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Understanding Stress: How Stress Leads to Your Symptoms

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

Video summarized in article below.

Our traditional understanding of stress has evolved through much research. We used to think that stress is something that comes from nowhere and just kind of hits you, that is undefinable. But actually, we know that the stress enters our body much like entering a house--through the five senses. The ears, the nose, what you see, what you smell, what you hear.

Those signals through the five senses are then converted into chemical signals, and it’s these signals that go from the brain all the way down to the rest of the body. It’s primarily through what we call the NeuroEndoMetabolic pathways that our body responds, like an orchestra, to the stress that we experience. This NeuroEndoMetabolic stress response is critical because it is a built-in mechanism that we all have.

When it works, you will be able to deal with stress, whether it is a long day of work or being screamed at by your boss or having tremendous financial pressure. Or you can fall apart if your body’s unable to perform the NeuroEndoMetabolic stress response functions it needs.

If the stress is too much or more than your body can handle, especially over a period of time, the body’s internal built-in mechanisms start to malfunction, and that’s when we see problems.

When the Stress Response Begins

So, actually, some of the examples of stress that your hormone circuit deals with are when you encounter emotional stress in your life. Then estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone help to regulate anxiousness, irritability, moods, and kind of depressed moods.

Then if you encounter metabolic stress inside of your body, your organs such as your thyroid and adrenals produce hormones to balance your blood sugar and the metabolism in your body to address that stress.

Then lastly, if you have physical stress in your body, then the adrenals also put out the hormone cortisol to manage these stressors in your body.

It doesn’t matter where the stress is coming from. And no one can survive and live in this world without a certain amount of stress, which is constructive. The key to understand is your body’s stress response need to be strong and healthy to help you automatically without you even knowing it.

So, whenever you have imbalances, then the Hormonal circuit becomes one of the first circuits out of the six circuits to get affected.

Why Stress Symptoms Happen

Most people don’t understand the subtle signs and symptoms that can really be the body’s whispers to you. By the time they feel symptoms, it’s already too late. Imbalances of the hormonal circuit, which is out of the six circuits the one that most controls the NeuroEndoMetabolic response, has an imbalance in the three systems that are responsible: the adrenals, the thyroid, and the gonads, or the ovaries in females and the testicles in males.

They work in unison, but one of them may be more dominant or weak compared to the others. So, it depends on which one is problematic. Then, the most predominant symptoms of imbalance will show up first.

Okay. So, for example, those people who are mostly thyroid dominant in terms of weakness will show up with fatigue, low body temperature, dry skin, and inability to lose weight, especially in the center of the body. That is very classic of people who are primarily weak in the thyroid.

On the other hand, if you have a dominant weakness in the ovarian or the gonads for males or females--it doesn't matter which gender. Then you’re going to have more emotional swings, more irritability, mood instability, that type of thing. So, your symptoms tell you a lot. It’s not just all convoluted. It really makes sense if you understand the physiology of what each hormone does.

Symptoms of Hormone Dysfunction

The adrenals regulate over 50 hormones and each of those hormones go to a different pathway. So, by understanding which pathway does what, then it translates into different symptoms and a proper history will then tell us what is really going on.

So, there are different symptoms that can correlate with the different parts of the hormone circuit. So, people with adrenal dominance, maybe they’re feeling a little more irritable. They’re more fragile emotion wise, they’re a little more anxious, and they get easily triggered by anger.

Those that have more reproductive system dominance, they might have brain fog and even estrogen dominance symptoms like breast tenderness, irritability, and water retention.

Those who are thyroid dominant might have the inability to lose weight and have dry skin, nail issues, and constipation.

So, all these symptoms, in addition to fatigue, feeling the breast tenderness, dry skin, sleep disturbances, joint aching, exercise intolerance. Those are all ways that we can see these symptoms of hormone circuit dysfunction.

© Copyright 2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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