Chronic Stress

Constant stress can increase our risk of suffering from a barrage of anxiety, and other pressure-related diseases (ranging from high blood pressure and dementia to various levels of depression). It is shocking to note that nearly 65% of doctor’s office visits are in some way related to stress.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1What is chronic stress?
  • 2How does conventional medicine handle chronic stress?
  • 3What is the core problem of chronic stress?
  • 4What are the deadly consequences of chronic stress?
  • 5How does the body respond to stress?
  • 6What happens when the stress response is active over a long time?
  • 7What are the functions of cortisol?
  • 8What are the normal cycles of cortisol?
  • 9What is adrenal insufficiency?
  • 10What is “Adrenal Fatigue”?
  • 11How can one recognize when stress is getting the better of you?
  • 12Why is it imperative to recognize the symptoms of stress?
  • 13What are the signs that you may be suffering the effects of chronic stress?
  • 14What is a major cause of anxiety and depression?
  • 15How can nutrition affect chronic stress?
  • 16What alternative hormonal stress management strategies are available?
  • 17How does one check for the balance between DHEA and Cortisol?
  • 18What other alternative stress management strategies are there?
  • 19What Nutrients may counteract the effects of stress?
  • 20What Herbal Therapies counteract the effects of stress?
  • 21What hormonal therapies may help with stress?
  • 22Why should one not self-medicate?
  • 23How do I get started?
  • 24How do we treat this at Health Renewal?
  • 25Health Renewal tip:
  • 26Health Renewal inspirational quotes for leading a healthy life:
  • 27What lifestyle strategies are there for overcoming chronic stress?

The human body is quite amazing and is relatively skilled at managing acute physical and/ or psychological stressors. It becomes a problem however when this acute stress becomes more chronic in nature and can then lead to a variety of adverse effects.

Constant stress can increase our risk of suffering from a barrage of anxiety, and other pressure-related diseases (ranging from high blood pressure and dementia to various levels of depression). Chronic stress has the additional risk of increasing ones risk for some types of cancer. It is shocking to note that nearly 65% of doctor’s office visits are in some way related to stress.

It is unfortunate, that while chronic stress produces significant adverse health effects, conventional medicine often relies upon psychoactive drugs to mask stressed patients’ symptoms. The result is treating the symptoms instead of the cause. At the same time, stress management strategies that are usually used often fail to address biochemical abnormalities and imbalances, such as unbalanced adrenal hormone levels, that contribute to the detrimental health effects caused by chronic stress.

At the core of chronic stress is deregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This HPA axis is an interconnected network of physiologic command terminals that governs the production of stress hormones like cortisol and catecholamines, such as adrenaline and noradrenalin. Chronic stress eventually leads to desynchronization of the HPA axis and subsequent imbalances in stress hormone levels, a critical feature of stress-related illness.

It is important to take note of the dangers of chronic stress, understand how it contributes to various diseases, and know how you can optimize your stress response. It is easily done by combining healthy lifestyle habits, with scientifically studied natural therapies.

  • The consequences of chronic stress can be devastating, therefore early detection and managing is vital!
  • A chilling example is stress cardiomyopathy. This is a spontaneous weakening of the heart that predisposes victims to arrhythmia and even sudden cardiac death. Stress cardiomyopathy is not yet clearly understood, but it is thought that chronic stress-induced elevations in adrenaline can over-stimulate the cardiac muscle, which leads to altering its function and causing atrial remodelling.
  • Karoshi is another deadly consequence; this is how the Japanese refer to an overworked individual who dies as a result of it, identified post World War II. It was found that relatively young high level executives suffered strokes and heart attacks at alarming rates due to being severely emotionally and physically stressed. Researchers discovered that the death of these otherwise healthy men was due to chronic, unremitting stress. The Japanese government estimates of 1990 put the number of men dying each year from Karoshi at over 10,000.
  • Prolonged stress has been linked with elevated circulating markers of inflammation, and increased intima media thickness, a measure of atherosclerosis progression.
  • Chronic stress considerably increases the risk of anxiety and depression by causing structural and functional changes in the brain. It has also been found that individuals who do not learn to properly manage and adapt to chronic stress are more likely to be overweight and develop sexual dysfunction.

