The Naturopathic Approach to Improving your Stress Response in a Chaotic World
Although stress affects us all in one way or another, it is when it becomes prolonged that it tends to cause the most problems. Stress inherently affects every system in the body from proper digestion and cardiovascular health to the daily functions of the endocrine and immune systems. There are thousands of research articles on the correlation between chronic stress and many diseases, including cancer. The treatment of chronic stress can be very complex depending on the individuals predisposition and whether the stress is the major underlying cause of disease or if it is a symptom of a more pressing health concern. Naturopathic Doctors are trained to investigate chronic stress from every angle in order to determine the answer to this question. The treatment of chronic stress or stress-related disorders can take several months in order to achieve optimal results depending on the severity and how your body has been able to cope. Natural medicine therapies such as Naturopathic medicine, CranioSacral Therapy, and Homeopathy are effective tools in the treatment of chronic stress and can significantly decrease the time it takes to regain optimal health in order to feel like yourself again.
What Is Stress?
Stress is defined as any disturbance: heat or cold, chemical toxins, microorganisms, physical trauma, strong emotional reaction, etc. Basically, anything that can upset your body’s normal homeostasis, which then leads to disease. Current estimates show that between 70-80% of all visits to physicians are for stress-related disorders.
Typical Symptoms Associated With Stress
Physical Symptoms include:
Muscle Tension / Headaches / TMJ / Back Pain
Cold Extremities / Tingling
Heart Palpitations / Shortness of Breath
Increased or Decreased Blood Pressure / Dizziness
Sugar Cravings / Low Blood Sugar
Decreased Immunity / Frequent Colds or Illness
Mental / Emotional Symptoms include:
Anger / Aggression
Anxiety / Panic Attacks
Insomnia / Excessive Sleep
Indifference / Apathy
Irritability / Moodiness / Involuntary Crying
Common Stressors That We All Know About
Poor Interpersonal Relationships â€“ Troubled marriage, Family, Co-workers, etc.
Finances / Economic Downturn
Life Events â€“ Vacation, Holidays, Accidents, etc.
Daily Stressors That You May Not Have Thought About
High Simple Sugar / High Calorie / Low Protein / Low Fiber / Low Nutrient Diets
Long Periods Without Eating
Food Allergies / Intolerances
Poor Digestion / Liver Function
Shallow Chest Breathing
Recreational Drugs (Caffeine, Alcohol, Marijuana, Nicotine)
Loneliness or few social connections
Chronic Illness / Infections / Inflammation
Negativity / Pessimism
Total Toxic Load
Diseases Strongly Linked To Stress
How Our Bodies Deal With Stress
The hypothalamus is the first gland to act when it receives a threatening signal. It then signals the pituitary gland to send signals to the adrenal, thyroid and reproductive glands. This is a very complex and intricate system that involves the entire endocrine system. The adrenal glands are tiny glands sitting on top of the kidneys. They influence many other organ systems to allow us to adapt and handle stress. When they become fatigued, all sorts of problems start to occur.
Adrenal Stress Hormones
Epinephrine/Norepinephrine (catecholamines): Responsible for fight or flight response. Primarily involved in acute stress reactions. Causes increased blood pressure, catabolism (muscle breakdown), and insulin resistance. Cortisol (glucocorticoids): Primarily involved in the chronic stress response and fasting states. Causes a decrease in inflammation, Catabolism, increased blood pressure, and increased blood glucose.
Subtle prolonged stress has the most devastating effects.
Under the initial stages of chronic stress, the signal to relax is decreased and the body is held in alert status.
Once we have come to alert status too many times our stress system becomes constantly triggered.
This level of readiness can not be maintained for long periods and the body begins to breakdown and decompensate.
This is the point of system overload and signs of illness begin to surface.
Basics To Reduce Your Daily Stress
1. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing – Take time every day to focus on breathing deep and watching your abdomen rise with each breath. Your chest shouldn’t be the only part moving! Try this while you are stuck in traffic. Increases detoxification and promotes parasympathetic nervous system activity.
2. Exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
3. Get 1 hour of outside light per day. Green light has positive effects on the adrenal glands.
4. Eat in a relaxed space and slow down to eat.
5. Find simple enjoyment in daily living.
6. Let go of control!
Positive Benefits of Exercise
Just 30 minutes per day can:
Reduce the negative impact of stress on your body
Cut your risk of heart disease by 50%
Reduce hypertension and risk of diabetes
Can cause you to lose 14lbs this year without any diet changes
According to the National Health Institute study: 70% of chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis are directly related to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. They proclaim “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!”
Many symptoms of aging are actually symptoms of lack of exercise: 50% of functional decline can be prevented through exercise!!!
United Nations Study on Chronic Disease
â€¢ Recently released the results of a two-year study on nutrition, diet and chronic diesease. The expert report containing the best scientific evidence currently available and states that: 70% of chronic diseases (cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and dental disease) are directly related to poor nutrition, stress and lack of exercise.
The U.N. remarked “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!”
The U.N. report concludes with dietary guidelines for optimal health: Majority of daily calories should come from:
Fruits and Vegetables
Only 10% of daily calories from simple sugar and simple carbohydrates!
