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Is Stress Getting in the Way of Achieving Your Health Goals?

16 Sep 2015

 

(Adapted from Wellness Review, Metagenics)

Modern living and “stress” seem to go hand in hand and it may be no surprise to you that the effects of stress can have a significant impact on mental wellbeing. Nevertheless, you may not know that the effects of stress can impact other body systems potentially hindering the achievement of health goals such as losing weight or improving digestive function. 

Fight or Flight – the ancient coping mechanism.  

The stress response is an evolutionary strategy to cope with immediate dangers, such as an approaching lion! In response to an external threat, the chemical messengers, adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are released from your adrenal glands, which enable you to either stand and fight or flee as fast as you can. In modern times, where lions are no longer a regular feature, the feeling of being under constant stress, (work, family, finances) is interpreted by your body in the same way and can therefore lead you to be in a permanent state of emergency. 

So what will stress be 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. This can also lead to foggy thinking, poor concentration and low mood due to the close connection between gut and brain.
  • 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 arise when your body switches to making stress hormones instead of sex hormones. 

Breaking the Cycle 

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are several nutrients and herbs that can help calm an overactive stress response, which are quickly effective. 

  • Magnesium is essential for the nervous system by supporting the appropriate functioning of your brains chemical messengers, the ‘neurotransmitters’. Magnesium also produces energy, helping you resolve the fatigue that may come with being stressed. 
  • In addition, the B vitamins (often taken as a complex) work as a team with magnesium to support your nervous system. They can also play a vital role in energy production themselves. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 examples of anxiolytic herbs that have been extensively studied for their mild sedative and calming effects. 
  • Probiotics have many roles in the digestive system with one of them being calming to the gut and subsequently calming to the mind. 
  • Eat healthy – lean proteins, antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables and essential fatty acids from oily fish, nuts and seeds, all nourish your neurotransmitters. 
  • Exercise regularly – a fabulous stress buster, exercise helps burn up excess adrenaline whilst releasing the ‘feel good’ chemical messengers, the ‘endorphins’. 
  • Get enough sleep (seven to eight hours) – practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ techniques such as no TV or computer time for at least half an hour before bedtime and avoid caffeine in the afternoons. 
  • Meditate – particularly helpful if you cannot “switch off” your brain at night. There are numerous techniques available to help calm an overactive mind, such as transcendental meditation, mindfulness and creative visualisation. 

 

Stress is an inevitable part of modern lifestyles, but it needn’t get the better of you. Remember, a diamond is just a lump of coal who handled stress exceptionally well!

 

Tags: balance, Health, Relax, Stress

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