Nearly 70% of all healthcare visits are related to stress. Research clearly shows that chronic stress actually causes structural and functional damage to the brain. Stress hormone elevations disrupt other hormone levels and destroy brain neurons, leading to the mood disorders and fatigue commonly observed in those who experience great stress for long periods.

Long-term stress can increase our risk of suffering from a barrage of age-related diseases ranging from hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, anxiety, depression, dementia, chronic fatigue, obesity, and even cancer. There is much evidence that at the root of all disease is an element of stress.

To make things very simple, the hypothalamus (in the brain) releases hormones that act upon the pituitary gland (in the brain) that, in turn, releases hormones to act upon the adrenal glands (adjacent to the kidneys). This hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal circuit is known as the HPA axis and is the core of our very complex stress response. It governs the production of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline) and can easily be disrupted by toxins, deficiencies, and imbalances in the nervous system. Stress really can kill you, and it increases daily, according to our media reports.

The Stress Response The car in front of you unexpectedly brakes, and your attempt at avoiding a collision causes immediate action. You sweat, your heart races, and you may instantly develop that familiar rush associated with any emergency. Your body, without planning, efficiently redirects blood flow to major muscle groups, increases blood pressure, releases sugar into the bloodstream, dilates the pupils, and shuts down digestive processes to conserve energy and ready your body for emergency. Your brain coordinates and executes all of this within a fraction of a second.

You have heard this referred to as the "fight or flight response" with which we are all familiar. A short-term stress response such as this is good, for it ensures our survival. A long-term response, on the other hand, is devastating.

Our modern environment is filled with endless combinations of financial, social, emotional and physical stressors - young and old, professional and amateur. All of these modern worries chronically activate the stress response in a very unnatural way, leading to elevated stress hormone levels and accompanying changes in physiology.

Of special note is cortisol, a catabolic hormone that breaks down tissues. Very simply, too much cortisol suppresses the immune system, while too little causes an overactive immune system, leading to an endless array of common autoimmune conditions. Cortisol receptors are expressed all throughout the body, including in the brain; therefore, disruption of the synthesis and release of cortisol affects every system of the body.

Medical Treatment

Regrettably, conventional medicine often relies upon powerful psychoactive drugs to mask stress. This strategy often fails to address the biochemical causes of reduced hormone levels that contribute to the manifestation of stress. Also, cholesterol-lowering drugs have a profound effect on these hormone levels, since cholesterol is a building block of the cortisol hormone.

Simple counseling on dietary and lifestyle modifications, likewise, are often not addressed. For example, the consumption of alcohol and caffeine before bedtime can increase cortisol levels and affect melatonin, which naturally counters the negative effects of cortisol causing a reduction in melatonin secretion during the night when a spike is usually seen.

Usually, cortisol levels peak around 8am and drop between midnight and 4am. Cortisol synthesis and release is sensitive to disruption by both internal and external factors, causing the adrenal glands to excrete an abnormal amount of cortisol in an abnormal rhythm.

How We Can Help

Maintaining balance in today's stressful world requires a multimodal approach that encompasses healthy eating habits, getting plenty of exercise, and using innovative means to support the body's natural adaptive abilities.

At Divine Design, we understand that stress has a major part to play in nearly every disease known to man. The world's two powers of love and fear operate in direct and constant opposition to each other. Nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxicities, and brain imbalances affect every aspect of our physiology, and chiropractic neurology - more than any other means - addresses this physiology and its divine restoration.