Health Pillar 4—Balance Stress Hormones

Dr. Shawn Talbott (Ph.D., CNS, LDN, FACSM, FACN, FAIS) has gone from triathlon struggler to gut-brain guru! With a Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry, he's on a mission to boost everyday human performance through the power of natural solutions and the gut-brain axis.

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Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Health Pillar 4—Balance Stress Hormones
From the very first chapter of this book, you have been learning about the effects of chronic stress, which is the main enemy of vigor. At this point, we’re ready to explore the ways in which stress leads to disruptions in biochemical balance in the other three of the Four Pillars of Health (oxidation, inflammation, and glycation). Those disruptions can result in low vigor and poor health if you aren’t careful to control either your exposure to stress or the way in which your body responds to stress. Before looking at what happens on the biochemical level, let’s briefly review the basics of chronic stress.

Human beings were simply not meant to “carry around” constant disturbances in their stress response to the point that this response reaches the state called “chronic stress.” Humans were built to respond to stress quickly and then to have stress hormones dissipate immediately. That is the “acute-stress” response or, as discussed in Chapter 1, “temporary” stress. When the body is exposed to wave after wave of chronic stress from the modern lifestyle, it begins to break down. Animals don’t normally harbor chronic stress the way humans do, but when they do (during stress experiments, starvation, injury, etc.), they get sick just like humans do.

In study after study, it quickly becomes obvious that the stress response, although helpful in certain situations, turns negative when the body begins to perceive everyday events as “stressful” events. Over time, stress-related diseases result from either an overexaggerated stress response (too much response to what should have been a small stressor) or an underexaggerated ability to shut down the stress response (which causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to remain elevated and biochemical balance to fall apart).

Because the modern world rarely requires the evolutionary fight-or-flight response to stress, people deny their bodies their natural physical reaction to stress. Unfortunately, the brain still registers stress in the same way as it always has. But because people no longer react to that stress with vigorous physical activity (fighting or running away), the body “stores” the stress response and continues to churn out high levels of stress hormones. Before you know it, you find yourself suffering from feeling “tired/stressed/depressed” or “burnout” and feeling as if you have no control over the many stressors in your life.

In one of the more ironic twists visited upon humans as “higher” animals, the brain is so “well developed” that the body has learned to respond to psychological stress with the same hormonal cascade that occurs with exposure to a physical stressor. This means that just by thinking about a stressful event, even if that event is highly unlikely to actually occur, you cause your endocrine system to get into an uproar that interferes with your biochemical balance—leading you toward burnout.

About the Author

Exercise physiologist (MS, UMass Amherst) and Nutritional Biochemist (PhD, Rutgers) who studies how lifestyle influences our biochemistry, psychology and behavior - which kind of makes me a "Psycho-Nutritionist"?!?!

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