Optimizing the Stress Response with Targeted Nutrition
By Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS, CNP
If you're running away from a bear in the woods, your body does an amazing job of shunting resources to the most vital tissues in order to make the escape. This is not a time when you need to digest food well, eliminate, reproduce, or express patience to your offspring. You need to survive. The body adapts to stressful or threatening situations through the activation of two parallel systems. The nervous system increases sympathetic activity and decreases parasympathetic activity. This is the classic "fight or flight" concept. The physiologic effects of this neurologic response are relatively short-acting. Hormonal effects are longer acting. Made famous by the hormone cortisol, we'll dive into the chronic low-grade forms of stress that either bypass or work in tandem with the nervous system.
Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal cortices in response to a stressor. Assuming that the threat is resolved, the activation that was led by cortisol lasts for minutes to several hours. Note that last sentence. The activation that was led by cortisol suggests there's more to it. In fact, there is. You may have heard of "adrenal fatigue," "adtrenal exhaustion," or "adrenal stress," but this adreno-centric model is potentially misleading. Cortisol is a convenient marker of the stress response but it is by no means the whole story. Cortisol is not secreted in isolation. It is part of a complex symphony of other signals and glands. Additionally, there is a circadian rhythm of cortisol secretion, which peaks in the early hours of the morning and then gradually declines over the course of the day. The adrenal glands in fact act in response to signals from the pituitary gland, which receives input from the hypothalamus. This elegant system is referred to as the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. These interactions form a major part of the neuroendocrine system, which controls the stress response and is sensitive to feedback mechanisms.
The HPA axis also plays a role in the regulation of other systems of the body, including the gastrointestinal, neurological, and immune systems. Therefore, supporting optimal HPA axis function is important to maintaining overall health and wellness.
There are three stages of HPA axis response including Early-Stage, Mid- Stage, and Late-Stage.
Depending upon the circumstances, various stress response stages require different types of support.
• Early-Stage is marked by high stress levels and symptoms include feeling high strung, anxious, or agitated; having a higher pulse; and experiencing occasional sleeplessness, but very little fatigue (may even feel "wired").
• The second stage, or Mid-Stage, is when the feelings of tiredness start to kick in, and is often described as feeling moderately stressed.
• Lastly, Late-Stage symptoms include feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and a low pulse rate.
Experiencing these stress stages can interfere with the enjoyment of life and even the ability to perform normal daily activities. Professional supplement manufacturer Integrative Therapeutics offers a suite of quality nutritional supplements to support the health and well-being of patients in each stress response stage. These neuroendocrine-targeted products support optimal HPAaxis function.*
In the Early-Stage of stress resistance, Cortisol Manager™ stress hormone stabilizer can help reduce stress hormones and promote relaxation without the use of habit-forming ingredients.* Patients will benefit from proprietary blends containing ingredients like ashwagandha, L-theanine, magnolia, and phosphatidylserine that calm HPA-axis activation, support healthy cortisol balance, and help relieve occasional stress and anxiety.*
For Mid-Stage stress symptoms, HPA Adapt™ stress resistance complex combines five powerful adaptogenic herbs to maintain a healthy stress response and support stress hormone balance.* These herbs include rhodiola, holy basil, eleuthero, ashwagandha, and maca, which support the body's ability to respond to stress and restore homeostasis.* This may influence mood, cognition, and energy levels.*
In Late-Stage stress response, patients can benefit from adrenalsupportive nutrients and botanicals to support healthy cortisol production.* CortiVive™ adrenal response formula helps support adrenal function for healthy cortisol production while combatting stress-related fatigue to promote energy recovery.* This product helps fortify the diet with essential vitamins that can be depleted by stress, including vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, and vitamin B6, forskolin, and licorice.*
During Late-Stage stress resistance it's also important to focus on sleep, which plays an important role in modulating HPA-axis activity.* Sleep Reset™ restful sleep blend supports the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, while enhancing overall quality without morning drowsiness.* Important ingredients like melatonin, curcumin, L-theanine, glycine, and 5-HTP work together to help support sleep efficiency.*
Integrative Therapeutics offers a comprehensive, targeted program for each stage of stress response. Please remember, it's extremely important to have your unique needs evaluated to determine which of the stress stages applies to them, therefore determining the best product recommendations. In fact, symptoms alone may be misleading. Stages of stress response may also not occur in a linear or chronologic order and some experiences can overlap between stages. We invite you to discuss your situation with a member of the NEEDS Wellness Team.
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.