Stress: A Functional Medicine Perspective

Dr. Amy Davis

By Dr. Amy Davis, MD

Stress comes in a variety of forms – traumatic emotional events, physical injury, infections, inflammatory conditions, sleep deprivation, nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, and toxins.

To the body stress is stress – the response to the stress, whatever the source, is the same.

  • Stress places demands on the body and activates two systems: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which results in a series of adaptations known as the “stress response”.
  • Acute stress, like a physical injury, mobilizes the stress response, which is essential to survival, by producing adrenalin causing the eyes to dilate, faster breathing, faster heart rate and increased blood pressure and blood flow to organs needed to fight off danger (muscles, heart, liver).
  • Chronic stress is associated with elevated cortisol levels. Prolonged stress produces prolonged levels of cortisol which results in:
  • • Central obesity
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of muscle
  • Osteoporosis
  • Immune suppression and frequent illness
  • Depression and memory impairment
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Imbalanced microbiome and leaky gut

Common triggers of the chronic stress response include:

  • Chronic sleep deprivation – not getting enough sleep
  • Emotional and / or physical trauma
  • Acute physical stress
  • Burnout
  • Work stress

Overwhelmingly, it is the psychological rather than physiological stress which has the capacity to elevate and maintain the stress response.

Stress leads to alterations of the HPA Axis and Adrenal gland function.
Stage 1 may lack symptoms and the body is able to return to baseline.
Stage 2 (adrenal fatigue) the cortisol level is chronically elevated, the individual is “stressed”, may have anxiety attacks, mood swings or depression.
Stage 3 (adrenal exhaustion) the body can no longer produce cortisol adequately and profound fatigue, apathy, lack of motivation, depression, brain fog, muscle pain, poor sleep quality, inflammation and allergies, and early menopause may occur.

What can you do?

  • Stress Reduction – breathing, moderate exercise, meditation, yoga
  • Get plenty of sleep

Dietary ChangeLow glycemic foods

  • Frequent meals
  • No stimulants
  • Consider a food elimination diet to determine food sensitivities

Nutritional support

  • B-Complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphatidylserine
  • Adaptogenic herbs – Ashwgandha, Rhodiola, St John’s Wort, Panax ginseng, licorice root

Join me Wednesday April 25th at 1:30 for Restoring the Balance – Stress Reduction and Group Hypnotherapy Event. Sign up required, space is limited.

Best of Health!
Dr. Amy Davis M.D.
Crossing Back to Health
11477 Olde Cabin Rd. Suite 100
Creve Coeur, MO 63141
636 778-9158