Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Reduce Stress With Vitamins and Herbs

Who doesn't experience stress? But not all people handle it equally well.

Stress is usually thought of as a negative factor in our daily lives but it is necessary part of life. Without stress life becomes boring. The key to stress, as with everything else in life, is balance. Enough to keep you interested but not enough to become overwhelmed. Individuals have different thresholds for stress. What is seen as stressful to one person may not be stressful to another.

The stress response is the body’s way of preparing for action. As our species evolved it kept us safe, allowing us to fight for survival, or to flee from dangerous situations. The sympathetic nervous system response involves increased heart rate, blood pressure and adrenal output, as well as increased blood flow to the brain, muscles, lungs and heart. Those organs that are not needed to fight or flee receive less blood flow, for example, the digestive organs. This response is very efficient for a short period of time but it is meant to be used sparingly.

There are three types of stressors and the body deals with each one the same way. The three general categories are: Emotional, Chemical, and Physical.

Emotional stress can be caused by any emotion including love, hate, anger and envy.

Chemical stressors are microbes, poisons, oxygen deprivation, drugs, nutrient deficiency, pollution, alcohol and junk foods.

Physical stressors are loud noises, x-rays, UV light, gravity and temperature. Nowadays our body’s reaction to stress is seen as inappropriate, because the stressors we face are not usually life-threatening or dangerous, yet our body responds as it always has.The result of constant stress can be tense muscles, headaches, stomach cramps, teeth grinding, decreased immunity, exhaustion and insomnia. Emotionally stress can lead to memory problems, depression, emotional outbursts and panic attacks. It is believed that constant stress is a factor in the development of many chronic diseases.

Certain factors make individuals more likely to suffer from stress related illnesses: Personality traits, Ignoring the body's signals, Dietary deficiencies, Irregular daily patterns, Lack of physical activity.

Certain personality types are more likely to exhibit stress related problems. Individuals who exhibit workaholic behaviour and have exceptionally high standards are labelled as having a “Type A” personality. These individuals are constantly under stress and as a result have increased risks of stress related diseases such as heart attack.

We often ignore the first signs of stress, such as headaches and insomnia, and use medication to stop the symptoms. We use stimulants, like caffeine, to allow ourselves to keep working when the body is trying to tell us to slow down. The masking of stress symptoms eventually causes the body to breakdown.

The standard North American diet is deficient in vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. It is high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and chemical additives and preservatives. These substances not only do not give your body usable energy, but they also inhibit the use of good quality food by depleting enzymes and hormones necessary for energy conversion. The body must also deal with the toxic by-products of foods like bleached flour and sugar, artificial sweeteners and flavours and trans-fatty acids. All of these stressors compromise the health of an individual.

Irregular sleeping and eating patterns make one susceptible to stress related illness. Sleep is an essential component of our body’s repair mechanisms. During sleep the body is in an anabolic, or building, state. It has time to regenerate cells and replenish hormones, enzymes and neurotransmitters. Insomnia prevents the repair of normal damage from the body’s daily activity. The brain also requires sleep in order to process information that is learned throughout the day.

Irregular eating patterns stress the body by not providing nutrients at regular intervals. When the body is lacking nutrients it compromises the body’s functioning. When an individual finally does eat the body rushes to use the nutrients and store whatever it does not need, in anticipation that the next meal may not come for a while.

Lack of exercise contributes to stress by compromising the circulation of all molecules around the body, including food particles, oxygen and hormones. Circulation is also responsible for flushing waste products out of the cells and taking them to the appropriate organs for processing and excretion. The venous system contains no values so blood flow back to the heart is dependent on movement of the surrounding musculature. Exercise also removes tension from muscles and offers an outlet for unexpressed emotions.

Fortunately there are many natural therapies to improve your body’s resistance to stress. Dietary support for stress is as follows:

Decrease your consumption of salt, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, corticosteroids, fried foods, pork products, red meat, processed foods, sugar and white flour. Eat more foods containing high amounts of vitamins and minerals, like green leafy vegetables, seaweeds, whole grains, nuts and seeds and legumes. Foods containing B vitamins are green leafy vegetables, eggs, lean meat, whole grains and nutritional yeast. Consume essential fatty acids in flax, pumpkin, hemp and sunflower seed oils or in fish. Drink 2L of filtered water daily. Avoid chlorinated and fluoridated water.

Sleep hygiene is an essential component of healthy sleep. Go to bed only when you are tired and do not stay in bed if you re not sleepy. Use the bedroom only for sleep and sex. Get up at the same time each day. Do not nap unless it is a daily routine and exercise during the day but not before bed. Take a hot bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed. Keep the bedroom quiet and comfortable. If necessary, use a white noise machine to generate background noise. Put worries out of your mind and think of positive things.

Support your emotional health by constructively releasing frustrations and anger. Take classes in yoga, biofeedback or anger management. Allow yourself to grieve after the loss of important people or things in your life. Seek out self-help groups and ask for help from family and friends during stressful times. Regular moderate exercise decreases stress levels by increasing circulation and decreasing muscle tension. Find an activity that you enjoy and that you can comfortably undertake given your age and health status.

The following supplements are beneficial for stress: 5htp, st. john's wort, B complex, valerian, cortisol support nutrients, adrenal supplements, neurotransmitter boosters, and melatonin.

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