The Symptoms and Risks of Hormonal Imbalance

It may feel as though you are simply tired or upset after an unusually stressful or busy week. With a hormonal imbalance, a person may suffer from anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and poor concentration. Irritability and mood swings are also quite common. Hormonal balance is critical for our emotional well-being, so radical changes in the way we feel about ourselves and interact with others may indicate a problem.

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Because hormones affect so many different aspects of how our bodies operate, the outward symptoms tend to be varied and nonspecific. It may feel as though you are simply tired or upset after an unusually stressful or busy week. With a hormonal imbalance, a person may suffer from anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and poor concentration. Irritability and mood swings are also quite common. Hormonal balance is critical for our emotional well-being, so radical changes in the way we feel about ourselves and interact with others may indicate a problem.

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Some physical indicators of a possible hormonal imbalance include sudden weight gain, acne, hair loss, night sweats, and reduced libido. Women may experience intense premenstrual symptoms, vaginal dryness, yeast infections, and hot flashes. Some women also suffer from unusually heavy, irregular, or painful periods. Infertility may also be the result of a hormonal imbalance.

If a hormonal imbalance is suspected, blood, saliva, or urine tests can determine whether hormones are within a normal range.

Some of the risk factors associated with hormonal imbalance are emotional. Untreated hormonal imbalance can lead to intense anxiety, depression, and lethargy. Irritability, inability to concentrate, and mood swings may also take a significant emotional toll on both the patients and those around them.

There are also numerous physical risks associated with hormonal imbalance, the severity depending on which hormones are not at ideal levels and how long the imbalance is sustained. The dangers of insufficient insulin, for example, are well-documented in studies of diabetic patients. If insulin levels are not controlled, the blood sugar imbalance can lead to serious complications, including nerve damage, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and blindness.

The adrenal glands above the kidneys are divided into two structures that each produce different hormones, all involved in regulating essential body functions. The adrenal cortex synthesizes corticosteroid hormones, which help control metabolism, blood electrolyte levels, inflammation, stress response, and immune response. The other structure, the adrenal medulla, is the source of several hormones that communicate with the nervous system, including adrenaline, nor adrenaline, and dopamine. Adrenal hormone imbalance can result in depression, fatigue, dehydration, and susceptibility to infection.

In the case of hypothyroidism, where the thyroid is producing insufficient hormones, untreated patients may develop heart disease and high cholesterol. Pregnant women with hypothyroidism may have significant complications with their pregnancies, including premature labor, anemia, pre-eclampsia, and other conditions that may threaten the life of their baby.

As middle age approaches, women are at risk for hormonal imbalances associated with the onset of menopause. During this time, the ovaries cease to function, inducing an imbalance in estrogen and progesterone. Untreated, these imbalances put women at risk for osteoporosis, breast and uterine cancer, and heart disease.

Stress Kills

We’ve all heard it, it’s been all over the news lately, and the more science delves into the physiological reactions in our bodies, the more it’s realized that:  Stress does kill.

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It’s not really stress itself that does so much damage, it’s our response to stress.   For that reason, it is vitally important that in tough times you keep up whatever stress reduction programs work best for you, whether it’s running, Yoga, kickboxing, or getting regular massage sessions.

Times are tough right now.   Stress from money concerns is one of the biggest of all stressors and affects your relationships with family, co-workers and friends.

It’s not possible to cut all stress out of your life, and we don’t need to.   Stress, of itself, is not the bad guy; it’s our response to stress that can be so deadly.   Let’s examine what occurs in your body when it’s stressed out:

How Stress Affects the Brain

Stress creates excessive levels of cortisol in the brain, leading to the destruction of neurons, decreased short term and contextual memory and poor regulation of the hormonal response to stress.

How Stress Affects the Immune System

Stress affects the immune system by increasing sympthetic activity and decreasing cellular immunity.   Immune cells migrate to different parts of the body and can worsen autoimmune and allergic conditions.   Over time, this suppresses the body’s ability to fight off infection.

How Stress Affects the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Systems

The effects of stress can create significant damage to the cardiovascular system by increasing the risk of coronary artery disease, elevating blood pressure, increasing artherosclerosis (fat deposits in blood vessel walls), increasing the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), increasing the risk of diabetes and increasing the likelihood of obesity.

The Physiological Response to Stress

Seventy-five to ninety percent of all doctors visits are due to stress-related ailments and disorders.   Chronic stress leads to an out of balance biochemistry with elevated cortisol and suppressed serotonin.   The biochemical markers of stress in turn lead to ill health.   Stress plays a major causative role in both physical and mental health.

