balanced requires returning to some of the basic ideas that appear to have been eroded from our society. These include getting adequate rest and relaxation, eating a diet that limits inflammation and the demand for stress hormones, getting the proper amount of exercise and finding time to enjoy life. You may look at this list and think how am I going to ever tackle each of these areas? The answer lies in consistency. You may be the one percent that is going to make the jump and change your lifestyle habits immediately, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Rather you want to pick a particular area to work on in your life and once you have mastered it, then you can proceed to the next area. Becoming healthy cannot be about making yourself stressed out over becoming healthy.
Diet & Sleep
Start with you diet and sleep. These two items are going to have a profound impact on controlling your stress hormones. The demand for cortisol is increased when a diet of refined foods that have no living qualities is consumed. The repetitive consumption of these foods weakens the immune system and increases inflammation, leading to the need to produce cortisol to compensate. Add to this a lack of sleep and you have a recipe for poor health. Sleep is restorative. When you lack it, the demand for the stress hormone cortisol is raised leading to reduced healing and the breakdown of the body. Without sleep, you inhibit your body’s ability to control stress hormones and keep them in check.
Life is stressful enough without engaging in activities that further imbalance the stress hormones. Maintaining their balance is crucial to each aspect of our lives if good health is what you desire. When you get right down to it, the secret to good health is really not a secret at all. We know how to inherently achieve good health, it is just that many are overwhelmed with the stress of their life. In an attempt to manage their stress, many lose focus on the basics. To avoid falling victim to this paradigm, stay focused on the basics, one at a time, find something in life that you enjoy that you can routinely engage in and your stress hormones will better maintain balance, a key to good health.