Our bodies are innately designed with mechanisms to adapt to stressful situations. In what is commonly known as the flight or fight response, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is a finely tuned system of hormonal changes that occur when the body is under threat or attack.
What is the fight or flight response?
It all starts with the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus initiates a complex chain of hormonal and nerve signaling, which results in the adrenal glands releasing a surge of hormones, specifically adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones instigate a myriad of hormonal and functional changes in the body that enable it to adapt to the perceived threat. Once the threat ceases to exist, signals are sent to restore all body functions back to equilibrium. In situations where stressors persist the body is continually locked into this flight or fight mode, leading to adverse physical consequences.
So how does the body respond when it is under threat?
When the sympathetic nervous system is activated the body goes through a number of changes designed to get the body ready to ‘fight’ or run. These include
- Heart rate increases and atrial blood vessels constrict
- The rate of respiration increases so as to be able to increase the uptake of oxygen. Each breath becomes fast and shallow.
- The rate of digestion declines so as blood can be diverted to other areas of the body
- Muscles constrict and tense in preparedness for a quick response
- All sensory organs become hypersensitive in order to detect imminent threats
- The body perspires in an effort to cool down and expel waste
Is your body constantly under attack?
For some people who are faced with constant stress (work, finance, family) or who are very sensitive to stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system can be constantly switched on! Chronic stress has many negative impacts on our health including adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue occurs when excessive overstimulation of the adrenal glands leads to loss of its function. Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue include:
- Fatigue, lethargy and low energy
- Feeling rundown
- Increased sugar cravings and weight gain
- Anxiety, depression and insomnia
- Impairment of memory and concentration
- Low libido and sex drive
How does TCM diagnose and treat adrenal fatigue and chronic stress?
Within the TCM paradigm the adrenal glands are viewed as being part of the functional aspect of the kidney. It then follows that treatment of stress related complaints focuses upon rebalancing kidney energies. TCM and Acupuncture, in particular, has the capacity to promptly and effectively reprogram the body’s stress response and essentially “switch off” the adrenal hormones. It can do this by way of its ability to target and regulate the hypothalamus and it’s signalling to the adrenals (using specific acupuncture points which regulate the kidneys).
For some patients, facing long term persistent stressors this may require a significant number of treatments. Eventually, however, the Hypothalamic Adrenal axis returns to normal. This results in the patient feeling calmer and more relaxed and of course more confident and competent in dealing with the minor and major stresses confronted on a day to day basis.
If you suffer from chronic stress or have the symptoms of adrenal fatigue book in to see our acupuncturist Danielle Baker. Call (03) 9331 0951.