Fixing Stress with Naturopathy
Living in this day and age, stress is a normal part of modern life. You will be exposed to some sort of stress every day, whether it’s waking up to an alarm, driving the car, paying bills, working, meeting deadlines – all of these can take their toll. Sometimes stress can be so overwhelming, it feels like it is taking over your life. Thankfully, the body has an amazing, protective stress response system to help you cope.
Fight or Flight – the Ancient Coping Mechanism
You will instinctively react to stress in life with a fight, flight or freeze type reaction. It may be an acute stressful event such as an exam or public speaking, or it may be the ongoing challenge of raising kids, the daily commute, or financial pressures. Your body will still have a response, even if you do not feel like you’re stressed. You don’t have to be ripping your hair out to be suffering from the effects of stress.
The stress response was historically designed to kick in to save your life; nowadays, your stress response is being activated every day rather than just when you come into contact with a hungry sabre tooth tiger! However, this ongoing activation by your nervous system can lead to symptoms of stress and mood disorders that are becoming increasingly common.
In response to an external threat, the chemical messengers, adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released from your adrenal glands, which enables you to either stand and fight or flee as fast as you can. In modern times, the feeling of being under constant stress, whether from work, family or financial pressures is interpreted by your body in the same way and can therefore lead you to be in a permanent state of emergency. This is significant as stress may be the underlying reason for a seemingly unrelated bodily imbalance, such as an inability to digest well when you are under pressure.
Recognising the Signs of Stress
Depending on the type of stress and how long you have been experiencing it, you may be familiar with some of these signs and symptoms that can occur in acute (short-term) stress or with ongoing stress
Signs of acute stress
- Muscle tension
- Increased heart rate
- Energy fluctuations
- Sleep disturbances
Signs of ongoing stress
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor concentration
- Weight loss or gain
What stress is doing to your body
A chronic state of stress can have widespread negative effects, such as;
- Poor digestion – reduced digestive secretions can lead to bloating, abdominal pain and reflux
- Irregular blood sugar control – cortisol signals the release of sugars into the bloodstream in anticipation that muscles will need fuel to help you run away. These sugar spikes can lead to weight gain if the sugars are not utilised as muscle fuel and instead converted to fat.
- Hormonal imbalances – lack of libido, menstrual irregularity and fertility issues can all arise when your body switches to making stress hormones in preference to sex hormones.
Getting the Right nutritional Tools - the naturopathic solution for stress reduction
When you are under stress, your overworked stress response system requires even more nutrients than usual. This is because your body needs vitamins and minerals to produce the hormones and neurotransmitters (the brain’s messengers) required to adapt to the stress and bring the body back into balance
B group vitamins: B vitamins are needed for healthy mood, motivation and wellbeing. They are vital for producing energy, as well as the neurotransmitters that promote happiness, relaxation and sleep.
Magnesium: When you are stressed, your body may require more magnesium than normal. Magnesium can be beneficial for many things including managing stress and improving energy. You may also know that magnesium is used as a muscle relaxant. Due to its relaxing qualities, it may improve mood and sleep.
Taurine and glutamine: These amino acids are required as building blocks for your neurotransmitters. They can also help to calm the nervous system, as well as protect against the damage that stress can cause.
Essential Fatty Acids: Are an important building block for the brain and nervous system, and can help support healthy mood.
Adaptogens: A class of herbs known as ‘adaptogens’ may be helpful to increase your body’s physical and mental capacity to cope with stress. Traditional adaptogenic herbs include withania, rehmannia and rhodiola.
Anti-anxiety herbs: If stress makes you uptight you may also need anxiolytic herbs. These help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote more restful sleep so you can handle the challenges your day has for you more easily. Passionflower, zizyphus, and magnolia are all anxiolytic herbs that have been extensively studied for their mild sedative and calming effects.
Using food as medicine to treat stress
Now that you know which nutrients can be great for use in times of stress, eating a nutritious diet can help you to maintain the health of your nerves long-term. What happens to your diet when you’re stressed? Do you eat a lot, or do you make poor food choices when short on time or patience?
- During times of stress, sugars and refined carbohydrates are a no no! While they provide quick energy, they do not fuel your body with nutrients it needs to cope with stress, and can ultimately lead to weight gain.
- Protein from fish, lean meats, eggs, legumes and nuts can provide you with amino acids to fuel your brain whilst sustaining you for longer, minimising those stress cravings.
- Fish, in particular, contains both protein and essential fats, otherwise known as omega-3 fatty acids which can support a healthy stress response and healthy mood.
SAFETY WARNING - PLEASE NOTE
As with any health advice from the internet, (or anywhere else), please make sure you follow the advice of your health care professional primarily. If you would like to try any of the options listed above, please talk to your healthcare practitioner, (including us), about this first. We have seen so many clients come through our clinic, who have tried to self medicate with natural therapies, and have gotten into worse problems, or have not received any benefits. There are plenty of cheap, dodgy supplements on the market these days, so please be wary as cheaper is definitely not better!
Sounds great, now how can I implement this?
You can hopefully get some take away points from this information, but if you need further assistance, then we are here to help you. Seeing a qualified practitioner can take the guess work out of the equation for you, saving you time and money in the long run, and get you feeling better much faster.
You will get the benefit of our skills and expertise to correctly identify the best nutritional treatment options for you. You will be prescribed only the best quality herbs and nutrients, which means that you know that you are taking only the nutrients that you really need, and that they are the best quality available.
With guidance from us and these simple tips, you can stand up to stress – strengthening your mind and your body to become more resilient to the effects of everyday stress.
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