IMPROVE YOUR RESISTANCE TO STRESS
Stress is known to contribute to many health problems: gut inflammation, cardiovascular disease, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, infertility, autoimmunity and even cancer. There is not a single part of your body that isn’t affected by stress.
What is the mechanism?
Stress is a non-specific response of the body to any demand or stressor. It can be both good and bad.
Acute stress also called ‘Eustress’ is an alarm reaction followed by a quick recovery and it may save your life. Let’s say you are facing a threat, like a lion or… a work deadline. Anything that causes stress to the body or mind will trigger a fight or flight response. Within seconds of the perceived threat your heart is pounding, your breathing changes, stores of glucose are released into the blood, the muscles tense, the eyes dilates and you are ready for the battle.
Adrenaline and cortisol, secreted by the adrenals - two small glands located on top of each kidney - prepare the body for fast-paced action so you can flee like a gazelle or meet that deadline.
The negative stress is a chronic stress or ‘Distress’ where your alarm reaction is repeated or constant, no recovery follows and this impairs your general health.
Long term activation of the stress response can disrupt almost all your body processes.
Let's see what Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, does to the body.
Cortisol floods the body with glucose, supplying an immediate energy source to large muscles and inhibits insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favouring its immediate use. Elevated cortisol over the long term can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and can lead to weight gain.
Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or detrimental in a fight-or-flight situation.
It suppresses the immune system, which causes increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, and an increased risk of autoimmune diseases and cancers
It compromises digestion and absorption, after which indigestion may develop, as well as inflammation of the mucosal lining of the digestive tract.
It impairs the reproductive system and growth processes with negative consequences on fertility
Cortisol rings an alarm bell which impacts the brain regions that control mood, motivation, and fear
TEST YOUR STRESS symptoms linked with long term stress
HARD TO GET UP IN THE MORNING UNREFRESHING SLEEP TIRED ALL THE TIME CRAVING CERTAIN FOODS IRRITABILITY, AGGRESSIVENESS MOOD SWINGS RESTLESSNESS POOR CONCENTRATION POOR SLEEP PATTERNS PRONE TO CATCHING FLU AND COLDS MUSCLE AND JOINT ACHES HAIR LOSS SPOTTY SKIN FAT AROUND THE WAIST HEADACHES POOR WOUND HEALING FEELING BLOATED INDIGESTION ENERGY SLUMPS DURING THE DAY FEELING COLD ALL THE TIME REGULAR FEELINGS OF WEAKNESS APATHY SEVERE PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME
If you have three or more of the symptoms printed in bold or 5 or more of the others you may have an adrenal hormones imbalance caused by stress.
DE-STRESSING WITH NUTRITION AND LIFESTYLE
Psychological stress may give rise to oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that are capable of causing damage to cell DNA. Stress makes you age faster because free radicals cause cell damage and senescence.
A healthful diet that contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as vitamins and minerals might help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
Blood sugar balance
Eat slow releasing carbohydrates Fast releasing sugars create a state of stress in the body, stimulating the release of cortisol. So avoid eating white bread, sweets or other foods with added sugar. Slow releasing carbohydrates, on the other hand, provide an ‘even keel’ of consistent energy. Slow-releasing carbohydrates are quinoa vegetables legumes and pulses nuts and nut butters fresh fruits dairy sourdough rye or spelt bread
Balance your fatty acids
Our current Omega-6 loaded diet (vegetable oils and margarine) is setting off and accelerating inflammation. Aim to increase your intake of Omega-3 fatty acid every single day. The key foods here are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herrings, anchovies and sardines. Reduce your intake of Omega-6 by swapping out vegetable oils such as corn, soy, peanut, grapeseed or sunflower oils with olive and coconut oil. Do not be scared of butter, it is far better for you than margarine, just mind the portions!
