Are You Affected by Stress?
By: Dr Darlene Ehlers, DC DABCI
Stress is everywhere. Good and bad. People are very busy and often do not have enough time to exercise, eat well, or obtain enough sleep. When a person does try to sleep, often they lay awake or sleep awhile, awaken and cannot go back to sleep. Stress can affect our digestive process also. We can eat and feel like the food doesn’t digest or just sits in our stomach, have diarrhea or constipation.
What does stress do to us and how, if we can, control our bodies when it happens?
Our body reacts to stress with a nervous system called the Sympathetic Nervous System. It originates in our spinal cord and functions to activate “fight or flight” response that keeps us from harm. When that happens, blood goes to our muscles and lungs so we can run or fight! It releases a neurotransmitters called norepinephrine or adrenaline. When the Sympathetic Nervous System is working, the Parasympathetic Nervous System doesn’t work for us as it should. Parasympathetic Nervous System’s main function is to have the body “rest and digest” or in other words: Relax
So the acute stress response can show in various ways such as: headaches, increase in blood pressure, increase in blood sugar called glucose, anxiety, insomnia, anger, excessive hunger, addictions to sugar and caffeine for energy, tight muscles, fatigue, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing, multitude of digestive complaints, weight gain, high blood fats, and even secondary depression. More dangerously, stress response that keeps happening over and over again seriously weakens our immune response. Health conditions and sickness can then develop because the body is spending too much energy dealing with stress, robbing energy from our defense, our immune system.
The two nervous systems get depleted. Testing that is common to denote a person’s stress response is to test Cortisol, one of several steroid hormones that is produced by the adrenal gland and Insulin, produced by the pancreas. Also balancing body chemistry by blood work testing to find specific mineral needs such as magnesium, zinc, and potassium which all help the body handle stress. Testing is needed to determine what nutritional and lifestyle advice is correct for each person. Everyone is different and our bodies handle stress differently.
Lifestyle changes to make that can buffer or help a person recover from stress and stressful events would be: Regular sleep habits and obtaining enough sleep; avoid or limit caffeine as that acts like adrenaline; limit to no sugar as that leads to blood sugar problems, dysinsulinism; plan regular recreation or hobby times; consume nutritious meals and snacks; take twenty minute walks four to five times a week; weight loss done properly; and finally, laughter and joy!
Can we control the physiology of the stress response or even control our stress? Sometimes we cannot but what we can do is REPAIR our bodies from stress in the past and then PREPARE them to handle stress more effectively.