When an individual experiences a stressor, which can be either physical or emotional, internal or environmental, the body initiates a complex system of adaptive reactions to help cope with the stress. This reactive response results in the release of glucocorticoids, also known as stress hormones, and catecholamines, which stimulate adaptive changes in a variety of bodily systems. This includes the well-knows term “Fight or Flight” response.

The “Fight or Flight” Response

Under short-term circumstances, the brain is the originator of the reactive and adaptive protection system. Stress-induced changes will prioritize various functions in the body to assist in escaping danger. This can include some, or all, of the following:

  • Redirection of blood flow to the muscles from most other body parts enabling the body to move faster and ‘escape’,
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels, dilation of pupils for better vision,
  • Inhibition of digestion for energy conservation.
    During this time, fatty acids and glucose (blood sugar) are released from storage sites into the bloodstream where they become readily available for utilization by the muscles. This is known as the fight-or-flight response.

When the body perceives there to be a stressor, specialized neurons in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (a major endocrine-regulating brain region) responds by releasing corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) and vasopressin (VP). These hormones will then stimulate the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland.

After entering circulation and reaching the adrenal glands, ACTH stimulates the production of glucocorticoids and catecholamines, which act throughout the body to induce the adaptive changes (i.e. increased blood flow, dilated pupils etc.). Together, this brain-endocrine coordination covers the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.

The fight-or-flight response is undoubtedly very necessary to initiate an autonomous response to impending danger in an acute situation, but when it is active, even at a low-level, for a long period of time it can have devastating health consequences.

Modern humans live in an environment that is filled with emotional stressors, including financial worries, and deadline pressures at work or school. All of these worries continuously activate the HPA axis in an evolutionarily unnatural way. This unhealthy state leads to elevated stress hormone levels, and accompanying physiologic changes throughout the day.

There are a few components of the fight-or-flight response which are especially damaging to health when the stress response is active over a prolonged time-frame. This can lead to insulin resistance, and high blood pressure in individuals that don’t manage their stress levels.

These negative effects, along with several other stress-related physiologic irregularities, can lead to a compromised health state. Once one’s health is compromised you are predisposed to an onslaught of age-related diseases.

Over time, chronic elevations in glucocorticoid levels damage and destroy neurons in the region of the hypothalamus responsible for regulating CRH release. This gives rise to erratic or insufficient HPA axis activation and may lead to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety . Fatigue is also commonly observed in individuals who have been under great stress for a long time.

Cortisol is, in many ways, a paradoxical hormone. A certain amount of cortisol is necessary for optimal health, but too much or too little can be unhealthy, thus maintaining the right levels are crucial. As mentioned earlier, when the body experiences acute episodes of stress, more cortisol is released to help the body cope with physical or psychological stressors. Its primary functions in the body are:

  • Regulation of blood glucose levels, which is done by a process called gluconeogenesis in the liver;
  • Regulation of the immune system;
  • Regulation of carbohydrate, protein and lipid metabolism;
  • Essentially, cortisol is regarded as an anti-inflammatory hormone, a blood glucose modulator, an immune-modifier, and an adaptation hormone.
  • Depending on diet, exercise, stress, and time of day, serum levels of cortisol can vary.

In a healthy individual, cortisol levels peak in the early morning hours (usually around 8AM) and dip to their lowest between midnight and 4AM. The process of cortisol biosynthesis and release is very complex and highly sensitive to disruption by both internal and external factors. In the face of chronic psychological stress, for example, the adrenal glands excrete an abnormal amount of cortisol in an abnormal rhythm.

Cortisol, being a catabolic hormone (meaning it breaks down tissues), when out of balance and unregulated, can have detrimental effects on the body’s composition. Moreover, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, while too little can lead to autoimmunity and rheumatologic disorders.

Cortisol receptors are situated throughout the body, including in the brain. Therefore, derangement of the biosynthesis, metabolism and release of cortisol can disrupt many physiologic systems.

Addison’s disease, sometimes referred to as “adrenal insufficiency” is a medical condition that can be life threatening. Addison’s disease is typically the result of an autoimmune disorder, but can arise due to specific genetic abnormalities too. Consequences of Addison’s disease are much more severe and acute than those induced by stress and the condition should be closely monitored by a qualified healthcare professional.

