enlightenment and cortisol

I had the most enlightening and helpful doctor’s appointment yesterday afternoon. I left my naturopath thinking, “I wish I knew this 5 years ago. I wish everyone knew this!” You may not know, but I’ve been dealing with health issues that flared up this summer and have been going to a naturopathic doctor since we got back in September. It feels so good to finally know what’s behind all of these symptoms that I didn’t think were related. I’m going to be a little more open in this blog than normal because I feel like it’s beneficial for you. Over the past few years, pretty much since graduating, getting married, moving to Canada, and starting a new job, I’ve had various different health issues that were wearing on me. I have been having irregular heartbeats, suffering with depression that was set on from seasonal changes, feeling quite sick/nauseous a lot more than a normal person should (but I wasn’t pregnant), feeling tired and weak, lack of clarity (can’t think of words or put my thoughts into cohesive sentences so much so that I knew something was off in my brain), sleeplessness at night, extreme anxiety, cuts and bruises seemed to take longer to heal, and I just didn’t feel like my normal, generally positive self.

My doctor determined that I have “21st Century Stress Syndrome.” In other words, I have adrenal fatigue. You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “fight or flight.” Well, in our culture we can’t fight or flee from most of our stressors so we’re stuck and our body takes a beating because of it. When you experience stress, your brain sends signals to your adrenal glands, which are located on your back over your kidneys. Your adrenal glands then release cortisol. When enough cortisol reaches your brain, you experience the, “Okay, everything will be okay. I’m going to figure this out…” feeling. But if you’ve been under a lot of stress consistently or a major stressor (like unemployment or being in a job you hate, death of a loved one, major life changes, etc.), your adrenal glands can’t make the cortisol fast enough and your body begins to feel the effects of it.

Cortisol does a lot for your body other than helping you feel calm. It regulates your blood sugar levels and sodium levels, helps maintain a healthy white blood cell count, makes you feel awake, helps your immune system, helps you remember things, acts as an anti-inflammatory (it reduces histamines so if it’s low or missing, you may feel like you’re having allergy attacks that you’ve never had before), and more stuff that I can’t remember. (Ha.)

I feel better already, mentally that is, just knowing what’s going on. I have started taking some supplements and have talked with her about lifestyle changes including diet and exercise which should help. It’s good to know that I’m not going crazy and it wasn’t all stuff that I just had to live with. I will get back to normal soon. :o)

If you want to read more about it, here’s a good article from Project Aware. If you read it and feel like it’s describing your life, talk to a professional. I had never heard of a naturopathic doctor while living in the States, but perhaps there are more out there now. Their goal is to get you back to good health naturally, not just treating the symptoms but taking care of the root issue. Seriously, I feel like my life was a piece of paper full of dots and she connected them all and now I have a picture of a flower.

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