Maximize nutrient density
Add as many fresh plant foods as you can at every meal Incorporate a ‘rainbow’ of different coloured fruits and vegetables. Each colour represents a different antioxidant Avoid boiling or roasting. High temperatures destroy important nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin C. Some of the healthiest cooking methods are steaming, blanching, pressure cooking stewing and lightly pan-frying with a little olive oil.
Avoid stimulants and depressants
Most people experience more energy and ability to cope with stress within 30 days of cutting out stimulants, e.g. tea/coffee/diet drink and cutting out depressants, e.g. alcohol. Caffeine amplifies cortisol production many hours after ingestion and continuous consumption of alcohol over an extended period have been shown to raise cortisol levels in the body.
Adaptogens are natural herbs that have non-specific, normalising effects on physiology. They influence normal body functions only enough to encourage non-specific resistance to stressors.
Adaptogen herbs include: Eleutherococcus senticosus Panax ginseng Rhodiola Rosea Withania Somnifera (ashwagandha) Schisandra Chinensis Cordyceps Sinensis Ginko Biloba Ocimum sanctum (holy basil or Tulsi)
Exercise plays an important role in stress resistance - but it has to be the right kind. It relaxes muscles, helping with symptoms such as tension and headaches, helps expel stress hormones that have built up, triggers the release of endorphins which help us feel good. The goal is for the body to feel relaxed but strong, supple, with good posture and sufficiently fit to have stamina for additional physical tasks. Too much exercise or too intense can have the opposite effect because it elevates levels of the stress hormone cortisol with the effect of perpetuating or aggravating the stress cycle. Gentle yoga, t’ai chi, pilates, walking for half an hour are all ideal ways to improve your stress response.
Stress causes insomnia and insomnia exacerbates stress. It's a vicious cycle and... we've all been there, we've all panicked thinking about getting through the whole next day on zero sleep.
A person with insomnia needs a "buffer zone," a period of time to wind down. Ideally two hours before bedtime stop all work and end phone calls. Watching television is ok in the evening but try and switch it off an hour before bed, and make time for some reading, meditation or listening to music. Remember to establish regular sleep-wake cycles, even on weekends. However, if you have already made the necessary adjustment to your sleep routine and are still insomniac take a mix of Magnesium L-tryptophane and Taurine.
Taurine 1000-2000mg daily before sleep.
L-tryptophan, taken with taurine, 500-1500mg before sleep. Begin with 500mg and increase every third day by 500mg as needed.
Vitamin B6- 25mg/day with food.
Magnesium bisglycinate 300-600mg/day with food. Begin with the lowest dose and increase by 100mg/day.
Magnesium can cause loose stools, the reason is that many magnesium supplements do not absorb well enough, so it is important to choose the best form. Magnesium bisglycinate is the less likely to cause diarrhoea.
Remember, natural supplements can interact with drugs: if you are taking any medication, especially for mood, such as antidepessants or anxiolytics consider consulting your physician before taking these supplements.
1. Identify the causes of stress Keep a stress diary to identify all the thoughts and scenarios which stress you out or make you anxious and to monitor your reactions.
2. Make changes to whatever is in your control but if you do not have control over something, other techniques such as meditation and exercise are even more important.
3. Ensure your perception of the situation is accurate Our experience of stress does not always stem from a situation but from our reaction to that situation. Step back and look at your negative feelings from a place of calm. Offer yourself kindness and compassion, the same you would offer your best friend and then do the same when you evaluate other people’s reasons. This will avoid the usual downward spiral of negative thoughts.
4. Support yourself Relaxation techniques are an invaluable tool for de-stressing. These include visualisation and meditation. You do not need to disappear for half an hour into a dark room. Apps like Calm or Headspace have mini-sessions of 5 minutes (you can go through them while sitting at your desk) that are enough to recharge your batteries and help you to think straight. Breath! Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it. Try breathing in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, release for 4, hold for 4. Keep doing this for 3 to 5 minutes. See how you instantly feel more relaxed.
If you have any health issue linked to or aggravated by stress contact me for a 20 minutes free chat and we can discuss what I can do for you.