Adrenal fatigue is an alternative medicine term that often finds its way into discussions when talking about stress. Although “adrenal fatigue” is not a recognized diagnosis in conventional medicine at Health Renewal we believe that symptoms often attributed to “adrenal fatigue” arise from multifactorial pathological processes involving, among other systems, the HPA axis, and that these conditions must be treated as such.

Everyone has an inborn ability to handle stress. But it is important to note that tolerance levels will vary from person to person. Some people can handle only low levels and short durations of stress, while others adapt and can accommodate higher levels stress for more prolonged periods. The term stress was defined by Dr. Hans Selye, in 1935, who stated this to be a factor that induced behavioral changes in mammals. He then furthered this notion to include higher level organisms (humans) as being effected by stress in a harmful way.

According to Dr. Selye, there are three states the body faces when dealing with stress. The first being the alarm state early on in the process, followed by the resistance state where the body attempts to adapt to the added stress (release of cortisol), and finally, after stress overwhelms and weakens the system, the exhaustion state.

These three “states” can be detailed as physiologic mechanisms:

1) Alarm state: This is when the body adapts to acute stress; and experiences the “fight-or-flight” response;

2) Resistance state: The body starts to experience consequences of prolonged stress response activation (such as insulin resistance), and

3) Exhaustion state: This is the final state when the body experiences a decline in responsiveness and sensitivity of primary relays of the HPA axis. (This includes hypothalamic deterioration, dysfunction leading to erratic or insufficient stress hormone, and catecholamine production and subsequent mood disorders and fatigue).

The same imbalances in the HPA axis and stress response mechanisms that contribute to these signs and symptoms also contribute to more serious stress-related illness. Therefore, it is imperative that one recognizes that you are experiencing some or all of the following symptoms and then take the initial steps towards achieving better overall health and mitigating your risk for various diseases.

  • Excessive fatigue after minimal exertion;
  • Feeling “overwhelmed” by relatively trivial problems;
  • Trouble awakening in the morning, even after adequate sleep;
  • Relying on coffee (caffeine) and other “energy” drinks for a pick me up;
  • Perceived energy burst after 6:00 PM;
  • Chronic low blood pressure;
  • Hypersensitivity to cold temperatures;
  • Increased premenstrual symptoms (PMS) symptoms;
  • Depression and/or mood swings;
  • Mental “fog” and poor memory;
  • Decreased sex drive;
  • Anxiety;
  • Craving sugar and salty foods;
  • Decreased appetite;
  • Imbalanced immune system;
  • Chronic allergies;
  • Generalized weakness and dizziness upon standing;
  • Some of these symptoms may mimic, or overlap, with dysfunction of the thyroid gland, gonadal (sex) hormones, malnutrition, depression, chronic fatigue states, chronic illness, infections, alcohol and drug abuse, and heavy metal toxicity.
  • Therefore, it is very important to rule out other possible causes before attributing symptoms to chronic stress alone.

Impaired Stress Response: A major cause of anxiety and depression

It is often found that individuals that suffer from chronic stress will experience mood disorders, particularly anxiety and depression. Depression and anxiety can both be viewed as manifestations of an impaired stress response since the underlying physiology of both is similar. In fact, the chronic elevation in glucocorticoids caused by chronic stressors in modern society can lead to physical changes in brain structure.

As an example, dendrites which are the branches of neurons that receive signals from other neurons, are shifted into less functional patterns when constantly exposed to glucocorticoids. This pattern shifting has been documented in key brain regions associated with mood, short-term memory, and behavioural flexibility. Furthermore, glucocorticoids cause receptors for the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin to become less sensitive to activation. Other detrimental effects of chronic stress include the increased susceptibility to neuronal damage and impaired neurogenesis, which is the process by which new neurons are “born”.

Interestingly, emerging research suggests that certain psychoactive drugs, like those used to treat anxiety and depression, may stabilize mood. This is done not only by the drugs acting upon neurotransmitter levels, but by modulating the action of glucocorticoids receptors within the brain. These new findings suggest that in order to alleviate mood disorders, controlling stress response is an important aspect of treatment. There are several genetic and epidemiological studies which have linked excessive stress, and the inability to efficiently adapt to stress, to increased rates of anxiety and depression.

