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The three body system approach to stress

Ah stress! It is the effects of stress that wreak havoc on our body the most. What's interesting about stress is that it is all in the perception of the event. Some people find flying stressful, some don't. Some people get stressed out by roller coasters while others don't. Same event. Different response.

Those events have a typical stress response. Short duration. Cortisol goes up, the stress is over and then cortisol drops to normal. It's how the stress response was designed to function. What I am referring to is long term continuous stress such as work, relationships and finances. What happens in these types of situations is that the demand for cortisol goes up but doesn't drop. Your body continues to produce cortisol until it cannot. Once the precursors for making cortisol are depleted then cortisol drops to a low level. This is called a negative feedback loop. With cortisol now low havoc ensues.

Cortisol is a glucocorticosteroid. It travels in the blood and almost every cell has a receptor for it so its effects on the body are quite diverse. It helps regulate your metabolism, regulate blood sugar, controls salt and water balances, influence the brain hormones, affect inflammation and influence blood pressure to name but a few things. It's kind of a big deal.

When cortisol is high or low the effects on the body are significant. These are but a few of the conditions that are influenced by cortisol; Fatigue, weight gain/loss, anxiety/depression, muscle weakness, dizziness (especially with going from lying to sitting or sitting to standing), blood sugar regulation, osteoporosis, inflammation and memory.

Stress is the underlying cause of the Big 5 issues commonly seen in our practice. In a 2016 study performed by the Mayo Clinic and Dr. Kalish, patients with the Big 5 symptoms of fatigue, depression, weight gain, digestive issues and female hormone issues were treated using the Kalish Method with positive results. Let's take a look at how the three body systems relate to stress.


When stress occurs your bodies cortisol rises and your body produces more of it. Over time the body's ability to make cortisol decreases and it is unable to produce as much as is used. Over time the levels of cortisol and another hormone called DHEA start to drop. Using saliva testing the lab can measure how much DHEA you have and how much cortisol your body produces during a 24 hour period. Dr. Richart also looks at something called diurnal rhythm. Cortisol levels should be at their highest when you awaken, drop quickly before lunch and then slowly decrease until it's time for bed. Stress can throw off the amounts of cortisol and DHEA produced by the body and the normal diurnal rhythm.


Stress impacts the digestive system as well. Abnormalities in cortisol production may lead to increased permeability in the digestive tract. This allows pathogens to enter the system and digestive contents to exit the system that should not. Leaky gut, food sensitivities, dysbiosis, irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO and other infections may all occur. Using stool testing the lab will look for abnormalities within your digestive system including gut pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and others. Abnormalities in secretory immunoglobulin A, or sigA as it's commonly known, can greatly influence our immunity. The lab will measure the levels of this important marker.


Toxins are substances that we can neither digest or assimilate. Your liver and gallbladder are the main workhorses of detoxification. Synthetic chemicals, excess hormones, heavy metals, sugar, processed foods, contaminants in our air and water are but a few of the things your detox system eliminates. Stress adversely affects the detox system's ability to do its work. Measuring organic acids in the urine allows us to assess how the system is working.


There are many things you can do to reduce stress. Dietary changes, stress reducing activities such as meditation and tai chi, exercise and the short term use of supplements to name but a few. Dr. Richart assesses the effects of stress and creates treatment programs that are designed to assist the body's ability to heal and handle stress and the symptoms associated with it. Contact our office for a complimentary fifteen minute consultation with Dr. Richart to discuss your condition.