Everyone has some stress in their life. And in moderate levels, stress can be beneficial (finishing my Eagle column by the deadline every week comes to mind). Chronic stress however can be detrimental to ones health. The difference is that chronic stress never lets up to give the body a chance to clear the stress hormones from your system.
When faced with a stressful situation the adrenal glands produce hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol to help us deal with it. When the situation is past, the hormones levels slowly return to normal. If you are stressed all day at work, drive home through rush hour traffic, then have to deal with active toddlers or surly teens, normal never happens.
One of the side effects of chronic stress is weight gain. The stress hormones prevent the release of fatty acids from fat cells and trigger fat storage instead. Stress not only drives you up the wall, it makes you fat! And if you don’t correct the stress hormone levels, dieting and exercise will not be effective.
Another effect of chronic stress is insomnia. When we are loaded with stress hormones it becomes very difficult to get to and stay asleep. Stress is a contributing factor in heart disease, indigestion, back pain, depression and many other health problems. And over a long period, chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue or hypoadrenia, with its own set of health problems (a good topic for a future column).
So what can we do to reduce our stress hormones? Drugs and alcohol are not the best solution. Fortunately there are natural products proven to be effective in reducing not only the feelings of stress but also the harmful effects of stress within the body.
The herbs Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Valerian help support the adrenals, promote relaxation, and may aid the body in reducing the stress hormones. Some herbal products have all these and more in one formula. Exercise is another way to allow the stress hormones to normalize (take a long walk to calm down or use a punching bag to vent your frustrations).
This article is intended for educational purposes only; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.