  • Deficiencies, toxicities and lifestyle habits all have an impact on the functioning of the adrenal gland. Deficiencies in vitamin C and vitamin B5, which are essential co-factors in cortisol production and adrenal health, are two such examples.
  • Copper is a mineral that is essential in some bodily enzymatic reactions, but may disrupt adrenal function if levels are too high. Even relative imbalances between minerals can affect cortisol levels. It has been documented that abnormal ratios of copper to zinc can cause adrenal cortex disruption.

    A good quality, well balanced multivitamin can complement a healthy diet to help ensure that vitamin and mineral intake is sufficient to support optimal adrenal function.

  • The fatty acid content of one’s diet also contributes considerably to stress response physiology. Relative imbalances of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids create conditions that favour heightened inflammation and impaired stress response. A clinical trial examined the effects of parenteral fish oil infusions on the stress response induced by injections of an endotoxin called lipopolysaccharide. The group who received fish oil exhibited a much less severe stress response, with plasma norepinephrine levels remaining sevenfold lower and ACTH levels fourfold lower than the control group.
  • It is believed that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the effects of chronic stress by limiting the influence of inflammation on stress physiology. Since cholesterol is a building block of the cortisol hormone, ingestion in the diet of some saturated fat is important. However, the liver will synthesize cholesterol, if poor dietary ingestion occurs, from acetate. Of course, too much cholesterol has its drawbacks as well, so a happy medium must be reached. Both extremes of dietary fat ingestion have ill effects on the human body. At Health Renewal we suggest an optimal total cholesterol level of 4.2 to 4.6 mmol/L.

A great deal of insight into the function of the adrenal glands can be gained through testing blood levels of DHEA and cortisol.

DHEA Hormonal Therapy:

DHEA, which is also an adrenal hormone, has the ability to counter-act the action of cortisol in many tissues. The balance between cortisol and DHEA is generally maintained during youth, however as we age, DHEA levels decline rapidly. The persistent action of cortisol in the presence of declining DHEA levels can contribute to stress-related diseases.

Furthermore, DHEA replacement therapy can restore balance between cortisol and DHEA.

  • DHEA has been shown to reduce the negative impact of elevated levels of cortisol on the brain of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease study subjects.
  • The heart benefits as well, with a decline in the incidence of coronary artery disease, when a patient supplements with DHEA.
  • In the context of metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by abdominal obesity, lipid disorders, insulin resistance, and hypertension, DHEA reduces lipid levels, lowers adipose tissue formation and reduces cardiovascular risk.
  • DHEA appears to be beneficial in those with glucose intolerance and diabetes, lowering average serum glucose levels and averting the destructive effects of diabetes.
  • There have been reports of cancer risk reduction with DHEA supplementation too.
  • With regards to age related bone mineral loss, DHEA supplementation has been shown to combat osteoporosis.
  • DHEA also has a positive effect on cognitive function and mood.

A great deal of insight into the function of the adrenal glands can be gained through testing blood levels of DHEA and cortisol.

Deviations from the natural rhythm of adrenal function can be detected by an AM / PM cortisol test, in which levels of the adrenal hormone are tested early in the morning and early in the evening of the same day. A DHEA sulfate (DHEA-s) blood test can determine if DHEA levels are sufficient, or if supplementation is needed.

Supplemental doses of DHEA typically range from 10 – 25 mg daily for women and 25 – 75 mg daily for men, but should always be determined based upon DHEA-s blood tests. Please do not self medicate! Make an appointment with one of our Health Renewal doctors, who will assess your situation and recommend a tailor-made treatment plan.

1. Melatonin hormonal therapy:

The hormone melatonin, is known for its involvement with the sleep cycle. This hormone is released from the small pineal gland which is situated at the base of the brain. Melatonin has an antagonistic effect on cortisol, and the daily rise in melatonin levels at night correlates with a drop in cortisol. Low levels of melatonin can mean inappropriate and undesirable glucocorticoid signaling during the night when it should be at the lowest.

