Medicines That Stress Hormones

Mar 28, 2012 No Comments by

Your body hormone production is delicately balanced, so be aware of prescription that could set negative reactions in motion….

Our stress response system is extremely complex and is influence by numerous factors, such as age, gender, ethnicity, childhood experiences, personality and occupation. Studies have shown that chronic stress can adversely affect health in many ways, leading to physical and emotional symptoms, as well as contributing to the formation of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although medical practices around the world are gradually embracing a more integrative approach, many professionals still reach for their prescription pads when faced with a patient who suffers from chronic fatigue or depression. This approach may offer temporary or partial relief; however, many of these medications can have untoward effects on the body, including its ability to function normally under stressful conditions. In fact, many of the over 4,000 prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medications and illicit drugs can inhibit the body’s ability to make stress hormones, such as cortisol.

Medicine That Affects Perceptions

Imagine yourself in a stressful situation, such as having a fight with your spouse. One area of your brain processes the cues in your environment and then sends messages to another part of your brain which interprets the messages as harmless or stressful. If your brain perceives you to be in imminent danger, cortisol and the other fight or flight hormones are released.

Now, imagine you’re in the same situation but under the influence of a medication that affects your perception of stress. What happens to cortisol production now? Studies have shown that individual who take antidepressants or chronic pain medicine have a reduction in stress-induced cortisol release. Certainly, in some situations, it’s potentially beneficial, such as when high, cortisol is the cause of major depression, a condition associated with low cortisol, prescribing the same medication may be ineffective or even detrimental.

Medicine That Affects Cortisol Production

Cortisol, as well as of the other steroid hormones (testosterone, progesterone, DHEA etc), are manufactured from cholesterol. The conversion of cholesterol to cortisol requires four different chemicals or enzymes. Various medications, like those used to lower cholesterol, can affect this process. For example, how are we going to make a loaf of bread (cortisol) without enough flour (cholesterol)? The enzymes responsible for converting cholesterol into cortisol can be turned up, down or even off by certain medications. Progestin-containing oral contraceptives have been implicated in lowering cortisol production, presumably from their negative effects on the production of progesterone, another important ingredient is our cortisol production recipe.

Medicine That Influences Circulating Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a lipophilic (drawn to fatty tissue) hormone and isn’t able to circulate in the bloodstream in its free form. In order to circulate, cortisol must bind to a protein called cortisol binding globulin (CBG). I often use the analogy of passengers (cortisol molecules) who require vehicles (CBG molecules) for transport. However, the more vehicles that are available, the more passengers will get into them and the fewer there’ll be available to work. So essentially, the more CBG driving around your bloodstream, the less free cortisol will be available to so its job.

Not only can some medicine indirectly influence cortisol by affecting the amount of CBG, it can also affect how tightly CBG will bind to cortisol. For instance, body temperature influence how well CBG can hold onto cortisol. When there’s an elevation in body temperature, such as a fever, CBG will release more cortisol so it can modulate the immune response to attacks the cause of the fever. If you take anti-inflammatory medication to bring down the fever, then CBGwill hold onto cortisol more tightly, leaving less of it available in the bloodstream to do its immune-balancing job.

Medicine That Inhibits Adrenal Cortisol Production

The production of hormones is tightly regulated. structures in the brain (the hypothalamus and the pituitary) control when and how much a particular gland will produce of its respective hormones. If these areas detect too much of a hormone in the body, they’ll turn down the messages sent to the glands to reduce production of the relevant hormones. Under normal circumstances, properly functioning adrenal glands produce cortisol in response to these commands. If an oral, topical or inhaled steroid medications is introduced, central command receives word that hormones are coming in from another source and will tell the adrenal to halt cortisol production in order to protect the body from the harmful effects of excess cortisol. In the short-term, this may take a longer periods, cortisol production plummets. To add insult to injury, even if steroids are weaned gradually, it may take a long time for normal cortisol production to resume.

So, the message here is that, although medicines are often necessary, doctors and patients need to aware of the potential negative effects they can have on the stress response system.

Health And Nutrition
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