Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Link Between Stress and Autoimmune Disorders

The Link Between Stress and Autoimmune Disorders

by Eric Bakker, ND

To understand the connection between stress and autoimmune disorders, we’ll need to start with the adrenal glands–those two tiny, triangular glands atop your kidneys that defend your body from stress using the hormone cortisol. Cortisol performs many vital functions in the body, from responding to small cuts to helping the body rebound from a stressful event. Cortisol also helps your liver to release stored glucose (stored energy) which helps you to maintain a smooth even flow of energy throughout the day. That is why many people with auto-immune problems are so tired.

High or chronic stress can lead to eventual depletion of adrenal function, which results in the body’s inability to counter inflammation. In an auto-immune reaction, white blood cells attack parts of your body as if they were the enemy. In most auto-immune reactions, the amount of cortisol your body produces isn’t enough for the degree of reaction taking place. In fact, most people who suffer from autoimmune disorders have multiple hormone imbalances, including adrenal and thyroid hormones.

In most cases, the adrenal glands need to be optimized first, leading to repletion, steady energy and eventual recovery. Adrenal recovery is a process akin to running a marathon. The process will take time, more for some, so patience is required by all. With correct treatment, many patients will find some improvement in their adrenal health a matter of weeks, some in months, depending on their motivation to improve their health, the degree of pre-existing damage as well as the clinical skills of their health professional. The process can take anywhere from 2 months to 3 years even in the best of hands. My guide to improve adrenal function and reduce inflammation

Dealing with autoimmune disorders is much like running a marathon.

I’d like you to bear in mind that auto-immunity is a long marathon, and your recovery should not be expected to be “a walk in the park.” You will not wake up in a week and be 100%. Remember this: it probably took a few years of slowly declining health to get here in the first place. Pace yourself and work on your overall health in small steps, gaining new ground gradually over time. Frustration and disappointments are very common and normal in clinical practice, so don’t beat yourself up! Patience is the key, and during the recovery process, most, if not all, will go through a roller coaster type ride with advances and setbacks.