Chronic, late-night stress, whether physical or psychological, can result in an inappropriately elevated night time cortisol level; shift-work and working at night is an example of such a stressor. This chronic disruption and inappropriate release of cortisol at night may impair the normal day-to-day corticosteroid output in the morning . Melatonin is also a hormone with great penetration into the nucleus of the cells and is one of the most important antioxidant hormones. Melatonin protects cellular (mitochondrial and nuclear) DNA from oxidative and free-radical damage. Melatonin has been found to affect the levels of cortisol and the balance between DHEA and cortisol in circulation. Doses differ in individuals but can start as low as 0.3 mg; where some may require up to 10 mg daily.

2. Maintaining Sex Hormone Balance:

Imbalances in the sex hormones (testosterone for men, and estrogen and progesterone for women) may exacerbate the detrimental effects of chronic stress. Some experimental data indicates that having low levels of sex hormones impairs the response to cortisol in the brain. Overtime, this may lead to an over-compensatory increase in stress hormone production by the adrenal glands, which could become damaging to the rest of the body.

Likewise, human trials have confirmed that steroid hormones exert considerable influence over the stress response. In a small trial of women who were overcoming cocaine addiction, higher progesterone levels were associated with a blunted stress response to a drug cue. In another clinical trial, menopausal women who were treated long-term with hormone replacement therapy (HRT) coped with stress better than non-HRT users in an experimental setting.

The biological actions of the sex hormone progesterone within the brain are calming, and as a results ageing woman who have a decline in progesterone levels may be predisposed to anxiety. Specifically, some metabolites of progesterone have been shown to function as ligands at the GABA-α receptor subunit, which is inhibitory upon activation.

Stressed men and women should review Health Andropause/ Renewal’s Male Hormone Restoration, and Menopuse/ Female Hormone Restoration protocols.

See Menopause webpage

See Andropause webpage

Nutritional Therapies include the following

  • B-Complex vitamin: Thiamine (B1)
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Niacin (B3)
  • Folate (preferably as L-methylfolate)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Biotin
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Fish oil (with olive polyphenols)
  • Phosphatidylserine:
  • L-Theanine
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Chromium
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Or a good quality comprehensive multivitamin formula.

B-Complex vitamins

Several members of the B-vitamin family impact varying aspects of stress response physiology. For example, pantothenic acid is necessary for the synthesis of coenzyme A (CoA), which is integral in the production of cholesterol, and in steroid hormone biosynthesis. Pantothenic deficiency is rather rare, but ir left untreated it can result in adrenal insufficiency.

Another correlation between B-vitamins was revealed in a clinical trial that found that injecting either ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) or cortisol into healthy subjects for just four days significantly decreased levels of folic acid and B12. These findings suggest that not only are B-vitamins important to promote healthy stress response, but stress itself may lower B-vitamin blood levels. Therefore, B-vitamin supplementation may ameliorate the effects of stress from multiple angles.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

Another crucial vitamin in adrenal function and maintenance of healthy levels of cortisol and DHEA is vitamin C. Deficiencies of this vitamin can have profound effects on adrenal function. The benefits of vitamin C are multiple, acting as an anti-inflammatory and co-factor in soft tissue synthesis and repair. In addition, ultra-marathon runners who were given 1,500 mg vitamin C after a race displayed less dramatic elevations in cortisol and epinephrine levels than is typical after such extreme physical stress. Moreover, this same study found that vitamin C was able to suppress inflammation in the runners too.

Minerals

Calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium are all macro elements. Being a macro element means that they are found in our bodies in greater quantities than other elements, or minerals. These four macro elements are important in supporting and maintaining balanced adrenal function and furthermore are also important in the formation and release of adrenal hormones. Manganese, zinc, chromium, and selenium are some of the trace elements that have an impact on the function of the adrenal glands. Research shows that deficiencies in these trace elements can have a negative effect on adrenal function.

L-Theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid found exclusively in green tea that has traditionally been used to enhance relaxation and improve concentration and learning ability. L-theanine is chemically related to the neurotransmitter glutamate, and binds to glutamate receptors in the brain. Unlike glutamate, however, which can cause a state called excitotoxicity that can destroy nerve cells, L-theanine protects brain cells against excitotoxicity, calming the nerve networks in the brain.

