Real Life Wellness: Your Brain and Stress

By Bill Hemmer
We all have stress. Mental, chemical, physical and spiritual stress invade our lives every day. There is no way around it. The effect that stress has on our brain depends on many factors. We talked last week about the 36 or more different holes that can develop from lifestyle problems, but what effect do these holes have on your brain and what can you do today to minimize these effects?

If your brain had to process all of the information that surrounds you every day, you would go mad. There is no way your brain could recognize and interpret the millions of different inputs. These millions of different stimuli are filtered in the base of the brain. This area of the brain is called the midbrain.

The midbrain contains a very special area called the hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus is the gate keeper of stimulus going to the upper parts of your brain to be processed. Millions of different stimuli are filtered every day by your hypothalamus and only very important pieces of information will make it to the top of your brain. This is what keeps you from going crazy by not letting so much information get to the upper brain.

Your hypothalamus is designed to tell your upper brain what is important and then tell the rest of your body what the upper brain has decided to do with the important information that reaches it. An example is driving your car to your friend’s house. You have the location to your friend’s house remembered as a memory in your upper brain. So when you decide to go there, that memory is allowed to pass through the hypothalamus down to the rest of the body so you can physically drive the car to their house.

When the amount of stress you are under continues to add up over time and your hypothalamus becomes tired is when things can go haywire. The hypothalamus is full of hormone receptors for cortisol. Cortisol is your main stress, sex and anti-inflammation hormone. After years of intense stress, the cortisol receptors in the hypothalamus can get burned out. When this happens, too many pieces of information pass through the hypothalamus and get to the upper brain.

Too much information in the upper brain leads to anxiety, irritability and sometimes depression. You get jumpy. You get anxious. You get forgetful. Often times you begin to wonder what is wrong with you. You know something isn’t right but you just can’t put your finger on what it is.

Luckily, you can reverse this process. If you start eating better, exercising, eating less sugar and getting more sleep, your hypothalamus can regenerate itself. Sometimes, you need more help than just diet, exercise and lifestyle changes. There are specific herbs called adaptogens that have been used for thousands of years to combat this type of problem. These herbs include: Ashwagandha, Rehmannia, Eleuthro and Korean Ginseng. All of these herbs can be used safely and effectively to rebuild your hypothalamus.

So, don’t think your brain is gone for good. As long as you have breath in your body, you can heal.

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