Stress- The Long And Short Of It

Thursday January 19, 2012 comments

  • Fight-Or-Flight effects
  • Cortisol and an under-active thyroid

In my previous blog, I began introducing the topic of stress as a hormone response.   The stress hormone response is actually one of the, if not thee most powerful hormone responses we have. It is a response that is intended to save our lives in a variety of natural scenarios both long term and short.  Examples of short term stressors would be if Norman Bates was standing at your shower door with a 20 inch knife when you get out of the shower or running from a lion etc.  These are obviously dramatic, but illustrate my point.  These kinds of stressors come on quickly, result in a powerful response but also subside relatively quickly once the stressor is gone.  The body’s responses are varied eg. raising blood pressure, raising blood sugar, constricting arteries, raising heart rate and dilating pupils etc.  These responses are intended to give us a better chance of survival in the short term and result in very few long term problems in healthy individuals.  Theses are the “fight or flight” responses.  The kinds of stressors that are more deleterious on our health are the long term responses.
 
Hormones and The Balancing Act
     
The short term response is primarily due to the Adrenalin hormone.  The long term stress response is mediated in large part by Cortisol.  An example of a long term stressor that has been historically normal for mankind (and currently in some parts of the world) is starvation. Elevated levels of Cortisol in this situation stimulates the body to store fat and increase sugar cravings and carbohydrates in general.  One of the other issues that can occur simultaneously with elevated Cortisol is a down regulation of the hormone TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.  This hormone is what the brain uses to control Thyroid hormone output.  If you are starving to death in a cave the last thing your body would want to do is increase your metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories).  Your body would want to conserve and store energy(fat).  Chronically elevated Cortisol can reduce the hormone TSH which tells your thyroid to make less Thyroid hormone.  Less Thyroid hormone lowers our metabolism which can affect many things including weight and energy.  Elevated Cortisol can also affect thyroid hormone at other points that lowers your metabolism.  All of this would be fine if you really were starving but this rarely occurs in most modern countries.  In fact, the opposite is more common.  We have relatively unlimited amounts of food, especially foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates.  Adding to this fact, much of the food that is available is largely void of nutritional value and we have a Cortisol crazed society living with stress levels that didn’t exist 100 years ago. 
We welcome your questions and comments, and we encourage each reader to share their experiences.

  • Fight-Or-Flight effects
  • Cortisol and an under-active thyroid

In my previous blog, I began introducing the topic of stress as a hormone response.   The stress hormone response is actually one of the, if not, the most powerful hormone responses we have. It is a response that is intended to save our lives in a variety of natural scenarios both long term and short.  Examples of short term stressors would be if Norman Bates was standing at your shower door with a 20 inch knife when you get out of the shower or running from a lion etc.  These are obviously dramatic, but illustrate my point.  These kinds of stressors come on quickly, result in a powerful response but also subside relatively quickly once the stressor is gone.  The body’s responses are varied eg. raising blood pressure, raising blood sugar, constricting arteries, raising heart rate and dilating pupils etc.  These responses are intended to give us a better chance of survival in the short term and result in very few long term problems in healthy individuals.  Theses are the “fight or flight” responses.  The kinds of stressors that are more deleterious on our health are the long term responses.
 
Hormones and The Balancing Act
     
The short term response is primarily due to the hormone Adrenalin.  The long term stress response is mediated in large part by Cortisol.  An example of a long term stressor that has been normal for mankind historically (and currently in some parts of the world) is starvation. Elevated levels of Cortisol in this situation stimulates the body to store fat and increase sugar cravings and carbohydrates in general.  One of the other issues that can occur simultaneously with elevated Cortisol is a down regulation of the hormone TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.  This hormone is what the brain uses to control Thyroid hormone output.  If you are starving to death in a cave the last thing your body would want to do is increase your metabolic rate (rate at which you burn calories).  Your body would want to conserve and store energy(fat).  Chronically elevated Cortisol can reduce the hormone TSH which tells your thyroid to make less Thyroid hormone.  Less Thyroid hormone lowers our metabolism which can affect many things including weight and energy.  Elevated Cortisol can also affect thyroid hormone at other points that lowers your metabolism.  All of this would be fine if you really were starving but this rarely occurs in most modern countries.  In fact, the opposite is more common.  We have relatively unlimited amounts of food, especially foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrate.  Adding to this fact, much of the food that is available is largely void of nutritional value and we have a Cortisol crazed society living with stress levels that didn’t exist 100 years ago. 
We welcome your questions and comments, and we encourage each reader to share their experiences.


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