Omega 3-Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)

Research indicates that intake of fish oil or omega 3-fatty acids (n-3 EFA or EFA) can act in an adaptogenic fashion to help ameliorate the effects of Omega-3 fatty acids balance the effects of omega-6 metabolism. Fatty acid balance is also critical for glucorcorticoid hormone receptor function. In recent years omega-3 fatty acids have been documented to be successful in treating those suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, which themselves can be a consequence or an inducer of stress.

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

The phospholipid phosphatidylserine (PS) is found in cell membranes and is a critical component for healthy cellular communication. Several studies have shown that a diet rich in PS is able to balance the HPA axis and limit the negative consequences of over-activation of the adrenal cortex. Phosphatidylserine also helps attenuate the increase in cortisol levels during periods of intense, acute stress.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra and G. uralensis)

A mainstay in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), licorice extracts may be of benefit for those who have reached the exhaustion stage and are no longer producing sufficient cortisol. Licorice has the ability to decrease the breakdown or metabolism of hydrocortisone by the liver, thus increasing the amount of cortisol in circulation and reducing the strain on the adrenal glands to produce it. The combination of low doses of licorice with supplemental DHEA may help balance the HPA axis.

Sedative Herbs

Sedative herbs such as hops, passionflower, poppy, and valerian can provide calming effects to reduce stress. The herbal lemon balm has been shown in a number of studies to reduce stress. This is yet another herbal that has shown benefit in reducing negative effects of stress on the body.

In a recent small clinical trial including 20 stressed volunteers, a standardized lemon balm extract (Cyracos®) was shown to significantly combat anxiety symptoms and insomnia. The extract “reduced anxiety manifestations by 18%, ameliorated anxiety-associated symptoms by 15% and lowered insomnia by 42%.”

Adaptogenic Herbs

A class of herbs known as adaptogens are helpful in regulation of the HPA axis. Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, a noted Russian pharmacologist during the cold war era, coined the term “adaptogenic herb” to describe about 25 of the hundreds of medicinal herbs having particular properties. These properties are unique to this class of herbs making them important for human health, and a very valuable supplement.

To be classified as an adaptogen, herbs must have the following three properties:

  • There can be no toxicity associated with them;
  • They must have a normalizing ability, (i.e. the same dose can raise or lower physiologic properties), and
  • The mechanisms by which the herbs carry out their effects must be due to more than one physiologic or pharmacologic mechanism. Unlike any other compound, adaptogens condition your body to respond favourably to stress.
  • Adaptogenic herbs can become an important supplement to support a healthy HPA axis stress response. The list of adaptogenic herbs include about twenty-five known herbs, and of these several have been studied for their affects on the HPA system. Ginseng (Panax ginseng), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), and Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) to name a few and more information on them follow:

Rhodiola

The adaptogenic herb Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) has demonstrated in a number of studies to improve both physical endurance and cognitive performance when the correct supplemented dosage it taken. Its ability to reduce fatigue associated with stress is documented in well-designed research papers. The apparent mechanism of action of Rhodiola is related to its ability in assisting neurotransmitter transport in the brain and the blunting of catecholamine release.

A large, phase III placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in Sweden in 2009, studying participants aged 20-55 years with a diagnosis of stress-related fatigue. Subjects taking the Rhodiola extract had significantly lower cortisol responses to chronic stress than did the placebo recipients—and as a result they had lower scores on scales of burnout and improved performance on cognitive testing.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an important Ayurvedic medicinal herb. It has many uses in traditional Indian medicine such as treatments for stress, fatigue, pain, diabetes, gastrointestinal and rheumatologic disorders. Ashwagandha has shown promising effects in neuro-protection as scientists have discovered that this adaptogenic herb prevents damage to neurons and improves neurological function in the face of stress. Additionally, data suggests that Ashwagandha may reduce the harmful effects of stress on male reproductive capacity.

Ginseng

This herb is probably the most recognized of the adaptogen herbs in the West ( also known as Panax ginseng). There are eleven species of this medicinal herb, Pamax ginseng being among the most widely studied American Ginseng. Panax quinquefolius is another species within the Panax genus that shares medicinal properties. While Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), is technically not a true ginseng botanical, it still has similar beneficial properties and is closely related to the Panax family of plants.

