Wake up, get dressed, (take the kids to school), work, home, cook, (do homework), eat, do work which was brought home, slump on the couch. The average routine of a working individual (parent). Our lives have become so fast-paced and hectic that even Grade 1’s don’t have time to go outside and play for a bit because they’re slumped with homework. We are so busy, being busy, that we haven’t had time to ask “WHAT IS THE STRESS DOING TO MY BODY?”
Our adrenal glands, located just above our kidneys are responsible for our stress responses. When facing a short-term stress e.g. a lion standing in front of you, your body activates these stress responses. This response is directed by your “Fight and flight” or sympathetic division.
This response causes the following:
Which is great…. If there’s a lion standing in front of you. However for most people the stress is chronic and long term which leaves your body doing the following:
Besides this, the body starts to involve other hormones like growth hormone and your thyroid hormones to help combat the energy demands. The body continues to fight an imaginary lion while the following symptoms start to pop up within one’s being:
- Sugar and caffeine cravings: To keep glucose levels high which leads to insulin resistance
- Decreased blood flow to the gut: Digestive system issues and fermentation, bloating and gas start to be concerns
- Reproductive health issues: Decreased libido, irregular menstrual cycles and estrogen dominance can occur
- Water retention: the body tries to keep the blood pressure high in order to increase nutrient flow to vital organs
- Disrupted or unfulfilling sleep: Your body is fighting the lion and does needs to be alert at all times by mobilising glucose
- Hormone irregularities: all other hormones like the thyroid may be disrupted in chronic stress
- Recurrent infections and slow healing periods: your body releases natural steroids which provides an anti-inflammatory response. When this happens over a period of time the body’s immune system is suppressed and may lead to recurrent colds and flus, sinusitis and further complications of acute illnesses.
SO… WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The first step would be to find out what is causing you stress and look at potential ways which this can be alleviated. For example, constantly being late is a stressor. If it is because I leave at 7:30 from Pretoria and expect to be in Sandton at 8:00, I need to revise my schedule and allocate more time for traffic and so forth.
If this is not possible the following approaches to stress may help:
- Breathing exercises: Simple breathing exercises cause the sympathetic nervous system to slow down and provide a sense of calm
- Stop the sugar crashes: A balanced diet which is low in inflammatory foods and caffeine will stop the sugar spikes throughout the day and provide your body with consistent energy rather than spikes and crashes
- Exercise: Simple walks and exercise have been found to combat stress
The following supplements and herbs may assist:
- B vitamins: these vitamins are responsible for neural health and energy metabolism. Without vitamin B the body is at risk for oxidative stress. Vitamin B supplements or injections (which bypass the digestive tract) may assist.
- L-Theanine: This is an amino acid which has been found to influence psychological and physiological stress effects by reducing them.
- Ashwagandha: This herb is known as an adaptogen which basically improves the health of your adrenal gland and stress-management. This plant is considered a rejuvenator with anti-inflammatory effects, protective effects on the liver as well as glucose-control.
- Ginkgo Biloba: This herb has been proven to be beneficial for a wide range of central nervous system disorders ranging from dementia to decreased concentration by enhancing circulation within the brain.
- Ginseng: Ginseng is another adaptogen and comes in two forms: Korean (Panax) Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng. Both support the immune system and promote a sense of well-being while increasing mental alertness and concentration. Korean Ginseng however is also associated with lowering blood sugar levels.
- Homeopathic Remedies: Homeopathic remedies are prescribed based on your individual symptoms and work effectively when the correct remedy is prescribed. Your homeopathic practitioner will assess various aspects of your health and lifestyle and find the indicated remedy for your situation!
Still feeling overwhelmed? Contact your homeopathic practitioner to do a full assessment today!
Billings-Smith, L., n.d. Difference Between Korean & Siberian Ginseng. [Online]
Available at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/difference-between-korean-siberian-ginseng-10446.html
[Accessed 07 March 2017].
Kimura, K., Ozeki, M., Juneja, L. R. & Ohira, H., 2007. l-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biological Psychology, 74(1), pp. 39-45.
Kumar, M. S. et al., 2016. Uses of Withania somnifera (Linn) Dunal (Ashwagandha) in Ayuverda and its Pharmacological Evidences. Research Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacodynamics, 8(1), pp. 23-29.
Martini & Nath, 2009. The Hormonal Response to Stress. In: Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology. San Francisco: Pearson Int., pp. 640-642.
Stough, C. et al., 2014. Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention: a randomized clinical trial: study protocol. Nutrition, 13(122), pp. https://dx.doi.org/10.1186%2F1475-2891-13-122.
Todorov, H., Nadler, R. & Todorov, I. N., 2000. The center of our universe – The Brain. In: Public Enemy Number 1–stress: A Practical Guide to the Effects of Stress and Nutrition on the Aging Process and Life Extension. New York: Kroshka Books, pp. 190-194.