Purified water intake should equal half of your body weight in ounces per day. For a 150 lb person this is 75 ounces per day or ~8 glasses per day.
Eat small frequent meals with a protein source at each meal. Protein sources include: eggs, nuts, fish, beans, chicken, and turkey.
Eat 9-11 servings of fresh, fruits and vegetables per day, with many different colors and flavors. Remember: Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables
Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugar. Examples: bread, candy, cake, pasta, white rice, juices, soda pop, and processed foods. Remember: Only 10% of daily calories
Read Labels! Many pre-packaged food items contain hidden sugar, chemicals, and hydrogenated (â€œbadâ€�) fats.
Instead eat whole grain sources of carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, and wheat berries.
Relieve Stress While You Cook
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has long been a healer of the mind and nerves with stress subduing properties. It can also smooth and soothe an overactive digestive system.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) can help relieve high blood pressure, antispasmodic to the digestive tract, and calming nerve tonic.
Nutrients Important For Stress
Vitamin C: Essential for the structural support of the small arteries and veins in the adrenal glands, especially if the gland is overstimulated and hypertrophied or hyperplastic. Vitamin C is greatly depleted by smoking. Can produce diarrhea if taken in large doses. Also, in times of increased stress, Vitamin C is rapidly eliminated through the urine. Found in abundantly found in a variety of fresh, fruits and vegetables.
Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B-5): Involved in the production of metabolic energy (ATP) for the adrenals and elsewhere in the body through a series of biochemical reactions called the Krebâ€™s cycle. B-complex should be taken in conjunction with B-5 to ensure proper synergism (50 mg twice per day). Sources include dark turkey meat, brewer’s yeast, organ meats, and peanuts.
Magnesium: An important cofactor in many biochemical reactions, particularly those that produce metabolic energy. Also, intimately involved in muscle contraction/relaxation. Urinary excretion of magnesium is increased in hypercortisol states. The most bioavailable forms are fumarate, citrate, glycinate, and malate. Can produce diarrhea if taken in large doses. Found in oatmeal, buckwheat, chocolate, and dark leafy green vegetables.
Chromium: A trace element essential to the metabolism of lipids, glucose, and insulin regulation. Chromium has been shown to be required for health as part of the glucose tolerance factor (GTF) involved in the regulation of blood glucose. Found in organ meat, brewer’s yeast, whole grains, asparagus, and nuts.
Zinc: There is increasing evidence that zinc levels decrease following physical stress or injury. Zinc is one of the few minerals that is lost rapidly in the urine following acute or chronic psychological stress. Virtually every enzyme reaction in the brain involves zinc, and its essentiality in the development and function of the central nervous system and brain is uncontested. Known to compete with copper levels. Found in meats, crustaceans, nuts, seeds, and leafy vegetables.
Pyridoxine (Vitamin B-6): Involved in many biochemical processes throughout the body. It is intimately involved in amino acid metabolism and the production of serotonin and other “feel good” neurotransmitters. Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate is the preferred form of use. Sensory and motor impairment can occur with large doses (>500 mg per day). Sources include bran cereal, pork loin, watermelon, meats, etc.
Essential Fatty Acids: Protects every cell of your body. Required for the production of healthy hormones and proper nervous system function. Found in many sources, but the highest in omega-3 fatty acids are flax oil and fish oils. Seafood sources include cod, salmon, shrimp, and mackerel.
Herbal Medicine For Stress
A nervine is a substance that has the ability to sedate the central nervous system through a variety of methods. Benefits to a calm central nervous system include: reducing anger and agitation, lowering blood pressure, reversing muscle tension, reducing insomnia, and decreasing anxiety. Some nervines can create fatigue and grogginess. The bottom line is that they can be very effective in cases of acute stress or the initial stages of chronic stress. Be aware that nervines do not take the place of learning new stress coping strategies. These are designed for short-term use.
Scutellaria laterifolia (Skullcap)
Passiflora officianalis (Passionflower)
Valeriana officianalis (Valerian)
Humulus lupulus (Hops)
Piper methysticum (Kava Kava)
Avena Sativa (Oats)
An adaptogen must be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in thephysiological functions of the body. They must have a non-specific action (i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences by a wide range of physical, chemical, and biochemical factors). They also possess the ability to have a normalizing action on tissues, irrespective of the direction of the pathological state. The bottom line is that they have been found to tonify the adrenal glands making you more likely to handle stressful situations. These are designed for prolonged use.
Panax ginseng (Chinese ginseng)
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
Glycerrhiza glabra (Licorice)
Withania somnifera (Ashwaganda)
Other Avenues for Chronic Stress Reduction
Individualized diet, lifestyle, nutritional, and botanical support through a licensed Naturopathic Doctor
Counseling / Cognitive Therapy
There are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription medications if you or your loved ones are dealing with chronic stress. Naturopathic medicine, Homeopathy, and Craniosacral Therapy can all be integral parts in restoring optimal nervous system function and making you better able to deal with the pressures in your life. If you would like more information or would like to schedule an appointment please call the clinic at (650) 323-7345 or email email@example.com.