Stress lessens with a proper diet

Healthly foods support physiological processes
FIT Staff
Apr 28, 2014

Stress, anxiety, and insomnia are common to many Americans. But, what causes stress, anxiety, and insomnia? And, what can be done to provide natural relief?

When most people go to a medical physician or psychiatrist for relief of symptoms of stress, anxiety, or insomnia, they are usually prescribed a tranquilizer or antidepressant.

Very rarely are underlying factors or non-drug measures discussed.

Natural measures are typically not discussed because the conventional therapeutic approach has minimally evaluated the role that diet, lifestyle, and attitude could play in determining an individual's response to stress.

My personal belief of the biggest side effect of drug therapy is that it reinforces the practice of dealing with disease by treatment of the symptoms, and diverts interest from addressing the underlying cause.

This is not only reinforced from the physician's perspective, but the patient influences it as well.

Many individuals would much rather resolve their symptom/problem by taking a pill, and not by taking personal responsibility for their own health.

The first step in achieving and maintaining health is taking personal responsibility.

The second step is taking the appropriate action to achieve the desired results, which should be more than just symptom relief.

Achieving and maintaining one’s health is easier if an individual follows the basic principles of health: enhance your positive mental attitude, maintain a healthy diet, and provide yourself with periodic exercise.

Could it be that these three essential factors could be enough to eliminate stress, anxiety, and insomnia? In most cases, the answer is yes!

Most Americans know something about stress. In fact, most of us believe that everyday stress is part of modern living. Job pressures, family arguments, financial pressures, and time management are just a few of the "stressors” most of us face on a daily basis.

Although we most often do not think of it as stress, or as something that causes us to feel "stressed out," technically speaking, a stressor may be almost any disturbance that can trigger a number of biological changes to produce what is commonly known as the stress response.

Fortunately for us, control mechanisms in the body are geared toward counteracting the everyday stresses of life.

Most often the stress response is so mild, the work of the body goes entirely unnoticed.

However, if stress is extreme, unusual, or long-lasting, these control mechanisms can be overwhelmed, and the effects of stress can be quite harmful.

One major key to counteracting stress is being able to recognize it. Have you ever been suddenly frightened? If you have, you know what it feels like to have adrenaline surge through your body. Adrenaline is released from your adrenal glands, a pair of glands that lie on top of the kidneys. Adrenaline was designed to give the body that extra energy boost to escape from danger. Unfortunately, it can also make us feel anxious and nervous.

Many people may not recognize what is causing them to feel stressed; all they notice are the physical signs of stress, such as insomnia, depression, fatigue, headache, upset stomach, digestive disturbances, loss of sex drive, and irritability. Many people going to physicians with these complaints may be suffering from unrecognized stressors.

The initial response to stress is the alarm reaction, often referred to as the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response is triggered by reactions in the brain that ultimately cause the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormones. This causes the adrenal gland to secrete adrenaline and other stress-related hormones.

The fight or flight response is designed to counteract danger by mobilizing the body's resources for immediate physical activity. As a result, the heart rate and force of contraction increases to provide blood to areas necessary for the response of a stressful situation. Blood is shunted away from the skin and internal organs, except the heart and the lungs; at the same time, the amount of blood supplying needed oxygen and glucose to the muscles, in the brain is increased.

The rate of breathing increases to supply necessary oxygen to the heart, brain, and exercising muscle. Sweat increases to eliminate toxic compounds from the body and to lower body temperature. Production of digestive secretions is severely reduced, since digestive activity is not critical for counteracting stress. Lastly, blood pressure levels go up dramatically as the liver dumps stored glucose into the bloodstream.

While the alarm phase is usually short-lived, the next phase, the resistance reaction, allows the body to continue fighting a stressor long after the effects of the fight or flight responses have worn off. Other hormones, such as cortisol, are secreted by the adrenal cortex and are responsible for this resistance reaction.

These types of hormones stimulate the conversion of protein energy so that the body has a large supply of energy, long after glucose stores are depleted, and also promote the retention of sodium to keep blood pressure, elevated. Besides providing the energy and circulatory changes necessary to deal efficiently with stress, the resistance reaction initiates those changes required for dealing with an emotional crisis, performing strenuous tasks, and fighting infection.

However, while the effects of adrenal cortex hormones are quite necessary when the body is in danger, prolongation of the resistance reaction due to continued stress increases the risk of significant diseases, including diabetes and high blood pressure, and results in the final stage of the general adaptation syndrome, exhaustion stage.

Exhaustion may manifest by total collapse of body function, or collapse of specific organs. Two major causes of exhaustion are losses of potassium ions and depletion of adrenal glucocorticoid hormones like cortisone. When cells of the body lose potassium, they function less efficiently, and eventually die.

When adrenal glucocorticoid stores become depleted, hypoglycemia results, and cells of the body do not receive the glucose or nutrients. Prolonged stress places a tremendous load on many different organ systems, especially the heart, blood vessels, adrenals, and the immune system.

From this brief physiological discussion, we can see that there are many organ systems in the body influenced by stress. Thus, many different symptoms, such as high blood pressure, lightheadedness, gastrointestinal issues, emotional issues, headaches, chronic fatigue, and sleep issues, can all be influenced by prolonged stress.

However, what one person may experience as stress, the next person may view entirely differently. Thus, to deal effectively with stress, an individual must concentrate on four equally important components, which are essentially cornerstones of stress management: various techniques to calm the mind to promote a positive mental attitude; a healthy diet designed to nourish the body and support physiological processes; exercise; and supplementary measures designed to support the body as a whole, but especially the adrenal glands.

The level or degree of support necessary depends on your current stress status. For all my patients, I recommend they employ all four of the various methods to support their body and mind's response to stress. Unfortunately, the society in which we live tries to "sell" people on health, and the natural approach is often difficult. In order to be healthy, one needs commitment. The reward is not always easily or quickly seen or felt. It is usually not until the body fails us in some manner that we realize we have not taken care of it.

Stress, anxiety, and insomnia are signs that our body and mind need support. Regardless of the "dis-ease," the reward for people who adopt a more positive mental attitude, eat a healthier diet, exercise regularly, and utilize natural, healthy-promoting measures is a healthier life filled with very high levels of energy, joy, vitality, and a tremendous passion for living. That would be my personal wish for you! The time to get started is today!