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Stress—What It’s doing to your body, how can you test for it, and how do you treat it?

We’ve teamed up with likeminded healthcare professionals and businesses to guide the Tucson community towards better overall health. Today, Dr. Rose of Nature Medica is sharing advice on stress and how to handle it.


Do you feel stressed?

In my first visit with a new patient I always ask, "Do you feel you have stress in your life?" Nine out of ten of those patients proclaim a resounding, "Yes!" With top sources of stress listed as work, family, finances, and more recently politics, most of my patients say they feel like there's much in their lives they don't have control over, and this can add to that feeling of stress.

What is stress doing to your body?

Chronic stress can result in long term elevations in cortisol, which is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland. While this hormone is a necessity for survival, it's effects long term can wreak havoc on the mind and body. Elevated cortisol can contribute to a whole host of issues including high blood sugar, weight gain, hypertension, insomnia, anxiety, depression, poor digestion, poor healing, allergies and susceptibility to infections-just to name a few. I can't tell you how often I hear the following scenarios: "I work out every day, sometimes twice a day and have cut my calories in half, but still can't lose this belly fat!" or "every winter I get every cold that comes around, I'm so sick of being sick!" and of course "I'm so tired all day long, but when it's finally time to go to bed, my brain won't shut off and I feel so wired!" These are all scenarios in which it may be a good idea to dig a little deeper in your health history and ask your doctor about performing an adrenal stress index test.

How do you test for stress?

Naturopaths and other physicians specializing in functional medicine can order a saliva test which patients can take home. Saliva samples are collected throughout the course of a day and mailed to a lab. This type of testing allows us to see the circadian rhythm of the cortisol and cortisol patterns that may be associated with specific symptoms.


But what can you do about stress?

A balanced diet, regular exercise, avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and other toxins (whether they be physical or emotional) can go a long way towards helping your mind and body become more resilient to stress. Yoga, breath work, and counseling can also be great tools to utilize. When it comes to medical management, cortisol can be manipulated, but it is best to know where your levels stand before attempting treatment. From a naturopathic standpoint there are several modalities that I have found to be useful including specific nutrition plans, adaptogenic herbs (meaning they help your body adapt to stress), acupuncture, and homeopathy. There are also herbs and supplements that can either lower cortisol or mimic the actions of cortisol depending on your individual cortisol levels.

The bottom line is: we all feel stressed sometimes, but when you feel like it is chronic, out of control and is affecting your health, there are treatment options.

Dr. Rose is a naturopathic physician practicing at Nature Medica in Tucson, AZ. She believes it is vital to understand the root cause of disease and utilizes compassionate medicine that treats the whole person. Dr. Rose is a proud member of the ProActive Health Network