I hope you get a kick out of the picture. A dear friend felt I should infuse more of my personality into my website. He took pictures of me that were representative of the issues that I help people overcome. I call this one “pulling your hair out,” and it is meant to reflect being “stressed out.”
Stress is basically anything that causes the fundamental balance in your body to shift. Mental stress involves challenge, threat or worry about future adverse events. Such stress activates the brain’s stress response systems, which in turn affect the body. Many of the body’s major systems are altered by stress often with adverse consequences.
Not to be pessimistic, but I often tell people, “stress is a killer.” Fortunately, each of us has the power to ward off the health-related problems that may be caused by stress through awareness, self-discipline and a desire to live a happy, healthy life. Below are 5 stress-related health problems that you can fix (or avoid):
- High Blood Pressure: Stress causes your body to release adrenaline which causes your blood pressure to rise. This is a natural defensive response of the body referred to as “fight or flight”. Unfortunately, instead of entering this state on occasion to help us avoid danger, most Americans spend a great deal of extended time in what I call the body’s “state of emergency”. The result is that blood pressure remains elevated and you end up with hypertension or high blood pressure.
- Obesity: Stress has been linked to biochemical changes that can trigger cravings and lead to obesity. When you eat carbohydrates, it raises the body’s serotonin level – a “feel-good” chemical. In addition, chronic stress can cause the body to release excess cortisol, a hormone critical in managing fat storage and energy use in the human body. Cortisol is known to increase appetite and may encourage cravings for sugary or fatty foods.
- Insomnia: Stress causes insomnia by making it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep, and by affecting the quality of your sleep. Increased stress levels can produce certain hormones in your body that prevent you from sleeping or from having a restful night.
- Inflammation: Researchers found that chronic stress changes gene activity of immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so that they’re ready to fight infection or trauma — even when there is no infection or trauma to fight. This then leads to increased inflammation.
- Gastrointestinal: Gastrointestinal function is particularly influenced by stress. Common gastrointestinal symptoms due to stress are heartburn, indigestion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation and associated lower abdominal pain.
The good news is you don’t have to live with these stress-related health issues. There are many natural options for dealing with stress-related health problems. In this post, I am focusing on how Nutrition, Yoga, and Herbs can help you fix (or prevent) these problems.
Someone with a healthy and balanced diet is likely to be far less stressed than someone with a poor diet. Caffeine should most definitely be avoided when stressed because it is known to heighten stress. Stress makes you anxious – further stimulation can heighten this anxiety and even cause insomnia.
Processed foods contain high levels of protein, fats and carbohydrates that do not contain vital minerals and vitamins, which can induce stress, so it is highly recommended to avoid processed foods.
Fresh fruit and vegetables provide an array of vitamins and minerals that are great for reducing stress. Vegetables also have high fiber content, which is helpful in treating constipation – another long term effect of stress. Fish such as mackerel contain omega fatty acids, which are extremely good for the heart and can protect you from heart diseases. Fish also contains choline – a great memory booster.
Yoga is a mind-body practice that combines stretching exercises, controlled breathing and relaxation. Yoga can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and improve heart function and almost anyone can do it. Deep breathing or belly breathing into the deepest part of our lungs pushes on the diaphragmatic wall, the muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities. The downward movement of the diaphragm compresses the abdomen and forces it outward. This in turn causes the gut to press on the vagus nerve (a bundle of cranial nerves running down the inside of the spine), which triggers the relaxation response and releases serotonin from the gut into the bloodstream to take to the brain.
Stress causes imbalance in the body and weakens your immune system. Herbs can be used to nudge your body back into balance. There are many herbs that can address specific stress-related health problems. Visit the HerbalWise Remedies and Do-It-Yourself sections of our website to learn more.