A wealth of studies exist that show stress reducing properties of true ginseng and the other ginseng related herbals. For example, the isolated polysaccharides from P. ginseng have demonstrated anti-fatigue properties in one recent study. American ginseng extract shows a reduction in oxidative endothelial damage due to diabetes. Anti-depressive effects and the positive modulation that benefits the HPA axis is outlined in a research paper on protective ginsenosides in Panax and other ginseng plants showing usefulness in the management of chronic stress.

Holy basil (Occiumum tenuiflorum)

If a person has adrenal gland disorder it is common for them to show signs of increased cortisol and blood glucose levels. Increased blood glucose is also seen in people receiving chronic glucocorticoid treatment. Ocimum sanctum, or holy basil, is a herb widely grown in India that is known for its ability to control blood sugar. Clinical trials in humans have also shown the benefits of holy basil extract for improving immune function, as well as decreasing stress and depression associated with anxiety. Studies in healthy human subjects showed that treatment with 300 mg of holy basil extract for 4 weeks increased antibody levels and cells in the immune system.

Bacopa

The herb Bacopa monnieri is used in the classical Indian medicinal system of Ayurveda as a tonic for the nervous system and is known to promote mental health. It has also been shown to possess anti-anxiety properties.

Pycnogenol

At the time of this writing, a clinical trial is currently underway in Australia to test the effects of Bacopa and another herb, pycnogenol, in reducing cognitive decline with aging. The trial will evaluate the effects of Bacopa supplementation for up to a year on mood, cognition, blood pressure, inflammation, and oxidative stress, among other tests.

Cordyceps

Oxidative stress damages cells and is associated with various health disorders. Cordyceps sinensis is a type of mushroom used in Chinese medicine that has been found to boost the immune system and possesses anti-tumor and antioxidant properties.

Hormonal Therapies

1. DHEA (depending on blood test results),

2. Melatonin, and

3. Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BIHRT): Refer to andropause / Male Hormone Restoration protocol, or Menopause / Female Hormone Restoration protocol

For all health conditions, the nutraceuticals are individually tailored by the Health Renewal Doctor. The doctor will decide- based on your history, physical examination and blood tests what would be the best for you and your specific needs and/or deficiencies. It cannot be overemphasized that one must not self-medicate. Self-Medicating is done when a person takes prescription medication or nutraceuticals on their own without a doctor's supervision and/or consent. By not having a physical examination and blood testing done by a qualified and practising integrative medical practitioner, you could be not treating vital deficiencies or conditions such as elevated blood pressure, high sugar level, high stress levels (that can lead to adrenal burnout ) and high blood clotting factors that could lead to heart attacks and stroke. In addition, there is no single supplement prescribed to clients as there is no magic bullet that can support all the essential nutrients that one's body needs. Today's food is not functional and we need to supplement in order to maintain optimal bodily functions and nutrition.

Make an appointment to consult with your Health Renewal Doctor who is an integrative doctor and he/ she will assist you in determining your risk factors and how best to prevent any problems or conditions that you may be susceptible to.

The initial medical consultation at Health Renewal will be approximately 45 minutes. As this is a prolonged medical consultation , the initial consultation fee will be R 975 which can be claimed back from your medical aid.

On arrival you will have to complete an in depth questionnaire before the consultation so please arrive 20 minutes before the time. During the 45 minute consultation your Health Renewal doctor will obtain a FULL medical history from you to determine your personal risk. A physical examination will be done after which he/she will decide which blood tests need to be requested from your local pathology laboratory. If you have a medical aid, these should be able to be claimed as well.

These results will then be analyzed by your Doctor and this will be discussed with you at your follow up appointment usually 2 weeks later. This will determine what abnormalities/ deficiencies exist and you will be advised on your treatment options. These options may range from prescription medications, nutraceuticals, bio-identical hormonal creams / tablets or alternatively to having bio-identical implants / pellets inserted. In office treatments such as carboxytherapy may also be recommended for certain conditions such as hair loss, erectile dysfunction, menopause or PMS. If you need to lose weight our Body Renewal Medical Weight loss program may be recommended.

