Reduce Stress / Find Comfort

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Stress is a constant in most of our lives.  It’s sometimes subtle and sometimes overt, but it always takes a toll on our health. In fact, most Americans suffer from a condition known as “Chronic Stress.” I make this distinction because stress itself is neither positive or negative. There is even a term—“eustress”—which refers to positive stressors in our lives—factors that provide motivation, inspiration and drive. However, over time, even eustress can result in the development of Chronic Stress. Chronic Stress is the condition in which the body’s natural coping mechanism can no longer effectively respond to one’s total stress burden.

When our evolutionary development is considered, this makes a lot of sense. Our bodily stress response was developed to deal with acute stress, i.e. being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. As a result, the body’s response to stress is to divert energy away from cellular repair, digestion and hormone regulation (not much point regenerating those organs, assimilating that meal or prepping to have a baby if you’re dead), and instead puts energy toward muscle contraction and adrenal stimulation to run away—very quickly.

The adrenal glands are our bodies’ chemical energy reserves. They are there just in case that saber-toothed tiger jumps out from behind a bush when you havn’t had a meal in a while. The adrenals kick in, giving you a jolt of adrenaline that allows your body to perform physically, even without proper fuel from food. You may have heard to the term “adrenal fatigue.” When the adrenals are constantly being activated due to stress they burn out, not only inhibiting this response to acute stress but also throwing many other systems in our body out of whack.

The following are the most common signs and symptoms of Chronic Stress and the resulting adrenal fatigue:

  • Blood sugar imbalances (craving sugary or starchy foods and/or dramatic changes in energy throughout the day)
  • Low thyroid function (identified through medical testing)
  • Decreased fertility (could manifest as irregular menstrual cycles)
  • Depression
  • Poor cognitive performance (poor memory or fuzzy thinking)
  • Poor wound healing
  • Decreased bone density (identified through medical tests or frequent fractures)
  • Fatigue (especially the pattern of not feeling awake until late morning, feeling tired late-afternoon but then better in the evening and getting a late-evening spike in energy)
  • Lowered immune function (getting sick often, slow recovery from illness or irregular WBC count)
  • Dysbiosis (poor digestion or gas/bloating after meals)
  • Cold intolerance
  • Salt cravings
  • Low blood pressure (for some people)

Sound like you? Not surprising. The typically American lifestyle and diet is practically tailor-made to put people on this track. Here are some suggestions to manage and correct Chronic Stress: Continue reading

The Heart/Liver Link

My head feels so stuffed with information, I’m surprised it’s not coming out my ears. The pace at school has really picked up over the last couple of months and it’s all so fascinating. I feel as though I could write hundreds of blog posts on everything we’ve been learning—but alas, I barely find the time to do my homework. One of the most fascinating subjects we’ve delved into recently has been fat, and the link (or lack thereof) to heart disease. I’ve personally seen so many people in my life grappling with heart disease, I feel it’s important to get this information out there – please share it!

As a culture, we’ve been grossly mislead as to the causes of heart disease. Ansel Keys, who in the 1950s published a “definitive” study showing a correlation between diets high in fat and cardio-vascular disease worldwide, has been continually disproven and is now aknowledged to have used questionable evidence and statistical methods (at best) to support his findings. Despite this fallacy, the “low fat myth” persists.

In actuality, heart disease stems from inflammation in the body (as does all other disease). Inflammation can be caused by poor quality foods (overabundance of omega-6 oils , trans-fats, sugar, GMOs, etc.), food allergies, exposure to toxins, poor digestion/ leaky gut, drugs (perscription or otherwise, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine) and, perhaps most widespread, stress. Inflammation is a natural and important reaction in the body, but is intended to be an acute reaction when we hurt ourselves or are fighting off a viris. Systemic inflammation or chronic inflammation from repetative lifestyle choices that encourage inflammatory reactions are what cause many of the so-called “chronic” diseases of our day, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer.

When the body is inflammed, including the arteries in the heart, the body responds by sending out “bandaids,” in the form of cholesterol, to the infected area. The heart gets a heavy dose since it is absolutely vital to human survival. In a healthy body, cholesterol is an extremely important and healthful substance. The body essentially coats inflammed areas with a layer of waxy cholesterol to allow it to heal and, in the case of an acute inflammatory response, this is just what we need. The tissue heals and the cholesterol is recyled and all is well. Of course, when we don’t treat the cause of the inflammation, the same tissue simply becomes inflamed over and over again and layer after layer of cholesterol is futily deposited in an attempt to heal the area. Continue reading