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What are the 3 stages of stress response?

Obviously we know that prolonged stress is not good for us, but what are the actual stages our body goes through when we have extended periods of stress.

Stress is defined as the response our body has to any physical or emotional stimulus. And it definitely can be beneficial but can also be harmful depending on the type and intensity. Constant stress is the more harmful thing at play here and can cause your body to respond appropriately to survive.  The body responds to stress by mobilizing all of its available energy. If the body has enough stores of energy that it can pull from, health and wellbeing are restored. If not, the body adapts. And it’s the adaptation over time that is the issue. This general adaptation syndrome consists of 3 stages. The body passes through these 3 stages as it comes under prolonged stress. Each stage has particular biochemistry and specific conditions associated with it. 

3 stages of stress:

  • Alarm

The earliest stage of stress. The body produces an adequate amount of energy to fight against stress. Often associated with activation of the sympathetic nervous system, a fast oxidation rate, higher blood pressure and sugar, higher body temp, and more frequent bowel movements. The production of stress hormones by the adrenal glands mobilizes the body’s energy to meet and overcome stress. 

  • Resistance

You move into this stage when you can no longer adapt to the stress and maintain an alarm stage. This stage is best described as an endless battle with the body attempting to contain the stress as it’s unable to eliminate it. There just isn’t enough energy. This resistance stage can go on for a long period of time in an effort to limit or minimize the stress. 

  • Exhaustion 

Occurs when the body has exhausted its energy levels in an attempt to contain the stress. We no longer have the energy necessary to resist or contain the stress and it’s now in a holding pattern to prevent further decline in health. Symptoms may include fatigue depression, apathy, despair, constipation, dry skin and hair, adrenal exhaustion, and thyroid under-functioning.

Stay tuned next week to see the best ways to determine which stage you are in.

 

In the video below, I break down the acute stress response and then the cycles of stress your body goes through over time. Stay tuned next week, as I’ll be sharing how to know which stage you are in!

 

 

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In knowing the 3 stages of stress, how would you know which stage you are in? 

 

There are physical symptoms and metabolic patterns that are associated with each stage of stress.  

 

Some physical symptoms included in each state: 

In the Alarm stage of stress

  • A few symptoms associated with this stage are : rapid heartbeat, a higher blood pressure and blood sugar because your body’s trying to get ready to go, you just feel jazzed! More frequent bowel movements (3-5 a day). Cortisol is high all day long vs what it should be ( higher in the am and slowly dwindling throughout the day and lowest at night), we’re supposed to have energy in the morning to get things done throughout the day and then wind down at night to go to sleep.

 

The Resistance stage of stress

  • This stage can go on for a much longer period of time, typically you’re not going to stay in the alarm stage for a long time since your body just can’t withstand that and the resistance stage, is where people stay the longest. Your body still has some energy left in its reserves but it’s dwindling. You will begin to experience a little more fatigue, possibly an inability to get a good night’s sleep-you might experience a tired, but wired feeling. 

 

Finally, the Exhaustion stage

  • This is when the body has exhausted all of its energy, tons of fatigue no matter how much sleep you get, and it’s a hallmark symptom. Sometimes there’s depression and usually constipation, that you’re going a lot to the bathroom and it’s overactive. If there’s no energy to move what we eat through our digestive system and expel it properly then we are going to have a sluggish digestive system. Also, dry skin, hair, and nails.  Cortisol levels are super low all day and we don’t have enough energy because our cortisol just can’t mount a response and can’t get to any uh appropriate level. Oftentimes our thyroid is under-functioning

There are also Metabolic patterns in each stress response stage. 

 

In this stage of stress, our body is literally just burning through minerals and in the alarm stage, we’re like in fight or flight all the time. It’s really taxing out our adrenals and they need a lot of sodium and potassium to work properly. So typically on a hair test, you will see higher levels of these 2 minerals, which means your body is using them up quickly. If these 2 are high, the other 2 macro minerals are low in contrast. 

Possible symptoms of High Potassium include: high blood sugar,  muscle spasms, muscle weakness, depression, and fast metabolism. 

 Possible symptoms of High Sodium: headaches, high blood pressure, irritability, nervousness, and water retention. 

This stage is kind of the in-between and oftentimes the main four minerals will be low because your body has run through a lot of them and now they are depleted.

Low calcium levels are associated with: anxiety, insomnia, allergies, adrenal hyperactivity, and hyperthyroidism.

Low magnesium:  depression, osteo-arthritis, osteoporosis, PMS, cardiovascular issues, adrenal insufficiency, HTN, hypothyroidism, anxiety, hyperactivity, excessive sweating. 

Low sodium can be associated with allergies, bloating, depression, dizziness,  fatigue, low blood pressure and low blood sugar.

 Low potassium can be associated with constipation, fatigue, Irregular heartbeats, low blood pressure and blood sugar. 

 

     In the exhaustion stage of stress, Sodium and Potassium are lower and Calcium and Magnesium are really high,  they’re not in the optimal range. 

    High Calcium levels: excessive thirst and muscle aches, stiff joints, fatigue and achiness.

     High magnesium: Depression, fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness and even low blood pressure.

     

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    The absolute best way to know which stage you are in is to get your hair analyzed to see where your mineral levels are at! Check out ways we can work together on this plus your root causes here!