By Dr. Jennifer L. Franz

As we approach the increasingly joyful, yet seemingly stressful holidays, we begin to feel the effects of the stresses of the season on our bodies.  In an effort to have our holiday shopping, cooking, visiting relatives, and friends balanced, it is an added stress to our already hectic lives.

In the body, hormones that are controlled by our nervous system are secreted when we are under stress.  Your nervous system, housed within your backbone, sends messages through it from the brain to an array of different systems in the body.  One of those many systems is your hormonal system.   Cortisol is the primary hormone produced in the anterior pituitary portion of the brain.  When the body is under stress, either chemical, emotional, or physical, specific signals from our nervous system send messages to the adrenal medulla, another part of our brain, and regulate the release of epinephrine.  Epinephrine affects blood calcium levels and adversely affects our blood pressure.  The parathyroid hormone and the adrenocorticoptropic hormones that are secreted in response to the epinephrine in the blood, actually cause the release of cortisol by the adrenal cortex in the brain.

Cortisol has many detrimental effects of the body, such as a decrease in the formation of connective tissue and effects how well our body heals and repairs itself.  Our immune system is also affected by the secretion of cortisol and is suppressed during stressful periods.  How well we respond to winter colds and flu is actually controlled by the balance and function of your nervous system.  Cortisol triggers other hormones as well, such as aldosterone, and effect the body by causing water retention in an effort to conserve sodium in the body.  Continued stress on our bodies will long term cause pathological changes and stress related diseases such as gastritis, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, headaches, anxiety, and depression.  Studies also show that people under stress are at greater risk of developing chronic diseases or dying prematurely.

What can we do to combat the effects of cortisol and stress on our nervous system?  We can obviously try to keep our stresses low, by trying to not put too much on our plate both metaphorically and realistically.  Limiting the number of fatty and sugary foods during the holiday season can positively affect stress on our body.  We can boost our immune system by beefing up on antioxidants such as A, C, E, Zinc, and Selenium, as well as enriching our diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We can drink plenty of water, get 8-9 hours of good quality sleep a night, and exercise cardiovascularly 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a week.  Exercise particularly effects cortisol by causing the secretion of endorphins, the feel good hormone.  Simple breathing exercises with strong exhaling components can also stimulate the production of endorphins and reduce stress.  Most importantly, to regain balance and regulate you nervous system, you can see your Chiropractor.  Chiropractors are specifically trained to help balance and regulate your nervous system.  Part of your brainstem actually lies within the first two bones of your neck.  Any misalignment on these bones directly affects your hormonal responses to stress.  Through a series of gentle specific adjustments, your nervous system can regain balance and have an edge on handling stress during the holiday season.  In conjunction with other stress beating tools, Chiropractic is essential to maintain a properly functioning nervous system and a balanced healthy lifestyle.

Gillette Family Chiropractic Center is committed to helping its patients achieve optimum vitality and well being one person at a time.