Stressed Out

Hi everyone! A lot of things have happened since I last wrote. Globally, locally, as well as personally. With all the events that are going on around us, one wonders “how can I be safe, stay healthy and vibrant?” I don’t have all the answers but for starters, I would suggest not to worry. Indeed, the popular song, “Dont’ worry, be happy” is so appropriate for our times. Anyway, worry, anxiety or “stress” could affect our delicate systems especially our endocrine or hormonal system. In fact, stress is a major cause of chronic ailments or physical/mental health disorders. How does our body cope with stress? It’s does so primarily through our adrenal glands, a pair of endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Each adrenal gland is divided into two functionally distinct zones, namely the adrenal cortex (which produces corticosteroids and further classified into mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids and androgens) and the adrenal medulla (produces the catecholamines). For today’s discussion, let’s focus on the glucocorticoids (also known as cortisol).

Cortisol is normally secreted in a circadian rhythm. Secretion is highest in the morning around 8 am and , followed by a gradual tapering off through the rest of the day, the lowest level being around midnight. Chronic stress typically causes elevation of cortisol initially  until the adrenals get “depleted”, at which point, cortisol levels start declining. Again, it’s all about hormonal balance. Too much or too little of a hormone (or a nutrient or a neurotransmitter, for that matter), could lead to ill health. Therefore, it’s important to keep everything in balance or homeostasis. In Chinese medicine terms, it’s about yin and yang. In future blog entries, I’ll discuss better ways to manage stress.

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