Lets Talk about Stress

In the future, stress may come to be seen as the primary contributing cause of most disease.

Research continues to link stress to more and more symptoms and diseases, both acute and

chronic. Stress is inevitable in today’s world and, of course, we need a certain amount to

function. The key is to be able to manage our level of stress.

What is stress? It is our reaction to our external environment as well as our inner thoughts

and feelings. Stress in essence is our body’s natural response to dangers, the “fight or flight”

mechanisms—the body’s preparedness to do battle or flee from danger. This response

involves a complex biochemical-hormonal process, which we will discuss shortly. Stress in

today’s world is mainly a result of continuous high demands that are imposed on us by work,

family, and lifestyle, or that we impose upon ourselves through our desire to accomplish.

Other stresses come in the form of poor dietary and exercise regimes, including the use of

sugars and stimulants. Mild stress acts as a useful motivation for activity and productivity.

But when the stresses in our life are too extreme or too many, this may result in all kinds of

problems. Some people consistently overreact to their day-to-day life. However, most of us

might be overwhelmed only when we have an increased intensity or number of stresses, such

as excessive demands all at once leading to a continuous feeling of not having enough time

or energy to do what we feel we must do. Others respond stressfully to intense emotional

experiences, personal changes, extreme weather, or overexposure to electronic stimuli, all of

Stress can generate many symptoms and diseases, mediated by changes in immune

function, hormonal response, and biochemical reactions, which then influence body functions

in our digestive tract and our cardiovascular, neurological, or musculo-skeletal systems. A

wide variety of problems such as headache, backache, and infection, even heart disease

or cancer in the long-term, may result. Our brain and pituitary gland respond to stress by

releasing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This stimulates our adrenals to increase

production of the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Other hormones that

affect metabolism and water balance may also be released. Adrenaline, and noradrenaline

are the main stimuli to the stress response. They stimulate the heart, increase blood pressure

and heart rate, and constrict certain blood vessels to increase blood flow to the muscles and

brain and to decrease it to the digestive tract and internal organs, preparing us for the “battle”

with the “danger,” wherever it is. Adrenaline also raises blood sugar, as it stimulates the liver

to produce and release more glucose (and cholesterol) into the blood so our cells will have

the energy we need. All of this results in an increased rate of metabolism. Stress experienced

around the time of eating thus diverts the energy needed for efficient digestion.

During times of increased stress and greater demand, our body’s nutrients are used more

rapidly to meet the increased biochemical needs of metabolism, so we require increased

amounts of many of these nutrients. The diet and nutrient plan presented here is specifically

designed to reduce these negative biochemical effects of stress. There are also many

other important aspects of handling this modern-day problem, primarily psychological and

lifestyle approaches to stress management. Stress can occur at all levels of our being.

There are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual stress factors involved in almost all

diseases. Particular medical conditions that have a high stress component include asthma

and allergies, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal diseases, arthritis, and cancer. Surgery,

viral conditions, and environmental chemical exposure may be short-term problems with high

 

Physical stress — exercise, hard labour, birth, life changes, infection, injury, burns, surgery.

Chemical stress — environmental pollution such as exposure to pesticides and cleaning

solvents, and the personal use of chemicals, such as drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine

Mental/emotional/psychological stress — financial or career pressures, high responsibility,

long hours, perfectionism, anxiety, and worry, anger, fear, frustration, sadness, betrayal,

Nutritional stress — vitamin and mineral deficiencies, protein or fat excesses or deficiencies,

food allergies, intake of refined and processed food, stimulants, alcohol.

 

For each individual the stresses in their life will be different. For stress to arise and negatively

influence our health, we must experience something as a danger. When we do, anxiety is

generated, which we often experience as fear or a feeling of threat to our survival. If we view

stress positively, we see it as simply a survival response. But if we cannot handle the stress,

we may experience the symptoms and diseases of stress. Learning to adapt our attitude and

find suitable outlets for our stress is a very important long-range plan.

 

As stated earlier, the normal biochemical response to a sense of danger is stimulation of

the adrenal glands to release increased levels of hormones, particularly adrenaline and

noradrenaline. These are cardiovascular stimulants that increase heart rate, constrict blood

vessels, stimulate the brain, and affect every other body system to prepare it for “fight”

or “flight”—that is, handle the danger or hit the road. The problem comes in when there

is really no physical danger but our body reacts as if there were. Then, if greater physical

demands and activity do not provide an outlet for the increased adrenal activity, it may be

turned inward and play havoc with our physiology and organs, as well as with our emotions

Though all parts of our body are affected by stress, certain areas seem to be more sensitive

than others. The digestive tract is the most easily influenced, followed by the neurological and

circulatory systems and the muscles which accumulate some of the tensions as well as toxins

from metabolism. The psychological outlook and welfare of the individual are also strongly

affected by acute and chronic stress.

