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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

The Hormonal System

Contributing Author: Kalish, Daniel D.C.

Daniel KalishFor two decades Daniel Kalish, D.C. has successfully treated patients with hormone imbalances, food cravings, fatigue, depression, digestive distress, and many other health complaints. Dr. Kalish founded The Natural Path Clinic California, where he led a staff of physicians, nutritionists, chiropractors, psychotherapists, physical therapists, personal trainers, massage therapists and acupuncturists for more than ten years. He currently maintains an active international phone consultation practice with patients and trains physicians in natural medicine. He has designed health programs for countless professional athletes including the world’s top skateboarders, hockey players, elite runners, tri-athletes, golfers, tennis players and world-class weight lifters. Download his ebook Your Guide to Healthy Hormones.

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Your complete health analysis begins with assessment of the hormonal system provided by the Functional Adrenal Stress Profile.

Stress Hormone Lab Assessments
The first step in assessing your hormonal system's condition is to measure the functioning of your adrenal glands with the Functional Adrenal Stress Profile test. The saliva samples you submit to the laboratory are put through sophisticated hormonal assays that measure the levels of cortisol and DHEA hormones over a 24-hour period. This test analyzes how well your body is managing stress.

Causes of Stress
The Functional Adrenal Stress Profile measures adrenal stress caused by lifestyle issues such as working long hours, poor eating habits, lack of exercise, and lack of rest. Internal organ dysfunction, such as poor digestion or inadequate ability to detoxify, can also cause adrenal stress. When the sum total of all your stresses reaches a critical threshold, the adrenals react in a predicable pattern.

Symptoms of Stress
The most commonly experienced symptoms of adrenal stress include fatigue, depression, inability to lose weight, sweet cravings, decreased sex drive, insomnia, poor memory, anxiety, PMS, weakened immune response, recurrent infections, unexplained nervousness or irritability, and joint or muscle pain. As you experience these external symptoms, profound physiological changes take place inside your body.

Three Stages of Burnout

Stage 1 – Stress Overload
Whatever the source of stress, your body's initial reaction is the same: the adrenal glands make more of the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. This first stage of hormonal maladaptation is called hyperadrenia, or overactivity of the adrenal glands. Normally, when the stress dissipates, the glands have time to recondition and prepare for the next stressful event. However, if your stress levels remain high, your body will remain locked in this first stage of adrenal stress. If your stress hormone levels remain elevated for extended periods, your body's ability to recover may decline and the ability of your adrenals to make cortisol and DHEA may be compromised.

Another way to look at this is to think of your adrenal reserve as a savings account. If you continually withdraw money from your savings and don't replace it, you eventually will be unable to recover financially. Fatigue and other adrenal symptoms are signs that your body's reserve has been overdrawn and that your adrenals are becoming exhausted. If the stress continues, the high levels of cortisol and DHEA begin to drop. As the high levels of these hormones can no longer be sustained, a person enters into stage two of adrenal exhaustion.

Stage 2 – Fatigue
Some individuals have genetically strong adrenal glands and can maintain their health under high levels of stress for many years. Others may enter into stage two more quickly. Eventually, if we continue to experience excess stress, we enter into stage two of adrenal exhaustion. This transition period usually lasts between six and eighteen months, during which time the stress response of the adrenal glands gradually becomes compromised. Under chronic stress conditions, the adrenals eventually "burn out." At this point, the glands become fatigued and can no longer sustain an adequate response to stress. This condition ultimately leads to stage three or hypoadrenalism.

Stage 3 – Exhaustion
In stage three of adrenal maladaptation, the glands have been depleted of their ability to produce cortisol and DHEA in sufficient amounts and for the body to recover now becomes more and more difficult. Constant fatigue and low-level depression can appear in otherwise emotionally healthy people because cortisol and DHEA help maintain mood, emotional stability, and energy levels. As cortisol and DHEA levels are depressed, people experience depressed mental function. Brain function suffers as these hormones are depleted. Both poor memory and mental confusion can be a direct result of adrenal hormone depletion.

Stress and Sex Hormone Production and Sex Drive
Because all steroid hormone production is linked by biochemical pathways, cortisol and DHEA depletion impacts the female hormones progesterone and estrogen, as well as the predominant male hormone, testosterone. In both men and women, hormonal symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, sweet cravings, and headaches can be related to the failure of the adrenals to adapt to stress. Female hormone symptoms, such as menstrual cramping, infertility, night sweats, and hot flashes can also be adrenal-related. Many women feel like they are on an emotional roller coaster with their female hormones, yet rarely is the role the adrenals play in female hormones explored. Testosterone levels in men also suffer as a result of weak adrenal output. Since sex hormone levels drop as cortisol and DHEA levels drop, sex drive diminishes in both men and women.

