What is stress? Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. It is caused by both good and bad experiences. A good experience releases “feel good” endorphins, making your feel euphoric and energized to perform at your best. Whenever you feel stressed, your body reacts by releasing chemicals into your blood. These chemicals can give you more energy and strength, which can be a good thing if your stress is caused by physical danger. Stress triggers the “fight or flight response” — giving you a burst of adrenalin to run away or fight. This can be beneficial, if you’re in danger and need to response quickly. Yes, “fight or flight response” could save your life. However, stress can also negative. For instance, when you experience an emotional response (such as anger, frustration, fear, anxiety, etc.) and there is no outlet for this extra energy. It is dangerous to be in a state of persistent heightened alert. Over time, this kind of stress will take it’s toll on your mind and body. Long term stress is dangeorus If you experience stress on a continuous basis, it will negatively affect your immune response, increasing your susceptibility to illness and slowing down your ability to heal and recover. Stress causes headaches, memory loss, cold hands, fatigue, high blood pressure, nervous twitches, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and other problems. Stress also opens the door to many ailments and illnesses. It is estimated that 80 percent of all major illnesses including cancer, most back problems, cardiovascular disease and skin disorders are stress-related. While many people view stress as a psychological problem, but stress also affects the body physically. Your body can respond to stress by elevating your blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, greater muscular tension and increased adrenaline secretion. Digestion also slows or stops, cholesterol levels rise, and the blood’s composition changes slightly making it more prone to clotting. When this happens, the risk of heart attack or stroke is increased. Nearly all organs and functions of the body react to stress. The production of adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) is increased by the pituitary gland, which results in the release of the hormones and cortisol being stimulated. The affect that these hormones have on the body is one that inhibits the functioning of disease-fighting white blood cells and causing the immune system to be depressed. This complex of physical changes is known as the “fight or flight” response and is structured to prepare one to face an immediate danger. In today’s day and age, most of the stress a human being incurs has nothing to do with physical threats but the body still responds as if it was. Most of the symptoms associated with stress including nutritional deficiencies are related to the increased production of adrenal hormones, which causes the body to increase it’s metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to quickly produce energy to be used by the body. The body excretes amino acids, potassium and phosphorus to deplete magnesium stored in muscle tissue and to store less calcium when this response occurs. Stress also ages brain cells and causes fat to accumulate around the midsection of the body. Stress also causes an increase in the level of interleukin-6 (IL-6), which is an immune system protein that is linked to many disorders including cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis and has direct effects on most of the cells in the body. This host of physical reactions prevents the body from properly absorbing nutrients, which over a long period of time can cause the body to become deficient in many nutrients and unable to replace them adequately. Nutritional deficiencies account for many of the disorders that are stress-related. B-complex deficiencies are especially harmful because these vitamins play a very important role in proper functioning of the nervous system and certain electrolytes, which become depleted during the body’s response to stress. Free radical formation is also promoted with stress. The more serious forms of stress include obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many times, these disorders occur when a person is unable to cope with a situation that affected their life negatively. One tell-tale sign of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is mentally reliving traumatic events that occurred in the past to the point that it obstructs one’s normal way of living. Stress-related symptoms are attributed to “nerves” and it is true that parts of the body that are related to the nervous system can in fact be affected by stress. This is especially true of the digestive organs. Some examples include irritable bowel syndrome and/or an ulcer flare up. Nutritional suggestions for treating & preventing stress: * At least 50% of what you eat should be raw fruits and vegetables. (Also freshly extracted juices) Eating raw fruits and vegetables supplies your body with valuable vitamins and minerals, and also scavenges and neutralizes free radicals. * Limit your caffeine intake. Coffee and black teas can disrupt your sleep, and contributes to nervousness. Getting enough sleep each night is very important as lack of sleep adds to your stress level. * Avoid tobacco, alcohol and any mood-altering drugs. The substances simply “band aid” your stresses for the moment but never really address the problem so your stress will be there when the effect of these substances wears off. * Limit (or avoid) processed foods, artificial sweeteners, eggs, fried foods, sugar, red meat, junk foods, foods containing preservatives or spices, chocolate and carbonated soft drinks. All of these things create nutritional stress in your body. * Listen to brain synch cds or use a light + sound machine. Take time each day for deep relaxation. This is different from watching TV or sleeping. Deep relaxation (breathing excercises, progressive relaxation, closing your eyes and physically relaxing your body) is extremely benefical, especially when dealing with stress and tension. * Excercise regularly. Excercise is not about looking good in a bikini or speedo, but rather giving your heart, lungs and vital organs a good workout. By being fit, you will live a long and healthy life. * Talk about your feelings. Stuffing or swallowing your feelings is never a good idea. Emotions linger in the body, resulting in physical tension and discomfort. It’s good to open up and talk to a friend, relative or someone you can trust.