How the damage comes about involves the mechanisms of constant adrenal stimulation

along with free-radical production and immune suppression. Stress produces irritating

molecules that generate immunological changes, damage cells, and inflame organ and

blood vessel linings. Stress responses also “eat up” more important nutrients which can lead

to deficiencies and allow the other stress response changes to damage the tissues even

more. Stress has been shown to decrease protective antibodies and reduce the important T

lymphocytes that function in the cellular immune system. Chronic stress is clearly a culprit in

the generation of aging and degenerative diseases.

 

In addition to the increased demands on the adrenal cortex, certain mechanisms affect the

stomach and pancreas and thus our digestion. Stress initially increases stomach hydrochloric

acid production, leading to indigestion, heartburn, gastritis, and ulcer problems. With

increased acid levels, however, the pancreas is stimulated to release alkaline enzymes to

help balance the acidity. With chronic stress, this can lead to hypochlorhydria (low stomach

acid) and reduced function of the pancreas. This may result in poor digestion and assimilation

of nutrients and thus vitamin and mineral deficiencies as well as the development of food

allergies due to improper breakdown of the bulk foodstuffs and the subsequent absorption of

larger molecules, which may cause an immune reaction (food intolerance/allergy).

There is also a weakening of the adrenal response with chronic stress, whether the stress is

from regular stimulant and sugar intake or from other physical or emotional demands. When

the adrenals do not respond, we may have a more difficult time coping with the stress, and

when this inability to cope sets in deeply, we may feel like giving up. We might experience

depression, hopelessness, or even death, which can result from the serious diseases that

arise with a severely weakened immune system. That is why it is so important to avoid the

vicious cycle of trying to meet high demands by pushing ourselves with poor nourishment,

poor sleep, and lack of fun.

 

As daily stresses arrive at your door, there are three stages the adrenal glands go through.

Understanding these will help someone to identify their adrenal status.

(1) Alarm Reaction Stage. The initial response to stress is the alarm reaction or ‘flight or

fight’ response. This is the time that a mother can lift a car off her injured son. The adrenal

gland secretes adrenaline and other stress related hormones. This is designed to counteract

immediate danger by mobilising body resources for physical activity. The adrenal glands will

utilise its hormones to the point of depletion in this case. Needless to say, if the glands are

healthy entering this situation, the result is much better. At this stage both cortisol and DHEA

levels increase in line with adrenaline.

(2) Resistance Stage. This is the stage of prolonged stress and the demand on the glands

is continual. The adrenals can usually keep up with these demands, but the body has a more

difficult time recovering while in this stage. This stage occurs when we are required to cope

with an emotional crisis, fight infection or are continually exposed to dietary and exercise

stresses. Prolonged exposure to stress at this stage increases the risk of disease. Cortisol

levels are found to be increased while DHEA levels fall at this stage.

(3) Exhaustion Stage. The adrenals can no longer meet the stressful demands and this

individual now has evident signs and symptoms that need to be interpreted correctly and

resolved. The two major causes of exhaustion are loss of potassium ions and depletion of

cortisol and DHEA. When potassium is lost cells eventually die. Depressed cortisol and

DHEA results in low blood sugar levels. As a result cells are starved of energy.

The symptoms that might suggest adrenal gland weakness or fatigue are rather diverse.

Asthma, allergies, upper respiratory infections, hay fever, colitis, headaches, insomnia,

fatigue, fainting spells, dizziness, heart palpitations, mood swings and sugar cravings are

just a few. Unfortunately, most healthcare providers tend to treat these symptoms with

medications that hide them from your awareness. A chemical solution to the symptoms can

add fuel to an already ravaging fire, as artificial chemicals(drugs) tend to further weaken the

adrenal glands. This will generally increase the intensity of the symptomatic picture. Many

people resort to the use of stimulant drugs and sugars in an attempt to rectify their depleted

levels of energy. This leads to an anxiety state and the consequent use of depressant drugs

While hormone therapy has been around for some time, what is new is the attention centring

on DHEA and it’s sulfate, DHEA(s). A commonly overlooked aspect when speaking of

DHEA is the critical relationship between DHEA and cortisol, an important glucocorticoid

hormone synthesised by the adrenal cortex. Cortisols’ role in human health ranges from

promoting protein synthesis to mobilising glucose stores for use as energy. Cortisol is also

required in the production of prostaglandins, normal circulation, brain activity, helping prevent

inflammation and preventing accumulation of fat. However, under conditions of physiological

and psychological stress cortisol can be released in high amounts in response to the stress

stimulus. It is this increased cortisol production that is linked with obesity, suppressed thyroid

function and a host of other serious health consequences.