Stress has been linked to:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Breakdowns in the immune system
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Cardiovascular disease

How Massage Helps

Some of the benefits of massage include

  • Stabilizing your nervous system
  • Decreasing pain
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Decreasing anxiety and depression
  • Increasing your energy and endurance
  • Increasing your strength and resilience
  • Improving the functioning of your nervous system
  • Improving your body’s ability to detoxify
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving posture, range of motion and flexibility
  • Improving dexterity and fine motor skills
  • Improving balance
  • Improving attention span, concentration, memory, creativity and learning efficiency

Massage increases the oxygen levels in your brain, keeps your internal organs functioning their best and nurtures your skin, all of which helps to slow the aging process.

Stress sneaks up on all of us.  Before you know it, you’ve got tight muscles or reduced range of motion from muscle tension.  The most common reaction I get from my massage clients is “I feel like a new woman/man.  I had no idea all that was going on in my body.”  

Regular massage sessions will play a huge part  in how healthy you are, how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year.   Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.  Massage is much more than feeling good for the moment.   The effects of massage are cumulative – the more often you receive massage, the more your health benefits.

Stress, Humor and Massage

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Have you ever noticed that when you lose your sense of humor, life becomes so much more difficult?  The element that most contributes to the loss of humor is stress.  Stress from relationships, stress from your job, stress from life.

In order to maintain balance in our lives and in our relationships, we need to maintain our humor.  My own first line of defense against loss of humor is a really good 90-minute stress-busting massage!

A healthy lifestyle is an essential companion to any stress reduction program.  You can enhance your general health and stress resistance by getting regular exercise, “eating the rainbow” and avoiding excessive alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.

Exercise in combination with stress management techniques is extremely important: as an effective distraction from stressful events, and by directly blunting the harmful effects of stress on blood pressure and protect the heart. 

Research shows that humor is a very effective mechanism for coping with acute stress.  Keeping a sense of humor during difficult situations is a common recommendation of stress management experts.  Laughter not only releases the tension of pent-up feelings and helps a person maintain perspective, but it also appears to have actual physical effects that reduce stress hormone levels.

Making a plan and do your best to execute it successfully.  But, when you feel your balance or sense of humor slipping, it’s time to get in for some table time.  If a stress-busting massage isn’t helping as much as you feel it should, it may be time to schedule a holistic health consultation where we’ll examine your diet, exercise, stress levels and stress management to create a plan to better serve you.

Managing Stress in a Healthy Way

Stress affects all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions.

Stress affects us all.  You may notice symptoms of stress when disciplining your kids, during busy times at work, when managing your finances, of when coping with a challenging relationship.  Stress is everywhere.  And while a little stress is OK (in fact some stress is actually beneficial), too much stress can wear you down and make you sick, both mentally and physically.

One of the greatest benefits of massage therapy is stress relief.  Humans have always been aware, it seems, of how detrimental unresolved stress can be.  Various herbs, aromatherapy, alcohol and drugs have been used throughout our history to ease the mental, emotional and physical stress that builds in the body, with touch therapy being the #1 choice throughout history.

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The first step to controlling stress is to know and recognize the symptoms of stress.  But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think.  Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we’re at the breaking point.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations – whether real or perceived.  When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury.  This reaction is known as “fight or flight” or the stress response.  During stress response, your heart begins to race, breathing quickens, muscles tighten and blood pressure rises.  Your body is ready act.  This is how you protect yourself.

Stress means different things to different people.  What causes stress in one person may be of little concern to another.  Some people are better able to handle stress than others.  And, not all stress is bad.  In small doses, stress can help you accomplish tasks and prevent you from getting hurt.  For example, stress is what gets you to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you.  That’s a good thing.

Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress.  But, we are not equipped to handle long-term chronic stress without ill consequences.

Symptoms of Stress

Stress affects all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability and physical health.  No part of the body is immune.  But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary.  Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions.  You may experience any of the following:

Emotional symptoms of stress include:

·      Becoming easily agitated, frustrated and moody

·      Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control

·      Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind

·      Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless and depressed

·      Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of stress include:

·      Low energy

·      Headaches

·      Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation and nausea

·      Aches, pains and tense muscles

·      Chest pain and rapid heartbeat

·      Insomnia

·      Frequent colds and infections

·      Loss of sexual desire and/or ability

·      Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet

·      Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing

·      Clenched jaw and grinding teeth 

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

·      Cognitive worrying

·      Racing thoughts

·      Forgetfulness and disorganization

·      Inability to focus

·      Poor judgment

·      Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side 

Behavioral symptoms of stress include:

·      Changes in appetite – either not eating or eating too much

·      Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities

·      Increased use of alcohol, drugs or cigarettes

·      Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting and pacing

 

Consequences of Long-Term Stress

A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about.  Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including: 

·      Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders

·      Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and stroke

·      Obesity and other eating disorders

·      Menstrual problems

·      Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and premature ejaculation in men and loss of sexual desire in both men and women

·      Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema and permanent hair loss

·      Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and irritable colon

Help is available 

Stress is part of life.  What matters most is how you handle it.  The best thing you can do to prevent stress overload and the health consequences that comes with it is to know your stress symptoms.

