Stress plays a major role in many health problems. Modern daily life is vastly different to that of our ancestors, yet our survival mechanisms are just as finely tuned now, as they were then. Where our ancestors may have been chased by a hungry tiger, today our stress response is more likely to be triggered from demanding work and family roles, high speed living, financial worries or relationship troubles. In fact, one in four Australians have taken time off due to stress at work. Add to these life's big or unexpected events and pressures may quickly escalate to unmanageable levels.
Often times, these pressures are so distracting that it is not until you get symptoms such as insomnia, palpitations, hypertension, fatigue and/or a change in appetite that you realize stress may be affecting your health and wellbeing.
Stress is actually the "fight or flight" response mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the adrenal glands. This is where the body sends out chemical messengers to allow us to either fight off the stress or run away from it. The brain and adrenal glands secrete adrenaline and noradrenaline and the adrenal glands also secrete cortisol. These chemicals increase blood flow to the brain, heart, lungs and muscles so that you can run fast! Cortisol also increases the amount of sugar released into your blood so that you can feed those racing muscles. During this time, as reproductive and digestive functions are unimportant, they are suppressed. Once the stress is over these chemical messengers return back to normal and balance is restored.
This fight or flight response is not a problem unless it does not switch off, as in the case of chronic stress. Prolonged stress is bad for your health. The stress response may have been a great adaptation for us hundreds of years ago but unfortunately the effects of chronic stress can impact our health significantly. Chronic ongoing stress can alter the delicate balance within our body. Stress especially affects the heart and cardiovascular system, weakens digestion, depletes energy levels, upsets blood sugar regulation and hormonal balance, and may disturb sleep and mental health. Therefore, we need to manage stress and our response to stressful situations to ensure balance and health.
The impact that stress has on health and wellbeing is unique to each person. Through specific questioning your naturopath can determine any underlying neurological or hormonal imbalances that may be triggering the way you respond to stress. For example, do you burst into tears, grit your teeth in irritation or fly into a rage? Knowing your stress response can help them determine the right nutritional support for you.
Fortunately, your naturopath has some excellent options to help you manage stress and its consequences naturally.