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The Link Between Stress and Autoimmune Disorders


November 7, 2013 | Published by


To understand the connection between stress and autoimmune disorders, we’ll need to start with the adrenal glands–those two tiny, triangular glands atop your kidneys that defend your body from stress using the hormone cortisol. Cortisol performs many vital functions in the body, from responding to small cuts to helping the body rebound from a stressful event. Cortisol also helps your liver to release stored glucose (stored energy) which helps you to maintain a smooth even flow of energy throughout the day. That is why many people with auto-immune problems are so tired.

High or chronic stress can lead to eventual depletion of adrenal function, which results in the body’s inability to counter inflammation. In an auto-immune reaction, white blood cells attack parts of your body as if they were the enemy. In most auto-immune reactions, the amount of cortisol your body produces isn’t enough for the degree of reaction taking place. In fact, most people who suffer from autoimmune disorders have multiple hormone imbalances, including adrenal and thyroid hormones.

In most cases, the adrenal glands need to be optimized first, leading to repletion, steady energy and eventual recovery. Adrenal recovery is a process akin to running a marathon. The process will take time, more for some, so patience is required by all. With correct treatment, many patients will find some improvement in their adrenal health a matter of weeks, some in months, depending on their motivation to improve their health, the degree of pre-existing damage as well as the clinical skills of their health professional. The process can take anywhere from 2 months to 3 years even in the best of hands. My guide to improve adrenal function and reduce inflammation

I’d like you to bear in mind that auto-immunity is a long marathon, and your recovery should not be expected to be “a walk in the park.” You will not wake up in a week and be 100%. Remember this: it probably took a few years of slowly declining health to get here in the first place. Pace yourself and work on your overall health in small steps, gaining new ground gradually over time. Frustration and disappointments are very common and normal in clinical practice, so don’t beat yourself up! Patience is the key, and during the recovery process, most, if not all, will go through a roller coaster type ride with advances and setbacks.

dr eric bakkerAbout the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website:  You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos:  Dr. Bakker’s Blog:

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  • Debby Gordon says:

    I have Hoshiomotos thyroid disease. Can this be repaired? I have changed my diet and exercise regularly. I have been given the impression that this type of thyroid condition is irreversible. I take synthroid also.
    Thank you

    • Hi Debby,

      Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is manageable with thyroid hormone treatments, like Synthroid, but currently is not reversible. Diet and lifestyle changes can also help. As with most autoimmune conditions, keeping inflammation down can help as well. Managing your diet and stress can also help with this. We hope this helps–thanks for writing!

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