By Dr. Onkar Singh, BSc, N.D.
It’s 6:00 a.m. on a Monday morning and the alarm clock goes off. You climb over your partner to hit the snooze button and tell yourself that you are just going to sleep for another ten minutes. To your dismay, you awaken later only to see that it is now 6:45a.m.! You should have been up by 6:00 as you need to leave the house by 7:15a.m. to get to work. In a mad rush, you jump out of bed (even though your whole body feels stiff), brush your teeth frantically and hop in for a quick shower. Feeling a little lightheaded, with your heart pounding against your chest, you quickly get dressed. You grab your computer and cell phone and get into your car. At that very moment, you feel frustration and anger all over and this is certainly not how you wanted to start the beginning of your week. As you sit in your car, you can feel the tension and knots in your upper shoulders and neck. What should have been a relaxing drive to work becomes a race against the clock. You have not had breakfast and there is no time to even consider stopping for something. Coffee and something from the vending machine will have to do once you get to work. At your desk, you are greeted by a pile of work leftover from last week and you now dread all the additional new work that is going to come your way. This week will be much the same in terms of a hectic schedule: kid’s having their regular extracurricular activities, preparing for a garage sale at the end of the month and trying to organize for a much needed vacation. Why does life have to be so hectic? You think to yourself, why am I always so stressed? Why do I always feel frustrated and angry. Before you sit down to tackle the day, you grab your double double from the office cafeteria and decide to indulge in a cream cheese toasted bagel...you decide on the sesame seed bagel because it’s healthier!
Sound familiar? Indeed, we live in a day and age where it seems life is moving at “roller coaster” pace. We just don’t seem to have the time to sit by a lake to admire nature’s surroundings or even meet with our loved ones. Everyone is busy and you just can’t get each other’s calendars to line up. There is always a sense of falling behind, feeling low energy as everything seems to be such a great effort. When you do try to sleep at night, although you feel physically exhausted and ready to “crash” your mind tells you otherwise. You think to yourself, “how much longer can I go through life feeling like this...feeling wired and tired”
As Naturopathic Doctors, this does seem to be a recurring theme for many patients that come into our office. It is currently estimated that 75% of visits to doctors are due to stress related ailments. In fact, stress is a leading factor in deaths from heart disease, cancer, stroke, lower respiratory diseases and accidents. The good news is, you can do something about it! When you see a Naturopathic Doctor, he or she will help to create a thorough treatment plan for you to help manage your stress. Moreover, the plan would be tailored and customized to your individual needs and health concerns as everyone deals with stress differently; how certain stresses effect one person may not necessarily have the same affect on another. By taking a thorough case intake, performing relevant physical exams along with any pertinent blood testing, a Naturopathic Doctor will be able to create a unique stress management plan for you. It’s all about inspiring you and giving you ownership of your health.
Naturopathic Doctors will often assess your adrenal glands as they are fundamentally the most important when it comes to the stress response. Whenever we have any demand on us, be it “good” or “bad”, the adrenal glands release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which help to prepare the body to meet those demands. Short term stress (such as preparing for a job interview, writing an exam), may actually be a good thing as it allows you to “dig deep” and uncover qualities about yourself that you may not have realized in order to accomplish the task or face the situation on hand. The issue is when stress becomes a chronic part of your life, an everyday occurrence. At some point, the adrenal glands can become “over taxed” or as we would term, “adrenal fatigue”
Adrenal fatigue is a set of signs and symptoms that can result when the adrenals glands are functioning below their optimal level. In our practices, we have determined that adrenal fatigue can be associated with intense or prolonged periods of stress, during or after an acute or chronic infection (especially pneumonia, influenza, bronchitis), loss of a loved one or an emotional trauma, and physical trauma to name a few. Some of these signs may include: a sense of feeling unwell, low energy or poor stamina or inability to deal with any tasks at hand, lightheadedness or dizziness, cravings for salt and/or sweet, the need for stimulants such as coffee or “energy drinks” to get you going in the morning and so on. However, it does not have to be this way!
A licensed Naturopathic Doctor will work with you to determine what dietary considerations will be the most important for you to help strengthen those exhausted adrenals. Nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B5, high quality fish oil to name a few are very critical in helping to address adrenal fatigue. Herbs like Rhodiola and Ashwagandha have consistently proven to be beneficial in optimizing the function of the adrenal glands. Acupuncture treatments may also be recommended - always a welcome addition to the protocol. Not only will acupuncture help to harmonize the flow of qi and thus relieve tension and anxiety, it gives the individual an opportunity to relax for 20-30 minutes. When a proper treatment plan is implemented, patients begin to feel well, look well, sleep better, and have more energy and motivation for life. There is no reason that you should be living your life in a constant state of stress or “always trying to catch up”. Take charge and ownership of your health and see a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. It will be the best decision you will have ever made for your health!