Stress and your health - Why you should consider stress even if you don’t feel stressed.
Stress – such a throw away word really, because who is not under stress these days. However it is still surprising how some people even when I ask them what kind of stress triggers do they have in their life that they come back saying they don’t really think they do.
Stress symptoms are varied but for many feeling anxious, frazzled, weepy, emotional and/or exhausted can impact upon day to day functioning. Although these are typical symptoms of stress, not everyone may feel like this is part of their picture.
You might not feel stress, you may not feel anxiety, but have you been feeling unwell more than usual? Have you got a bit of eczema that just won’t go away? Is psoriasis a sudden and new issue? Have your bowel motions suddenly changed? Perhaps you have lost your mojo in the bedroom?
These are all signs that perhaps stress could be an issue.
Or are you sleeping well? Did you know that daytime stress impacts upon night time sleep? This is because sleep hormones are affected by stress hormones.
Understanding where stress comes from and how it affects the body is key. Stress can be due to any of the following:
Work related stress
Poor health (digestive dysfunction, autoimmune, hormonal, cardio issues or diabetes)
You might be surprised to see physical stress being on there because often people will use say running or something similar to help their mind de stress. And yes exercise can be viewed as a “good stress” in part because of the endorphins that play a positive role in feeling good. And although the body can adapt to the level of cortisol being released, it is evident that the long term implications of constant cortisol spikes may be the issue for overall health.
Stress and that danger(or your boss, your kids, your finances, or damn technology).
The thing is it doesn’t matter what the stress, regardless of the cause, the physiological effect is the same every time, the body goes into fight or flight mode because we are designed to “run from the danger”.
When our brain perceives this “danger” adrenaline is secreted and this helps to increase our blood pressure, make the heart beat faster, muscles become tense. To help support our vital organs (brain and heart) part of the physiological change is to decrease digestion and immune function, because why does the body need to bother with these systems when actually we are trying to get away from that dangerous tiger!
Cortisol is released allowing an increase in glucose to enter the blood stream which is often why some people find it hard to lose weight, when stress is a major factor in the day to day life.
And so this is how the body can get into an unhealthy stress cycle because as we are exposed to stress from so many areas of LIFE, then with the decreased digestive and immune function…. we don’t take on nutrients from food and we become sick all the time….two more stresses to add to that cycle.
Because body organs do not work in isolation they work together, it is for this reason stress with its communication hormones impacts upon our health. Did you know that stress may be involved in:
Poor sleep and/or insomnia
Inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches or general pain
Digestive dysfunction such as irritable bowel syndrome
Mitochondrial dysfunction such as fibromyalgia and/or chronic fatigue
As you can see there are many areas of health dysfunction where stress may be one of many contributing factors. It may not be that stress is the single factor causing your symptoms, but as you can see it may be part of the overall picture.
Acknowledging stress and understanding how it impacts upon the body is the first part to being able to better manage stress. Working out where our stress triggers come from on a daily basis can quickly help us realise why supporting the stress system is important for our overall health.
Breathing techniques, mediation, yoga or mindfulness will also be very beneficial to the body and mind. A good foundation of nutrition is essential to make sure you are getting all the important nutrients and antioxidants needed for the body to manage stress.
Support stress using nutrients:
There are some really important nutrients that should be considered to help support the HPA axis* which is a key part of how the central nervous system and endocrine (communication/hormonal) system work together to help the body adapt to stress.
These are some of the key nutrients I would look at in clinic include:
Turmeric or Saffron or both
There are definitely some other core nutrients I would also consider but these would be based on what other specific presenting symptoms might be.
Of course these nutrients should be obtained first and foremost from your food. This is the foundation of where all nutrients should come from in an ideal world. But there are some occasions where actually you know what? Your body just needs a boost of these nutrients from supplements. I suggest these on a case by case basis.
Holistic health = Integrative health
Being a huge advocate for Integrative Health I would also strongly consider other forms of health promoting modalities already mentioned such as Mindfulness, Acupuncture or yoga again depending on what other presenting symptoms there might be.
We must start seeing the body as a whole network of organs working together to give us our health and this is also true for how we treat or service our body and mind.
If you feel like you need some support around stress and your health, why don’t you book in to see me, or if you have any questions, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care everyone!
Clinical Nutritionist DipNut GradCert. HPN
*HPA Axis = Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis
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