If you or a loved one is feeling overwhelmed by stress, it may be time to start a program of regular massage or arrange for a holistic health consultation to help you identify your triggers and symptoms.

Few experiences rival a full-body massage for pleasure and stress relief.  Word on the health benefits of massage therapy for stress relief has spread.  In 2006, 39 million Americans (one in six adults) had at least one massage, according to a nationwide survey by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).  And, you’ll find the benefits of massage therapy for stress relief are only the beginning. 

“Americans are looking to massage for much more than just relaxation,” says Mary Beth Braun, President of the AMTA.  Massage therapy can be effective for a variety of conditions, including arthritis, back pain, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, circulatory problems, injury recovery, postural deviations and structural imbalances. 

Call me now at (619) 818-5397 to schedule your next massage now! 

Please note:  Massage is not a substitute for medical advice.  In times of extreme stress response, you may want your doctor to evaluate your symptoms to rule out other conditions.

Why Everyone Needs a Massage

Bodywork therapies can help correct the postural imbalances, nerve impingements, inflammation in the tissues and trigger points caused by overuse of these thechnological wonders, as well as reducing the symptoms caused by nerve compression due to improper posture. 

From smartphones to tablets to laptop computers, you can’t look anywhere today without seeing someone on one of these devices and sometimes more than one.  I constantly see the postural issues related to using these devices which will eventually cause pain.

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Narrow keyboards cause strain on the hands and wrists.  Improperly carrying a laptop can cause neck, shoulder and arm pain.  The manner in which smartphone and tablets are held can also cause problems.  In order to relieve strain in one area, you may be causing strain in another.  Placing the device at a good height to avoid neck strain, for instance, can mean straining the arms as they elevate a tablet or smartphone to eye level; but lowering the device to protect the arms can compromise the neck through excessive flexion.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome are two issues that people in an office setting may face and, with these conditions, come a variety of symptoms that massage therapy can help relieve – pain being but one.  “Pain, fatigue, weakness, and stiffness in the affected areas are the most common symptoms of these injuries,” explains Deborah Kimmit, a massage therapist and educator from Missoula, Montana.  “Numbness and tingling, as well as trigger point referrals are also common.”

Along with overuse, Kimmit also sees poor posture being the cause of painful conditions affecting the neck, shoulder and back.  “For example, a forward head posture can lead to neck pain as the person unconsciously reaches forward with the head to better see the screen,” she says.  Additionally, improper posture can sometimes be the result of other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome.  “Sometimes, improper posture occurs because the body is trying to find a comfortable position,” Kimmit says.

Bodywork therapies can help correct the postural imbalances, nerve impingements, inflammation in the tissues and trigger points caused by overuse of these thechnological wonders, as well as reducing the symptoms caused by nerve compression due to improper posture.  These imbalances are not limited to the neck, shoulder and arms, but are widespread throughout the pelvic girdle, abdomen, the low back, mid back and shoulder girdles as well as the arms, upper back and neck, sometimes even the legs will be involved.

Knowing which muscles to release, which to stimulate, and which to leave alone is key to correcting these postural imbalances.  

If you are having problems from overusing your computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet or even your gaming console, perhaps it’s time to schedule a session to find out what can be done to help you.  

Call now to schedule!  (619) 818-5397.

 

Preventing the Damaging Effects of Stress

Managing stress and overcoming its affects are critical for achieving and maintaining optimal health.  My mantra has always been:  Eat well, exercise properly and manage your stress for optimal health.

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Eat a well-rounded whole food diet full of fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, staying away from packaged, prepared and genetically modified foods, and drinking plenty of clean, filtered water.

Exercise for balance, as well as strength and cardio.  Our bodies and nervous systems were designed for movement.  Humans are unique in our ability to stand up and walk around on two legs.  In order to accomplish that, our spines curve in and out which allows us to balance in an upright stance.  Advances in technology, however, require many of us to sit far too much and use our bodies in ways that were never intended causing repetitive strain disorders and muscular imbalances which cause skeletal imbalances.  So, when you exercise, it’s important to balance the muscles used repetitively by focusing on their counterparts.  Or cross train.

Stress management is a huge subject, because the causes of stress are so complex.  Stress comes in many forms: physical, mental and emotional.  Physical stress can be caused by such things as poor diet, injuries and environmental factors such as smog.  Mental stress may come from your job, and emotional stress may come from relationships, or even a buildup of other types of stress in the body.  The important thing to remember is that the body itself does not differentiate between the various types of stress – all of it is handled in exactly the same way: stored in your tissues somewhere.

The first step to controlling stress is to know and recognize the symptoms of stress.  But recognizing stress symptoms may be harder than you think.  Most of us are so used to being stressed, we often don’t know we are stressed until we’re at the breaking point.

