Everyone has stress. But did you know that the chemical affects of chronic stress on the body can have a deadly affect overtime. You may think, "I handle stress well." That may be so mentally or emotionally, but you cannot fool your body chemically. Susan Goldschein from Life Extension has written a fascinating article on how to handle this problem naturally. Let's see what she has to say.
One way stress inflicts its deadly damage is by raising cortisol levels. The result is accelerated aging that wreaks havoc throughout the body. Increased cortisol levels not only age our internal organs, but make us appear older than our actual years. People with elevated levels of cortisol have higher mortality rates and face an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and neurodegenerative disorders. Too often, physicians prescribe a range of addicting pharmaceuticals in an effort to reduce a patient’s stress and anxiety. This provides a temporary fix, but tolerance to the drugs negates their effectiveness over time. Fortunately, researchers have identified several natural compounds that have been shown in humans to produce a noticeable reduction in cortisol levels. These natural compounds can help reduce the toxic response to stress and anxiety that underlies so many of today’s chronic health problems.
Life-Threatening Dangers of High Cortisol
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone that is essential for life. However, in the presence of chronic stress, cortisol surges to unhealthy high levels, producing a major problem that threatens health and longevity. Most disturbingly, recent studies have shown that chronically elevated cortisol levels are strongly associated with increased risks of dying. For example, one study showed that men with high cortisol levels were 63%, and women 82%, more likely to die than those with lower levels.
The risks of dying specifically from cardiovascular disease are even more pronounced in those with high cortisol: one study found a five-fold increased risk of death, both among those with known cardiovascular disease and with people previously free of risk factors at baseline.
High cortisol levels create havoc through the body’s systems and are associated with a long list of age-accelerating diseases including obesity, hypertension, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular risk, as well as increased risk of infection, osteoporosis, depression, and even neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Another study found that higher cortisol levels are associated with higher perceived age, that is, age as assessed from a facial photograph. People with higher levels of cortisol look older because they are experiencing accelerated aging that is beginning to show up in their facial features. Perceived age is well known to be associated with illness and the risk of death. There is even submicroscopic evidence that cortisol accelerates aging. Chronically high cortisol levels are associated with shortening of telomeres, the “fuse-like” stretches of DNA that cap the ends of our chromosomes. As telomeres shorten, the cells that bear them get closer and closer to the ends of their useful lives, eventually aging the tissues and organs in which they dwell.
Stress—emotional, psychological, physical, or biochemical—is detrimental in part because it raises levels of cortisol. Reducing stress is always a good idea, but much of the stress in our daily lives is unavoidable, and sometimes efforts to avoid it bring on more stress. That’s why it is so important to reduce the cortisol elevations induced by stress, even when we cannot eliminate the stress itself.
Dr. Josh Axe also offers his opinion on the dangers of elevated cortisol, let's examine his thoughts as well.
Cortisol is also known as the aging hormone. When cortisol gets too high, it puts you into a “fight or flight” response, which stimulates your sympathetic nervous system and your adrenal glands. When this occurs, there is a decrease in your digestive secretions and an increase in blood pressure. This puts your body in a state of constant stress, which will burn out your adrenal glands, stress your digestive tract and cause you to age more rapidly.
So if you want to look younger, feel younger and be healthy — and heal adrenal fatigue — you must get your cortisol levels balanced.
Side effects of chronically elevated cortisol can include:
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Irritable bowel disease
Weight loss resistance
So what can help us adapt to stress and lower cortisol? Adaptogens …
What Are Adaptogens?
Phytotherapy refers to the use of plants for their healing abilities. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants: They help balance, restore and protect the body. As naturopath Edward Wallace explains, an adaptogen doesn’t have a specific action: It helps you respond to any influence or stressor, normalizing your physiological functions.
Naturopath Marcelle Pick of Women to Women reports that adaptogenic herbs can recharge your adrenal glands, helping you to respond to stress.
According to Jan Whiticomb, there are 16 proven adaptogenic herbs.
Benefits of Lowering Cortisol
While stress is unavoidable, it is now possible to do something about the resulting dangerous elevations in circulating cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress-response hormone that is beneficial over short periods, but chronic stress leads to chronically high cortisol levels, which are dangerous.
High cortisol produces all of the manifestations of overmedication with steroids: central obesity, rising blood sugar, hypertension, and lipid disturbances, while also softening bones and promoting neurodegeneration.
A lychee-green tea blend provides highly bioavailable polyphenols with potent cortisol-lowering properties, as shown in multiple human studies.
Extracts from the bark of the Magnolia and Phellodendron trees have been shown in combination to lower cortisol and reduce manifestations of stress.
These compounds, used in combination, offer safe, effective reductions in circulating cortisol levels, thereby helping to promote improved metabolic health and supporting healthy aging.
Everyday stress raises and keeps elevated levels of our stress-response hormone, cortisol.
Elevated cortisol brings with it components of the deadly metabolic syndrome, as well as additional threats such as immune suppression, osteoporosis, and neurodegeneration.
Now, it is possible to mitigate the impact of cortisol, even if we cannot eliminate the stress from our lives.
Lychee-green tea blend and bark extracts from Magnolia and Phellodendron trees have all been shown to lower cortisol levels in humans as well as adaptogenic herbs.
Lowering chronically-elevated cortisol levels can help mitigate this underlying cause of common disorders associated with aging.
Consider adding some of these herbs to your supplemental regimen. I definitely use quite a few of these, to help me overcome life's hurdles that I cannot control, and don't always respond well to!
I am with you and in your corner!