As an Integrative Health Practitioner, I talk with a lot of people who feel exhausted more often than not, have digestive issues, feel anxious or depressed, and/or have migraines. Most women I know have thyroid disease, painful periods, cramps, mood swings and cravings. These symptoms are all signs that the body is out of balance.
Integrative Health and Functional Medicine work to get to identify the root cause of symptoms and rebalance the body through food, supplements, and lifestyle modifications. Certain tests can tell you if the root cause of you not feeling your best is due to hormones imbalance, overgrowth of bacteria in your gut and/or a mineral imbalance. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that the deep root cause is stress.
Stress is inevitable in the society we live in with smart phones, traffic, work, relationships, and list goes on and on. Being busy, always having a full schedule, skipping sleep to do high intensity workouts have become the norm. People are proud of all the doing. It’s a badge of honor for most people to say they never rest, they are hustling or powering through something. Most people are eating processed foods, not taking lunch breaks, skipping meals and are rarely in rest and digest mode. We are bombarded with chemicals and toxins every day. Our bodies, nervous system, hormones, and digestive system cannot handle this.
Many people are in complete denial about how stressful their life is. Having constant stress and being in the sympathetic state (fight or flight) is the baseline for most people and had become their norm. Over time, this can wreak havoc on hormones, especially cortisol and thyroid hormones leading to hypothyroidism, burnout, and estrogen dominance. Stress significantly impacts gut health and gut health impacts mood and concentration. If the gut microbiome is not balanced, it is difficult to absorb nutrients and minerals from food. This shows up as digestive issues such as bloating, food sensitivities, rashes and other skin issues, fatigue. If the digestive system is not functioning properly, it is also challenging to excrete waste and toxins properly. If toxins are present such as mercury and lead, this can lead to mood issues, neurological symptoms, weight gain. If minerals (like calcium and magnesium) are not balanced, there can also be mood, neurological symptoms and digestive issues. Stress can trigger all of these things and the more symptoms you have, the more stress can be triggered.
So how do you know if your body is experiencing too much stress and more importantly what can you do about it?
The first step is to get functional lab testing to actually see what is going on in your body. Don’t guess about these things. Symptoms overlap for different conditions and the body systems are all related. Different tests look at what is going on inside the body from different angles. Once that is determined, there are targeted protocols with food, supplement and lifestyle changes to specifically rebalance the body.
Functional tests include Adrenal Thyroid Hormone Test, Organic Acid Testing, Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis. Nutrigenomics testing is an imperative baseline test. Here is what these tests can tell you:
Nutrigenomics: Looks at close to 100 genes and can tell you how you are genetically designed to break down macros, vitamins, minerals, and neurotransmitters. This can tell you how you are prone to react to stress, how you naturally break down neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine etc.) and how to support and enhance the function through food, supplements and lifestyle modifications.
Adrenal Thyroid Hormone Test: Looks at progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, thyroid hormones, vitamin D and Hemoglobin AIC. It is very important for all of these hormones to be balanced. Abnormalities in any of the above can be a sign the body is under stress. Specific abnormalities can give a picture as to what is going on in the body, how severe and also allows for a specific plan to get the body back into balance. Hormone issues are almost always a sign of chronic stress.
Organic Acid Testing- is the most comprehensive functional lab test. This looks at gut health and can identify overgrowth and imbalances of bacteria, yeast and fungus. It also identifies mold in your body. It also identifies vitamin and metabolism byproducts and can show imbalances here. The OAT test can also tell how neurotransmitters are being processed and utilized in your body. It is a comprehensive way to see if you are in a high stress response. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis- measures metal levels in your body. Excess mercury, lead and aluminum are relatively common and can cause multiple symptoms in the body, including brain fog, anxiety and depression. This tests also measures the levels of minerals in your body (Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium etc.) and specific ratios. Most people in stress response will have very abnormal values of minerals.
What to do with this information:
Knowing where you might have imbalances allows for specific protocols to remove any overgrowth or toxicities, replace deficiencies and rebalance the body. Diet and supplements will make a dent in rebalancing, but when the root cause is stress, modifying lifestyle to decrease stress and have better coping mechanisms when stress arises is imperative.
This means learning to say no. Increasing self care. Figuring out ways to make day to day life simpler. Learning your human design and how to work with your energy. Resting more often than you think you need to. Getting quality sleep. Incorporating more playful activities. Working out a much less intensity. Spending more time in nature. Meditating. Breathwork. Yoga. Getting to the reason why you might be a perfectionist, workaholic, people pleaser or why you always have to be busy.
Everyone has different reasons for stress and responds differently to stress. Some of this is how we are genetically wired. Some of it is how we were raised. Some is due to the environment we are in. Some is due to imbalances in the body.
No matter the cause, there are ways to get back into balance. The first step is understanding what is going on in your unique body. The second step is wanting to change. The third step is taking action steps every day to change.
Anyone can feel better with the proper tests, tools, support, and desire to do so. I can give you the first three, but the rest is up to you.