By: Dr. Paul Mach, DN

In the ancient myth of Sisyphus we see this Greek god who was punished for all of eternity and forced to roll a boulder up a hill all day, only to have it roll back down. At this point he was to start all over and roll it up the hill all over again. The next day it was the same. Up the hill. Down the hill. Day after day. This was his life for all of eternity.

Our daily stresses and challenges are also never ending. Our challenges unlike Sisyphus’ are much more multi-factorial. We have lions, and tigers and bears coming at us from every direction. They come from all sides: family, work, holidays, finances, emotions, health, expectations, and bills, bills, bills, oh my! It’s no wonder we use the expressions “burned-out” and “stressed out” on a frequent and often daily basis. We aren’t in Kansas anymore. Welcome to what we have chosen to call the modern, easy and simpler life.

We all have been in the “the dog chasing it’s tale” world more than we would like, but besides feeling burned, stressed and overwhelmed; what else is going on in our bodies while we are pushing ourselves to meet this call of duty.  Stress is a multi-faceted assault to the body, with a majority of the brunt affecting our good little friends, the adrenal glands. These small glands are located above the kidneys and are responsible for producing adrenaline/epinephrine, and norepinephrine the chemical that was designed for the body to respond in a fight or flight reaction. When a saber toothed tiger attacks adrenaline is produced, blood is shunted away from the skin and organs and digestion stops because these organs and processes aren’t necessary. The heart and lungs get continued and increased blood, along with an elevated heart rate and force of contraction because these organs are needed to fight or flee. The body sweats to reduce temperature and eliminate toxins, and the liver dumps stored glucose into the bloodstream. Increased blood, oxygen and glucose are rushed to the brain and muscles to give us adrenaline power and to keep us going.

The concern arises that there aren’t a lot of saber toothed tigers for us to run from or fight, done and over with. There are however daily tigers we struggle with for years, and boulders we are required to push up steep hills daily. This adrenal stress is what starts the downward spiral all to frequently occurring in today’s world. After this initial Alarm Stage the body goes into a long-term response strategy. Adrenaline stops flowing and the corticosteroid hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex kick in. These hormones help ensure the body for a longer-term supply of energy after the shorter-term glucose stores are used up. A prolonged siege, like many of us experience in life, keeps the resistance reaction running and can cause great damage to the body. Elevated blood pressure, sodium retention, cancer, and heart disease and strokes are all associated with extended stress. Like a war of attrition, the body’s storage of supplies and defenses are depleted and the Exhaustion Stage or burnout occurs. 

During Exhaustion or Burn Out your body’s organs, predominantly the heart, blood vessels and adrenal glands are weakened. Heart attacks or strokes, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia or fibromyalgia may result. Other organ systems than start weakening due to our prolonged stressful lifestyle. The digestive system just doesn’t work the way it used to. Fatigue gets worse along with lower immune function. Lower priority organs are depleted while other organs are



overextended. The adrenal glands actually begin to shrink, allowing acute infections and allergies to become chronic. Fatigue also becomes chronic and you just can’t get “ that energy I used to have” back.  (Please note that those readers on corticol steroids or prednisone have a special concern. A side effect of these drugs is the shrinking or atrophy of the adrenal gland.)

So I am STRESSED OUT, what do I do?
The best way to handle stress is to support the body as effectively as possible. Take a look at your coping mechanisms and eliminate the harmful things you are doing. These may be excessive drug usage, overeating, smoking, too much negative media & television, toxic people, emotional outbursts, alcohol, large amounts of stimulants, diet pills or caffeine and not sleeping enough.

NEXT start adding beneficial behaviors:

    • Rest: allow the body to recuperate. Rest and relaxation allow the body to heal. Try turning off the evening news, which never has anything nice to say anyway, and go to bed early. Your adrenals will love you for it.
    • Exercise: move, jump, run, pump iron or engage in your favorite sport. Your body, lymphatic system, red blood cells, eliminative organs and all their closely associated partners in health will jump for joy. You will sleep better, look better, have an improved self esteem, and feel more energized
    • Eat healthy: and don’t overeat. Digestion takes huge amounts of energy to accomplish. Eat foods that will build your body up, support you and make you big and strong. Come on now, we all know we are supposed to eat our fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Take your vitamins: Vitamin C, B6, Magnesium, B Complex, Potassium and liquid minerals are often deficient. Panax ginseng promotes pituitary and adrenal health by encouraging the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). This is a great support for those who have take corticsteroids, or have been under severe stress. Adrenal glandular support is often helpful, but check with your nutritional counselor first.
    • See your doctor: Be sure to have a thorough blood chemistry done to screen for subtle deviations that may indicate adrenal or pituitary stress or insufficiency.
    • Always take control of your own health. Get educated, than utilize what you know. Knowledge is power, but only if it is utilized. Ignorance is not bliss, it is ignorant.
    •  Have fun. Wear the world like a loose garment. Don’t take everything so serious. You will never get out of here alive. Love more, laugh at life and yourself more and don’t be afraid to treat yourself with the dignity and respect you expect others to treat you with.