Stress, Hormones and Aging

As we age the major stress in life may change. In the aging population, chronic stress may arise from worries about our health, isolation and finances. Chronic stress has many negative influences on our health and may in fact contribute to poor memory and depression. This is why it is important to screen and treat. As a naturopathic doctor, I often take a systems approach to treating stress. A major system involved with the stress response is the hormone or endocrine system. The adrenal gland is a key organ to support while under stress.

Adrenal fatigue is a functional disturbance that often results from long term stress. A thorough medical evaluation should always be done first to rule out any major diseases. That said, the pattern of morning grogginess and energy lows and highs throughout the day is classic for adrenal fatigue. It is highly treatable with our naturopathic protocols.

The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys and are very important for hormone balance. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is secreted during periods of stress. In the short term it helps you overcome periods of stress by increasing performance. Over the long term it can be very toxic to the body leading to concentration and memory problems, weight gain, blood sugar problems and much more. 

The adrenal glands also produce androgens which are eventually converted to testosterone and estrogens. By treating the adrenals you may be able to gently balance these hormones naturally. Low testosterone is a very common yet under-recognized problem for males. It is characterized by mental fog, low libido, reduced muscle mass and  increased abdominal fat. Testosterone levels in males can be modulated by treating adrenal dysfunction. If you are a male that has gone through chronic stress, most likely your testosterone levels are low because of adrenal fatigue. 

Blood work and salivary hormone testing are done to confirm this functional disturbance. I have found the adrenal function panel to be a great test to confirm adrenal fatigue and direct treatment.

Below are a few things you can do now to address adrenal fatigue:

  1. Eliminate or reduce coffee and sugar.

  2. Exercise but don't over do it as this can add to your total stress.

  3. Supercharge your diet with additional vitamins such as high-quality B vitamins, Vitamin C and Omega 3 Fish oils. 

  4. Try bone broths to support gut health and provide extra nutrients.

  5. Make time to work on your health and take time to relax despite how busy life gets. You will get this time back through increased productivity.

  6. Spend time with friends or family that make you feel happy

Research has also shown that chronic stress actually speeds up cellular aging by shortening genetic material called telomeres. As we age telomeres naturally shorten over time but under stress this process speeds up. So by treating stress and focusing on wellness you may actually slow the aging process, at least at a cellular level.

By Dr. Nathan Jeffery, BSc., ND.