I hear all the time I wish I could go back to the good old days. Well, why can't you in some ways. The hashtag I use all the time is #dowhatmakesyousmile. Life is what you make of it...
Most people have heard of the "fight or flight" response of the nervous system, the way in which the body reacts to stress or being scared. Many, however, have never heard of the "rest and digest" response. This system, where the Vagus nerve is located, activates the more relaxed functions of the body; those that help maintain a healthy, long-term balance in life. (Photo: Dr. Corinne Weaver)
These systems are both part of a larger system named the autonomic nervous system, which controls and influences the way that our internal organs function. While we all think we have just one nervous system, we actually have several.
If you are suffering from a lot of stress, chances are that your "fight or flight" response has been activated far too often in the past. These kinds of stressors prompt the body to release large amounts of stress hormones, like cortisol. Over the longer term, chronically-elevated stress levels lead to your body organs becoming depleted of the materials that they need to produce key hormones and neurotransmitters for healthy brain functions.
How are these systems activated?
The sympathetic nervous system kicks in automatically and occurs in response to any thought of fear. This doesn't have to be an imminent physical threat (we face those very rarely these days). Any perceived threat or stressful situation can trigger this response. For example, if you have ever felt your heart racing and your mouth dry up ahead of a public speaking engagement, then you know what a sympathetic nervous response feels like. In this example, hormones released by the adrenal glands tell your heart to speed up and restrict digestive processes like salvia production.
The sympathetic nervous system protects us from real physical dangers like lions, tigers, and bears, oh my, or a threatening scarecrow. However, it can also be triggered by the ordinary stressors we face on a daily basis. These might be things like work or school deadlines, waking up late and missing an activity, or fixing dinner at holiday get-togethers.
Many diseases and illnesses have been shown to stem from chronic stress. Cardiovascular issues, high blood pressure, and immune system suppression are classic symptoms. Other symptoms include constipation and digestive issues, cold sores, jitteriness, sweats, and anxiety. In the longer term, more advanced adrenal fatigue can lead to symptoms like chronically low energy levels, respiratory problems, decreased sexual function, and much more.
The less time we spend in the sympathetic response mode, the better. Although it makes us alert and better able to respond to the challenges ahead, it takes a huge toll on our bodies after a while and can lead to adrenal burnout and can crash down. Anything we can do to keep ourselves in the "rest and digest" mode as much as possible is worth the effort, since our long-term health may depend on it.
To activate your parasympathetic nervous system, learn what truly makes you feel relaxed. Have fun and engage in a hobby, hang out with friends, exercise, or even just get out into nature and listen to the birds sing. In fact, right now my family and I are headed to a local mountain to hike in our beautiful state of North Carolina. Whatever it is, pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts and try to recreate those special moments so you can relive them. (Photo credit: Aimee Herd)
We are all under some level of chronic stress these days. By learning to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and reducing the effect of your sympathetic nervous system, you can reduce the stress on your heart, digestive system, immune system, and more. This will not only make you a happier person, it will also help to avoid many of the diseases and conditions that are associated with chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. If you can become more conscious of the way that your body reacts to stress, it will pay enormous dividends in the future.
We know beyond any doubt that stress can be detrimental to our health. Record numbers of us now report feeling stressed. It might be work-related, family issues, or simply having a lot on our plates, but stress is something we need to combat if we are to lead healthy, happy lives.
Just as we can exercise some control over the sympathetic nervous system (just thinking of a public speaking engagement can trigger a response for many people), we can also activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Simply reading a book does the trick for some people, which may be why, so many people read before going to bed for the night. Soaking in a hot bath with Epsom salt and lavender, getting a massage, or petting a dog or cat are good relaxation strategies. I love doing spinal stretching.
I give some stretches to my patients to help them with their posture. If they can't perform them correctly the first time, I tell them to keep working on it. They are always surprised when they can't do some of these stretches correctly because they look so easy.
As we age, we get stiffer and should work harder on our flexibility. As someone works on these exercises and stretches, they become taller, and their muscle become more relaxed. When you practice correct posture, your body is in better alignment and can communicate better with the brain. Also, sitting and standing tall can boost up your self-confidence. If you would like these stretches just email me and I will send you some.
Before you start these exercises, visualize a balloon sting coming from the top of your head, pulling you gently up towards a ceiling. Visualization is always a good start. No one wants to see themselves as a hunchback or refer to an old granny with a cane. Avoid slouching when sitting and walking at all times.
Start thinking you are a beautiful model. I went to some modeling classes as a kid, and the instructors told us to practice balancing a book on your head. It looked easy, but of course, it was very hard. Having good posture takes time and effort. (Photo: via Deeper Study)
My muscles were very tired when I first started these exercises, but over time, it has become part of my daily routine and is easier. My healthiest patients who are in their 80's and 90's do these stretches and exercises every morning. They tell me, with a smile, how much they love doing them and how it has helped with their flexibility and pain levels.
The key ingredient here is to add something new to your life. It wasn't there before but you can commit to it, and it will bring more joy in your life in some way.
One way to monitor your stress is to check your adrenal function. Adrenal saliva or urine testing, the iris contraction test, and postural low blood pressure testing are ways to monitor your adrenal function.
Adrenal Saliva Testing
These days, it is generally accepted that saliva or urine cortisol testing are the most accurate tests. There's another important thing to know about cortisol testing: taking a single measurement (or even a 24-hour average) is not enough. The best cortisol tests take four individual samples at various points of the day and then map your cortisol levels over the course of a 24-hour cycle. Our cortisol levels vary dramatically, starting at high levels when we wake up, then tapering off until they reach their lowest point late at night. This usually represents something like an 80% drop, which is perfectly normal. However, every test I have analyzed has indicated some kind of malfunction to this rhythm. Yes, even kids have stress, and it causes major disturbances within their bodies, too.
Iris Contraction Test
First described by Dr. Arroyo in 1924, this test measures the contraction of the iris in response to repeated exposure to light in a dark space. In those with weakened adrenal function, the theory goes that the iris will be unable to maintain its contraction for long.
To conduct the test, sit in a darkened room in front of a mirror with a friend. Take a flashlight and shine it across your eye, from one side to the other. In a hypo ("low") adrenal state, your pupils will not be able to hold on to a contraction for more than 2 minutes and thus will begin to dilate despite light repeatedly shining on it. (Our irises should contract to pinpoints when exposed to bright light.) In those with healthy adrenals, the contraction should last much longer.
Postural Low Blood Pressure Testing
When we stand up, those of us who are in good health experience an almost immediate rise in blood pressure. In contrast, adrenal fatigue sufferers will see no change in their blood pressure; they may even experience a slight fall. In very general terms, a larger drop in blood pressure signifies a more severe case of adrenal fatigue, meaning that your body is crashed out.
This is a very simple test to do at home: just use a regular blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure while lying down, then stand up and check the pressure again.
If you have adrenal issues, contact a doctor that can help you turn it around. Finding the root cause is the key. Don't let adrenal fatigue take over your life.
I hear all the time I wish I could go back to the good old days. Well, why can't you in some ways. The hashtag I use all the time is #dowhatmakesyousmile. Life is what you make of it... yes things are going to happen. Good or bad and life moves with or without you. I have been happy, sad, mad, and a borderline crazy person. What I find helps me the most is finding out what makes me smile and #dowhatmakesmesmile.
And as the lyrics of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" say, "Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true."
I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! If you would like to contact me with your health concerns email me directly at Dr@drcorinneweaver.com. For more information you can go to www.DrCorinneWeaver.com.
Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.
Dr. Weaver was recently named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds.
Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.