Bone Loss, Pain, and Inflammation
When cortisol levels are abnormal because of chronic stress, bone loss can occur from the excessive cortisol blocking mineral absorption. If you take calcium supplements to help protect from bone loss and your cortisol is elevated, you will be unable to absorb the calcium. Calcium can then precipitate in the body and deposit in joints, causing arthritis, or deposit in the blood vessels, increasing your risk for hardening of the arteries. Many people experience increased neck, back, and joint pain from imbalances in cortisol.

Two major aspects of healthy immune function are mucosal and humoral immunity. The mucosal immune system consists of the tissue linings of the body that defend us against infectious organisms such as bacteria, virus, yeast, parasites, and food antigens. The mucosal immune system also protects us from the entry of harmful toxins from chemicals and heavy metals. Our humoral, or blood immunity, represents the ability of immune cells in the blood to fight and neutralize harmful agents.

Functional Diagnostic lab tests can easily measure these two basic functions of the immune system. The salivary mucosal barrier screen test can assess the strength of our mucosal barrier function, or our mucosal immunity. The Candida antibodies/DNA panel can measure the humoral immune system's reaction to Candida. Both mucosal and humoral immunity are required for our body's ability to fight infections and handle food antigens.

Symptoms of suppressed mucosal immunity include chronic sinus infections or sinus congestion, susceptibility to colds and flus, intestinal upset, food allergies, and environmental allergies to pollens and animals. Suppressed humoral immunity is a more advanced condition that results from mucosal barrier dysfunction. This condition is common in people with chronic health problems such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, and food reactions.

Testing antibodies to gluten, milk dairy, soy, corn, and rice can measure further immune system function. Food reactions are the most frequent hidden cause of immune system problems. Genetic, autoimmune conditions such as gluten intolerance affect millions of Americans. Lactose intolerance and cow's milk dairy allergies are a leading cause of sinus problems and excessive mucous production. Corn and soy allergies are also increasingly common.

Salivary testing also detects the level of secretory immunoglobin A, referred to as 'sIgA', a vital, if long unrecognized component of the immune system.

In a healthy body, sIgA protects us from opportunistic infections (e.g., parasites, bacteria, yeast, virus) and reactions to foods. SIgA is a thin, healthy, mucous-like substance that provides a physical barrier of defense in all of the body's tissue linings. sIgA defense is found in the linings of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, sinus passages, throat, mouth, vaginal tract, and urogenital system. When sIgA is depressed, we become susceptible to a wide range of infectious organisms, environmental allergens such as pollens and molds, and can become reactive to the very foods we eat.

Stress and Immune Function
Cortisol, the "stress hormone," directs the production of special immune cells called immunocytes, which produce sIgA, our first-line immune defense. Abnormal cortisol values compromise the ability of immune cells to produce adequate sIgA. This is one reason we get sick so easily when we are stressed. Simply put, prolonged stress results in adrenal exhaustion and depressed first-line immune defense, opening the door for opportunistic infections.

Physiological Effects of Stress

Repair (Anabolic)
The repair/breakdown or anabolic/catabolic dynamic is one of the most important health principles. Depending on our physical and emotional health, we are at all times shifting between a repair (anabolic) or breakdown (catabolic) state. Being in an anabolic state means you are rebuilding, repairing, and literally reconstructing your body's tissues. Being in a repair state is like renovating a house by painting, landscaping, and replacing a leaky roof. Anabolic refers to your immune system's rebuilding processes. When you are anabolic, your body is in a state of constant regeneration, repairing blood vessels and heart tissue, rebuilding old bone, and even destroying cancerous cells.

Breakdown (Catabolic)
The opposite process, a breakdown state, is referred to as a catabolic state. The word catabolic is from the same Greek root as the word cataclysm, meaning disaster. It is a well-chosen term since too much time spent in a catabolic state has disastrous effects on your health. This breakdown or destruction phase occurs when your body is operating under stressful conditions and isn't able to repair itself adequately. Under catabolic conditions, we break down our own muscle, our own organs, and our own bone. This breakdown ultimately leads to degenerative diseases.

We maintain a strong immune system when our bodies spend more time repairing than breaking down. A healthy immune system prevents the development of many chronic degenerative diseases. For example, cancer cells grow in us each day and our immune system's job is to destroy these cells so that tumors don't develop. Our blood vessels and heart require constant renewal to prevent the plaquing that causes cardiovascular disease. Our bodies are constantly breaking down and repairing bone and joint tissue; if this breakdown process is blocked, osteoporosis and arthritis occur. Prolonged immune system stress can cause the body to attack itself, resulting in autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

A variety of lab tests can measure your health status, whether you are predominantly in a repair state or a breakdown state. This information allows you to address chronic degenerative diseases in their earliest stages, long before a pathological condition develops.