Andrea Lemieux, RNCP
We've all felt our "fight or flight" response go into action--a sudden increase in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism and blood sugar that helps us react quickly to stressful situations. When the danger is over our parasympathetic nervous system takes over with a compensating period of relaxation.
We've all felt our "fight or flight" response go into action a sudden increase in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism and blood sugar that helps us react quickly to stressful situations. When the danger is over our parasympathetic nervous system takes over with a compensating period of relaxation.
This nervous system balancing mechanism is essential to our survival. Problems arise when the stress response is continually activated and a relaxation phase doesn't occur.
Sources of stress can be positive or negative events in our lives, like moving, a new job, deadlines, relationships, finances, pregnancy, raising children, menopause or the death of loved ones. "Sympathetic" activation releases hormones (especially from the adrenal glands) that cause the heart to beat faster, raise blood pressure and tense muscles. Situations that cause these physiological functions to stay elevated without appropriate release can lead to illnesses such as anxiety, nervous breakdown, heart attack, debilitating headache or backache, serious gastrointestinal problems and infectious disease.
Our lives are often more stressful than we are designed to manage, but stress does not have to be detrimental to health. It's helpful to be aware of how thinking affects the level of stress. Is that problem really going to get solved by constant worry? Stress management techniques such as deep breathing, physical exercise and relaxation must be learned. There are also specific nutritional steps to reduce potential damage.
There's an important relationship between nutrition and stress: some foods create stress while others help you maintain equilibrium. The following are some of the substances that are stressful to the body:
Chronic stress depletes you of nutrients, while a consistently well-balanced diet of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains, protein and natural fats such as butter and unrefined cold-pressed oils will supply all the nutrients necessary for a healthy nervous system. Enjoy a wide variety of raw, whole, natural foods. They contain vitamins and minerals in their original state.
Botanical medicines and nutritional supplements can be a valuable part of a comprehensive anti-stress program.
Use stress to your advantage! It need not be detrimental to health. A positive, optimistic mental attitude, stress management techniques, exercise, relaxation and a diet of natural, whole foods are all essential to living a long, healthy life.