All these recommendations will be summarized on a sheet / print out whichyou can take home with you. The nutraceuticals offered at Health Renewal are of superior quality (Solgar) and are not rancid nor contain Hg or PCB'S (This is very important for Omega 3EFA) and are free of gluten, preservatives, Wheat, Dairy, Soy, Yeast, Sugar, Artificial Flavor, Sweetener and Color. We have a great professional team made up of doctors, trained and registered nurses and therapists to support you at any time. An added bonus is that any nutraceuticals purchased will go towards loyalty points at any Skin, Body and Health Renewal branches.

The importance of early management of any condition cannot be overstated. Once certain conditions set in and damage to organs occurs, complete recovery may be difficult to attain. Best results for prevention and longevity is early detection of a possible problem combined with conventional treatments, nutritional supplements and a healthy diet and lifestyle.

  • "Health and intellect are the two blessings of life." - Menander (ca. 342–291 BC) – Greek dramatist, the best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy
  • "Health is not valued until sickness comes." ~Thomas Fuller
  • "Just because you're not sick doesn't mean you're healthy." ~Author Unknown
  • "The doctor of the future will give no medicines, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the causes and prevention of disease." ~Thomas Edison
  • "Health is like money, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it." ~Josh Billings
  • "Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life."
  • "The patient should be made to understand that he or she must take charge of his own life. Don't take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop." ~Quentin Regestein
  • "Everyone should be his own physician. We ought to assist and not force nature. Eat with moderation what agrees with your constitution. Nothing is good for the body but what we can digest. What medicine can produce digestion? Exercise. What will recruit strength? Sleep. What will alleviate incurable ills? Patience." ~Voltaire
  • "The physician who teaches people to sustain their health is the superior physician. The physician who waits to treat people until after their health is lost is considered to be inferior. This is like waiting until one's family is starving to begin to plant seeds in the garden."~Author unknown , similar to statement in The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine.
  • Live in rooms full of light
  • Avoid heavy food
  • Be moderate in the drinking of wine
  • Take massage, baths, exercise, and gymnastics
  • Fight insomnia with gentle rocking or the sound of running water
  • Change surroundings and take long journeys
  • Strictly avoid frightening ideas
  • Indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements
  • Listen to music.

Maintaining balance in today’s stressful world requires a multimodal approach that encompasses various factors:

  • Healthy eating habits of a balanced diet (organic where possible),
  • getting plenty of exercise,
  • using innovative natural ingredients to support the body’s natural adaptive abilities,
  • Regular blood testing of DHEA-s,
  • and regular blood testing of morning and evening cortisol levels help ensure that stress hormones remain in balance.
  • Lifestyle modifications alone for some patients with mild to moderate forms of impaired stress response may ease symptoms.
  • Dietary supplements and/or hormone therapy can complement lifestyle modification to resolve adrenal dysfunction.
  • The obvious recommendation of avoiding stressful situations and occurrences goes without saying.
  • If commuter stress, for example, is affecting your body, moving to a home closer to your workplace or finding a job closer to home is an obvious solution.
  • If working third-shift causes disruption in your cortisol levels or daily rhythm resulting in disease, then change your work schedule to eliminate this stressor,
  • Smoking, and extremely vigorous or protracted bouts of exhaustive exercise impact the adrenals in a negative way as well,
  • With regard to the diurnal biorhythms of cortisol release, a few things increase cortisol at the inappropriate time. The consumption of alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee before bedtime is not recommended as caffeine can increase serum cortisol levels, which is counterproductive during the evening hours when the normal trough is expected.
  • Additionally, caffeine and alcohol affect the release of melatonin (melatonin counters some of the negative effects of cortisol), causing a relative reduction in melatonin secretion during the night when a spike is usually seen.
  • Other therapies such as acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic medicine, massage therapy, relaxation, yoga and even music therapy have shown success in stress management.
  • Several published studies suggest that owning a pet is associated with improved physical and psychological health. For chronically stressed individuals, adopting a dog or cat may help ameliorate some of the symptoms and effects of chronic stress.

Reviews

See all reviews
*Please note results may vary by individuals.

This condition has not yet been reviewed. To review this treatment click here