 

Effects of cortisol imbalance on health

1. LOW ENERGY: People who are constantly tired, have difficulty getting up in the morning

and suffer from energy slumps often have abnormal adrenal rhythms.

2. MUSCLE DYSFUNCTION: Excess cortisol decreases muscle protein synthesis and

reduces muscle mass. Reduced tissue repair and increased tissue breakdown can lead to

3. IMPAIRED BONE REPAIR: Cortisol inhibits hormones required for calcium deposition.

If night cortisol levels are elevated and morning levels high, bone growth and repair is

suppressed and one may become more prone to the osteoporotic process.

4. THYROID DYSFUNCTION: Hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body

temperature are often due to adrenal maladaption, such as elevated cortisol.

5. DEPRESSED IMMUNE SYSTEM: Several key aspects of immune function follow the

cortisol cycle. If this cycle is disrupted, especially evidencing elevated levels at night, then the

immune system is adversely affected.

6. IMPAIRED SLEEP QUALITY: Elevated night cortisol can interrupt entry into REM (Rapid

Eye Movement) sleep, the body’s regenerative sleep mode, reducing mental vitality and

7. POOR SKIN REGENERATION: Human skin is regenerated mostly at night. With higher

night cortisol levels, less skin regeneration take place.

8. IMPAIRED GROWTH HORMONE UPTAKE: Growth hormone production declines

rapidly after the age of about 24, relating directly on the effects of and symptoms of ageing.

Unfortunately, cortisol is a GH antagonist, and moderate elevations of cortisol after 10:00 pm,

9. SEX HORMONE IMBALANCE: Progesterone and cortisol have common cell receptor

sites. Elevated cortisol competes with progesterone in such a way as to reduce the

effectiveness of progesterone. Also, progesterone acts as a precursor to cortisol, and a s

such may be depleted as the body uses it to produce more cortisol in long term stress. Over

stimulation of the adrenal cortex can result in the overproduction of oestrogen. As a result

there is an overall imbalance in the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone. Many symptoms of

PMS and Menopause can be related to this imbalance.

 

 

Dietary and lifestyle recommendations

There are many positive things to do with regard to diet and lifestyle, as well as many

things to avoid. This program is designed to support adrenal function by counter acting and

reducing the negative biochemical and physiological effects of stress, and minimising the

specific stressing agents, such as the wide variety of drugs, both street and prescription.

Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol are all irritating drugs. Many over-the-counter and prescription

drugs may also cause physiological problems and irritate us physically or mentally. A diet

of high-nutrient foods is essential for people under stress, because stress increases cellular

activity which leads to increased nutrient usage. The resulting depletions may aggravate

the damaging effects of stress. Also, less food may be consumed during times of stress,

as the digestive tract may be a little upset; and the higher nutrient foods make up for lower

consumption. However, some people who are stressed tend to push themselves and not

take good care of themselves, avoiding meals, especially wholesome ones, and snacking on

quick-energy or fast foods. These people are usually not overweight; on the contrary, they

need to be reminded to eat. This unrelenting push without feeding the stomach (and every

cell) can lead to acid irritation of the digestive organs and ulcers. Then the cycle of antacids

starts and further poor digestion and assimilation is the final outcome.

Probably the best type of diet is five small but wholesome meals a day, that focus on fruits

vegetables, seeds, nuts, oily fish, beans and lentils. Protein should be taken with each

meal. Eat only a small amount of grains, avoiding those that you may be intolerant to. Avoid

caffeine and limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per day. Avoid any foods that may promote

inflammation including red meats, dairy products and fried foods Lots of water is important to

keep us well hydrated and to help counteract stress by circulating nutrients. Juices, soups,

and salads, for example, can nourish us well without creating great demands on our body and

digestion, which may not be working well at the time. Our energy level and productivity may

rise with lighter eating as well. A lighter, cleansing diet may help us through times of short-
term stress. Avoiding stress around meals is very important. Try to rest and relax before and

after eating, even if just for a minute or two of placing your body in a receptive state for the

nourishment coming in. If there is time to take 10–15 minutes before and after meals, that

is even better, especially after large meals. Listening to relaxing music also helps. Do not

smoke. A half hours walk, in the early evening, that causes your heart to pump faster helps to

reduce cortisol levels. Have more fun. Do things that you enjoy and that help you to relax.

