I’ve wondered where the world is headed with AI. The latest news from Google’s latest machine learning system, DeepMind, is that it responds to stress with extreme aggression. DeepMind now has a fight or flight response. This got me thinking about how we, humans, respond to stress.
DON’T STRESS ME OUT!
HE STRESSES ME OUT!
SHE STRESSES ME OUT!
I AM STRESSED!
All of us understand stress. We’ve experienced it in different ways. What does STRESS do to our bodies? Do we understand this fully? I guess most of us don’t.
Stress is part of being human. Our bodies are made to withstand certain doses of it. A hormone called cortisol manages stress. Cortisol alleviates stress by helping the body respond positively. Cortisol is our body’s soothing mechanism.
However, when there is severe, prolonged stress, unhealthy levels accumulate and affect our bodies negatively. I’ve stated conversation snippets as is. Some of these I’ve experienced first hand as well. Many of us will not even register these symptoms as problems because we just don’t know about them.
“I gained an inexplicable amount of weight, one that was unhealthy.”
“My face is flushed and puffy.”
“I am tired when I wake. Even if I’ve had a long night’s sleep.”
“I feel too wired” to fall asleep at night.”
I” fall ill too often and take longer to recover.”
“I have trouble relaxing.”
I feel like my heart is racing all the time.”
All of this could signal adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
I’ll break this down into two sections: adrenal fatigue and cortisol.
Adrenal fatigue affects your energy patterns. If you suffer from adrenal fatigue, you will notice your brain feels foggy until about 10 in the morning despite a long night’s rest. You will feel slightly better after an afternoon meal but will slip back into a diurnal lull and feel down during the afternoon times (2-4 PM). Again, the energy returns in the evening around 6:00 PM, but you will feel tired enough to return to bed early.
The onset of adrenal fatigue will include increased PMS, salt cravings, mild depression, lack of energy, absent-mindedness, etc.
How does this occur?
Poor eating habits
White and processed food products
When you go through these trying situations, your body takes the beating, and this triggers your cortisol spike.
How is all of this tied to your adrenal and the cortisol hormone?
Have you heard of the fight or flight hormone? Remember, the adage “survival of the fittest?”
We were hunters before we became gatherers. Our ancestors were constantly battling unpredictable scenarios. They had to fight or fly from the situation that demanded it. So, once the alarm to release cortisol is sounded, your body is ready for action—but there has to be a physical release of fight or flight. Think of JURRASIC PARK and you’ll know what I mean. But in today’s modern age and sedentary lifestyles, there are no dinosaurs threatening our very existence. Yes, maybe you have &*()^ for a boss who keeps you up at night, but nothing that is typically life threatening.
In 1936, Canadian biochemist Hans Selye first defined two types of “stress”: eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress). Eustress interestingly creates a heightened state of arousal; one which is invigorating. There is usually a goal to be achieved at the end of it. Cortisol is released to meet that momentary flux. After the activity is complete, cortisol returns to normal. Distress, as the term itself suggests, is often linked to particular kind of anxiety that is free floating. There is no avenue for release and cortisol backfires. If you’ve heard of autoimmune disorders or a problem where the body begins to attack itself, then you’ve triggered a cycle of stress response that isn’t conducive for the long term.
It sounds out of whack, right? But it all adds up, and here’s why:
If you go back to the previous post on “Hormo-nize,” I’ve explained a little about the adrenal cortex.
Where is it located? The adrenal cortex is situated along the perimeter of the adrenal gland.
In the diagram above, the hat like organ is the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit over the kidneys. They are responsible for secreting over 50 different hormones—including epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone. ACTH released from the pituitary gland helps in the production of TSH. ACTH acts on the adrenal cortex and produces the adrenal hormone, cortisol.
Think of your heart as the engine of a car for a moment. When it’s on cruise control, it’s all dandy. The moment you have to avoid a dangerous situation, you either have to serve, slam on your breaks or do something drastic to prevent the disaster. So situation demanding, you either rev up your engine or increase your rpm. If you repeatedly rev up and slam down on your breaks, and drive around with an increased rpm, you know your engine will burn out eventually.
If your heart is on an overdrive constantly, you will have elevated blood pressure or hypertension. In this situation, the vessel becomes very rigid, and the pump has to exert more force to get blood flowing (too many details to explain here).
With chronic stress, it’s not just a condition your heart has to suffer, but hormones like LH and FSH (involved in menstruation) progesterone and estrogen are inhibited, and this affects the reproductive cycles in women. Men on the other hand, though not restricted to a monthly cycle, will see reduced testosterone levels, which then leads to erectile dysfunction or impotence. There is more to this, but I won’t delve into the details.
Repeated stress increases the levels of cortisol and depletes your adrenal glands leading to chronic fatigue. So stress isn’t directly making you sick but inhibits your immune system from functioning optimally, and therefore, you are prone to illness more often. Bust…pst…engine breaks down.
Interestingly, when stress increases, you will notice your midsection getting bigger. You slap on those pounds around your waist, arms, chin and face. Mostly what’s happening is your hypothalamus has been hijacked by cortisol, which encourages the consumption of sugar and fat. Remember, the hypothalamus controls your appetite, so if it’s been held hostage, the only remedy is to rescue it.
Burning stubborn belly fat especially on the lower abdomen is a hormonal issue. It’s got very little to do with:
–Lack of exercise…
Cortisol and adrenal hormones can quash your belly fat burning goals. Stress leads to adrenal burnt out, and excess cortisol and adrenal leads to a number of health problems.
– Stubborn belly fat
– Drastic drop in testosterone, and rise in estrogen
– Hypertension and anxiety
– Bone, mineral and muscle loss
– High blood sugar and insulin resistance
Can this be undone? Yes! The human body and mind are incredible things, or so I’ve learned through my journey.
SLEEP LIKE A BABY! Restful sleep can turn anything on its head, but it has to be consistent.
So how do you go about reducing stress? Punch it in the face ☺ Even if it is that annoying boss who gives you the nightmares.
I come full circle again with exercise, diet and nutrition.
Remember though that if you do include the above into your lifestyle, learn the right approach. Doing it the wrong way could also have serious repercussions.