Dr. Emma Stokes uses a functional medicine lab based approach to health focused on addressing six common conditions – weight gain, fatigue, depression, female hormone, digestive problems, and skin conditions – through restoring the 3 main body systems: hormones, digestion and detoxification.
Hormones act as the command and control system of the body and regulate energy production, fat burning and mood. Hormonal imbalances are common among people suffering from weight issues, fatigue and depression. Most cases of hormonal imbalance are a secondary response to a primary stress, whether it is emotional stress, physiological stress due to pain and inflammation, or dietary stress. In general, if the stress can be addressed with diet changes, correction of chronic inflammatory conditions and support for emotional health, the need for continued hormonal support is eliminated.
In your hormonal system, the adrenal glands produce and regulate your stress hormones. Normally, when the stress dissipates, the glands have time to rest and prepare for the next stressful event. However, if your stress levels remain chronically high, your body will remain locked in a state of stress. If your stress hormone levels remain elevated for extended periods of time, your body’s ability to recover can be reduced, and the ability of your adrenals to make stress hormones can be compromised. Under chronic stress conditions, the adrenals eventually “burn out.” At this point, the adrenals become fatigued and can no longer sustain an adequate response to stress. Once the glands have been depleted of their ability to produce stress hormones, it becomes more and more difficult for the body to recover. Constant fatigue and low-level depression can appear in otherwise emotionally healthy people.
Stress hormone depletion also impacts the female hormones progesterone and estrogen, as well as the predominant male hormone, testosterone. Since sex hormone levels drop as stress hormone levels drop, sex drive diminishes in both men and women. In both men and women, hormonal symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, sweet cravings and headaches can be related to the failure of the adrenals to adapt to stress. Female hormone symptoms such as menstrual cramping, infertility, night sweats and hot flashes can also be related to adrenal insufficiency. Many women feel they are on an emotional roller coaster with their female hormones, and testosterone levels in men also suffer as a result of weak adrenal output.
The digestive tract is responsible for our vitality via the breakdown and absorption of every nutrient that fuels our trillions of cells. Problems with the digestive system are typically experienced as bloating, indigestion, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Many people have experienced gastrointestinal discomfort for so long that they have adjusted to it and think that their system’s poor function is normal. With healthy digestive function a person will feel energized and revitalized after a meal for several hours and will not experience any cravings for sweets.
The foundation of good health lies in proper digestive function. If you are not able to digest and absorb nutrients, your overall health will suffer. Assimilation of vitamins, minerals, proteins and essential fatty acids from the foods you eat is required to keep you healthy. Low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes are common problems due to poor diets and high stress levels. In addition, an imbalance in the healthy organisms that inhabit the intestinal tract can be caused by parasitic infections, bacterial overgrowth, or invasive yeast often referred to as candida. Hidden inflammatory conditions can also interfere with digestion. Did you know that the majority of your immune system lies within your intestinal lining? The lining of your gastrointestinal tract is your first line of defense from invading pathogens. If this lining is compromised from years of faulty digestive function, you will be more susceptible to invasion from pathogens, parasites, and infections.
The detoxification system refers to the body’s pathways for eliminating harmful toxins such as mercury, various chemicals and the products that result from the breakdown of alcohol or medications. Our modern world is creating a level of chemical and heavy metal exposure that is taxing our detoxification system.
Your liver is at the center of your body’s detoxification system. The liver is an amazing organ, responsible for filtering toxins out of your blood. Our bodies must handle and process toxins from many sources. One major source of toxic exposure is through the digestive tract. High fat diets, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, artificial sweetener consumption and the use of medications contribute to the total burden placed on the liver. Hormones and antibiotics fed to animals, preservatives and dyes used in foods you eat can all cause serious symptoms and side effects. Heavy metal toxicity from dental fillings, contaminated food and water, and other environmental exposure also add to the total toxic load on the body. In addition, everything you apply to your skin or expose yourself to in your environment must pass through your liver, where it is must be neutralized and excreted.
An overworked liver can become clogged, causing toxins to back up and recirculate into the bloodstream. Inadequate detoxification leads to allergies, asthma, joint pain, skin problems, headaches, inability to concentrate, and alcohol intolerance. Inadequate detoxification leads to accelerated aging and promotes the onset of degenerative diseases. Despite all the work it has to do everyday, the liver has an amazing ability to regenerate.
These three body systems all interact with one another. For example, if you eat a food you are reactive to it will cause inflammation in the GI tract which impacts normal digestion and absorption of nutrients. The inflammation generates a hormonal response and as the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol rises, immune function lowers and your sex hormone levels drop. All this can happen simply because you had a pancake breakfast and a large glass of orange juice!