Express your feelings. Emotions need regular venting, and unexpressed emotions are the

building blocks of stress, pain, and illness. Get good sleep. Poor sleep or sleep habits do

not let your body really rest, discharge tensions, and recharge. Learn relaxation exercises.

These can help a great deal in reducing stress through letting go of mental stresses and

experiencing moments of inner peace. This quiet, “nothing happening” space is where, I

believe, the he rests. It serves you to look at the big picture and step out of the little struggles.

Ask why you might need to experience these challenges and try to view them as opportunities.

Develop good relationships. It is important to have friends in whom you can

confide and find support. Those who love and accept you and will advise but not judge you

are your true friends. It is also very meaningful to be a true friend to another. Experience

love and satisfying sex. A primary relationship that is loving, sensual, and sexual can also

be a major stress reducer. Having an understanding, accepting, and warm being (most

often human) to receive your hardworking body and mind can be the best therapy available.

However, if you do not have this in your life, there are many other therapies that are helpful.

Often, an intense relationship can also be stressful. It is important to find a balance in all you

do, in each endeavour and in your life as a whole. Change perceptions and attitudes. When

ideas or views are not serving you, it is wise to examine and adapt them. It is important to

learn to respond to life’s situations and not react. This is a true response-ability! Hanging

onto frustrations, holding grudges, and accepting the victim-blame game are not in your best

 

Supplement Recommendations

A good supplement plan is imperative. Stress depletes so many of our body’s nutrients that it

is difficult to obtain the levels we need from food alone. Nutrients that are commonly depleted

by stress include the antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C, the B vitamins, and the minerals zinc,

selenium, calcium, magnesium, iron. A good multivitamin and mineral should provide all

these nutrients.

 

Zinc is required for the manufacture of hormones. Stress uses up large amounts of zinc,

therefore it is often necessary to supplement with extra during times of stress.

All the B vitamins are all significantly depleted by stress and the stress-related problems may

be compounded by deficiencies resulting from poor nutrition prior to the time of increased

stress. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, may well be the most important antistress nutrient of

the B complex. Along with folic acid and vitamin C, it is necessary for proper function of the

adrenal glands. Niacin, enough to generate the niacin flush, may be useful in counteracting

some of the biochemical effects of stress. It is recommended you take a high potency B

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb which can increase a person’s tolerance to physical and

mental stress. Thus it can improve performance capacity. It can also protect the immune

system and the cardiovascular system from the damaging effects of stress.

Ashwaghanda can increase the body’s tolerance to various stressors.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, may indeed be the single most essential antistress nutrient. It

offers cellular protection, immune support, and adrenal support to produce more cortisone

and adrenaline. Vitamin C is also an important antioxidant that helps protect against fat

peroxidation, including restoring vitamin E after it is oxidized. Vitamin C is very rapidly

utilized and minimally stored in the body. Therefore, regular usage, even four to six times

daily, is ideal. A dosage of 1–3 grams per day is recommended, although as much as 8–

10 grams may be used for severe problems related to stress. The vitamin C dosages taken

each day should contain bioflavonoids.

 

Essential fatty acids are essential for the proper function of the adrenal gland.

High midnight cortisol levels can be suppressed by the use of Phosphatidyl serine. It

supports hypothalamus and pituitary gland function helping them to regain their sensitivity to

In addition to extra B vitamins and C, an antioxidant supplement should be taken. This should

contain Vitamin A and beta-carotene, vitamin E and selenium, and the amino acid L-
cysteine are all part of this. As with vitamin C, these antioxidants sacrifice themselves

(through oxidation) to balance out the free radicals and reduce inflammation.

Minerals are also important with calcium and magnesium heading the antistress list.

Calcium is vital to nerve transmission and regular heartbeat as well as immune function. It

aids both relaxation and muscle tone. Magnesium is a calming mineral that helps balance

the nervous system and supports heart function. In general, a dosage of 600–1,000 mg. of

calcium and 400–800 mg. of magnesium daily, in addition to diet, is recommended, with most

of it being taken in the evening before bed. Calcium and magnesium can also be used to

balance the stomach acid. For acute or early stress with hyperacidity, these alkaline minerals

taken before meals can be a helpful antacid.

Chromium may be useful in allaying sugar cravings.

Glutamine is helpful for proper brain function, especially with stress.

Chlorella is also been useful because of its mild detoxifying and energising effects. It also

seems to reduce some mental stress, and provides protein and all the essential amino acids.

Pancreatic function is often low as well with chronic stress, and additional pancreatic

enzymes after meals may be helpful.

 

You can browse the whole range of minerals and nutrients on our website, which can help in managing your stress levels.

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