And, while a little stress every now and then is nothing to be concerned about, ongoing, chronic stress, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems.

We all experience some form of stress in life.  Mental tensions, frustrations, and insecurity cause the most damage.  Hormones released by stress shrink the vessels inhibiting circulation.  A stressed mind and body means the heart works harder.  Breathing becomes rapid and shallow and digestion slows.  Nearly every bodily process is degraded.  Studies show stress can cause migraines, high blood pressure, depression, etc.  In fact, researchers estimate 80% or more of disease is stress related.

And yet, the antidote to stress is readily and easily available:  Massage Therapy.  Massage helps counteract the effects of stress.  Massage knows no age limits.  It works wonders on the young, the old and the in-between.  It can be especially helpful for the elderly experiencing the effects of aging which can include thinner and drier skin, reduced tissue elasticity, loss of mobility, slower nervous system response, decreased bone mass, sleeplessness, constipation, and a less efficient immune system.

Getting a massage does you a world of good.  Getting frequent massage does even more!  This is the beauty of bodywork.  Taking part in this form of regularly scheduled self-care can play a huge part in how healthy you’ll be and how youthful you’ll remain with each passing year.  Budgeting time and money for bodywork at consistent intervals is truly an investment in your health.  As a wise man has said “The best time to start taking care of yourself was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

How Hypertension Affects your Health

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called a “silent disease” because you usually don’t know that you have it. There may be no symptoms or signs. Nonetheless, it damages the body and eventually may cause problems like heart disease

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It’s important to regularly monitor your blood pressure, especially if yours has ever been high or above the “normal” range, or if you have a family history of hypertension. Because hypertension can cause heart disease, you may also need to be tested for heart disease.

Measuring Blood Pressure

You can get your blood pressure measured by a health care provider, at a pharmacy or you can purchase a blood pressure monitor for your home.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways: systolic and diastolic.

  • Systolic blood pressure is the pressure during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure between heartbeats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is written systolic over diastolic (for example, 120/80 mm Hg, or “120 over 80”). According to the most recent guidelines, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Pre-hypertension consists of blood pressure that is 120-139/80-89. Blood pressure that is 140/90 or greater is high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Blood pressure may increase or decrease, depending on your age, heart condition, emotions, activity, and the medications you take. One high reading does not mean you have the diagnosis of high blood pressure. It is necessary to measure your blood pressure at different times while resting comfortably for at least five minutes to find out your typical value.

In addition to measuring your blood pressure, you need to take into account your medical history (whether you’ve had heart problems before), assess your risk factors (whether you smoke, have high cholesterol, diabetes etc.), and your family history (whether any members of your family have had high blood pressure or heart disease).

If you suspect you have high blood pressure, you need to consult your doctor.  If heart disease is suspected, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): A test that measures the electrical activity, rate, and rhythm of your heartbeat via electrodes attached to your arms, legs, and chest. The results are recorded on graph paper.
  • Echocardiogram:   This is a test that uses ultrasound waves to provide pictures of the heart’s valves and chambers so the pumping action of the heart can be studied and measurement of the chambers and wall thickness of the heart can be made.
  • Cardiac stress test: During this test you may exercise on a stationary bicycle or treadmill to increase your heart rate while EKG readings are taken. A stress test can also be combined with an echocardiogram or nuclear medicine X-ray to get additional information.
  • Cardiac catheterization: A catheter, a small flexible tube, is inserted into the femoral artery in your groin or one of the arteries in your arm and guided to the coronary arteries. Your doctor can locate any blockages in the arteries and can also observe pressure and blood flow in the heart.
  • Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves are used to look for blockages in blood vessels in the neck (carotid arteries) or other parts of your body.

Prevent Hypertension with Regular Massage

Stress reactions require major rerouting of blood throughout the body. This is largely controlled by the speed of the heart rate and the tightness or looseness of the various arteries (the tubes that carry blood away from the heart). So the cardiovascular system is particularly sensitive to changes when we’re under stress, and it suffers when that stress is prolonged.

There are many stress-related disorders of the cardiovascular system, and many of these problems are closely interrelated. In other words, having one cardiovascular problem can greatly increase your risk of having others.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a situation where the arteries are chronically tight, rather than flexible and elastic. Having them tighten down increases the force with which blood moves through them, just as squeezing your thumb over a garden hose increases the force with which the water moves through it. Long-term consequences of untreated high blood pressure are very serious; arteries become prone to damage (atherosclerosis), which will raise the risk of blood clots and heart attacks or stroke.

All of these are life-threatening problems that can be prevented or ameliorated by taking action to reduce stress in your life.  Daily exercise, regular massage therapy, and good nutrition contribute a great deal to lessening your stress while prolonging your life.  Swedish massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure, while sports massage and trigger point therapy raised blood pressure.