Three Glands and How They Interact With Stress (Adrenal, Thyroid, Pancreas)
The Endocrine System – Thyroid Adrenal Pancreas Axis
Did you know that three of your hormone-producing glands control and respond to stress and anxiety? These glands produce and release hormones as part of your body’s response to stress. And while that is a normal response and function, chronic stress can be harmful. Let’s learn more about these glands and how they interact with stress.
What is Stress?
First of all, let’s discuss what we mean by stress. We are all under stress and spend a lot of time these days discussing how to decrease or manage it. But there is good stress and bad stress. For instance, think about buying a new house. It can be an exciting, wonderful time – but it still comes with stress. Your body doesn’t know the difference between good and bad stress and will react to both.
Stress is how your body reacts to a potential threat. It goes into a state of alarm and decides the best way to deal with the danger – fight or flight. Once the stress has passed, your body should return to its normal state. But when you are under chronic stress, your body can never relax and return to its resting state. Over time this can do damage.
Your adrenal glands are the system that releases hormones in an initial response to a stressful situation. The adrenals release hormones like:
- Glucocorticoids – which affect glucose or sugar levels
- Gonadacorticords – sex hormones
- Cortisol – a glucocorticoid released later in the stress response
- Epinephrine or adrenaline and norepinephrine – responsible for the initial flight or fight response
Short-term, these hormones allow your body to respond quickly to a problem. Heart rate and breathing increase letting you get more oxygen to your muscles and brain, while digestion and reproductive functions are decreased.
But if you are under chronic stress, your body is constantly in a state of alarm. Eventually, it becomes exhausted, leading to fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Cortisol levels stay high under chronic stress. Overproduction of cortisol can cause weight gain, particularly in the stomach area, skin that bruises easily, increased facial hair growth, muscle weakness, and bone loss.
Your thyroid gland works in combination with the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands’ cortisol slows your body’s metabolism and decreases the production of thyroid hormones. Because your body’s metabolism is impacted, weight gain is a common side effect of chronic stress.
When your thyroid hormones are decreased, you can experience symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, depression, anxiety, dry skin, and constipation.
The pancreas is responsible for producing enzymes needed to digest your food and makes insulin, which helps regulate your blood sugar. Researchers have found a link between short-term and chronic stress and pancreatitis – a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed. When you are under stress, your stomach makes more acid, increasing pancreatic secretion that inflames the pancreas.
The pancreas is also affected by the impact of the adrenal glands. Increased cortisol and glucose caused by stress make our bodies more insulin resistant, causing the pancreas to need to work harder. Over time you can develop diabetes.
How Do You Know If Your Glands Are Being Affected By Stress?
Chances are, you know that you’ve been under stress by the way you feel. Symptoms that you might experience include:
- Aches and pains
- Trouble sleeping
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased energy levels
- Brain fog
- Changes in appetite
- Weight gain
Eventually, you may even develop some health problems like:
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Overweight or obesity
Hopefully, we can help before problems like these happen or catch them early enough to reverse the adverse effects of stress. We can measure the function of your adrenal, thyroid, and pancreas through testing. These tests measure cortisol levels, several thyroid hormones, insulin, and blood sugar levels. Measuring your levels can determine how well your glands function and respond to chronic stress. Vitality Aesthetic and Regenerative Medicine, we will work with you to reduce your stress and treat any ill effects.
Managing Chronic Stress
Learning to respond to stress in a healthy way is a critical component of reducing its harmful effects. You can help manage the stress in your life by:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing, or meditation
- Try journaling or gratitude journaling
- Take time for hobbies
- Maintain friendships and a support system
- Use a professional counselor to help you develop coping strategies
And remember, we are here to help! If you are worried about how stress affects your health, call us to schedule a consult and start improving your health today.