Home' Nova West : August 2010 Contents HEALTH NATUROPATHY
© NOVA AUGUST 2010
THE EVOLUTIONARY SUCCESS of
humans indicates that we are pretty good
at dealing with stress, whether it be acute
stress as when faced by an attack from a
savage beast, or chronic stress from a food
shortage or a drought. Our ancestors had
successes and made mistakes. Importantly,
they learnt from them, passing on their
accumulated mental and genetic wisdom
as the evolving batons used in the relay
of life are progressively given to each
successor in the lineage.
Times change and these days the
challenges, or stresses, which confront
the average modern Westerner are
extremely different from those that
confronted us in days gone by. Like most
people, I have never been attacked by a
ravenous tiger and I have not faced the
threat of death by starvation or thirst. Nor
do I battle against the elements to survive.
My day to day challenges are far more
mundane and I tend to cope with them
easily. Even in times of difficulty my sense
of strength and calm resilience persists --
I'm one of the lucky ones.
Over the years, many have enquired
about the secret to my constantly laidback
approach to life. I give credit to an
active and well-nurtured life full of well
proportioned doses of love and nutrition,
a little meditation often and perhaps a
bit of genetic luck.
I learned long ago that the situations
and people who have the potential to be
frustrating are usually those who need
the most considered attention. We have
all developed our own ways of dealing
with stress and many of the habits we
have developed over time are simply our
coping strategies, such as sleeping in on
Sunday, or emotional eating, or drinking
too much on Friday. Even that habit of
having a few wines each night to unwind
is an attempt to lessen our daily worries.
Some of these strategies have
insidious health effects and the drop in
stress is only short term, often followed
with rebound stress responses and the
development of addictive tendencies.
Obviously, the bad habits that often
accompany stress have the potential to
have a negative impact upon our health,
but there is more to it than that. The body's
response to stress is also a damaging one,
with severe consequences. Exposure
to chronic stress has been linked to
depression, weight gain, muscle loss, heart
disease, irritable bowel syndrome and low
libido. In fact, the list just goes on and
there seem to be just as many remedies
for treating stress.
Exercise also helps a lot. Research
confirms what we all know and feel about
exercise, that it helps us de-stress, as well
as keep us healthy. Brand new research
from a team at the Department of
Psychiatry at the University of California
(including Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth
Blackburn) has also shown that vigorous
exercise can even protect against the
damaging shortening effect that chronic
stress has on telomere length, which has
significant implications for disease and
longevity potential. (See my column "Life
Clock" in last month's NOVA. Online at
recent research from
psychopharmacology has confirmed
previous findings (and suspicions of the
legions of the supplement takers) by
finding that high dose supplementation
of B complex, C, E, Calcium, Magnesium
and Zinc improved levels of stress
perception, general mood and cognitive
performance in those given the
Numerous well researched therapeutic
herbs and nutrients, each with differing
actions, can be used as appropriate to
balance hormonal and neurotransmitter
levels and receptors, some sedating, some
calming, others enhancing sleep.
Increased stress levels can make us
both more inflamed and, alternately,
inflammation can lead to an increased
stress response. In one recent study,
frequent high levels of interpersonal
stress were found to elevate circulating
levels of C-reactive protein in adolescents,
while further research found that chronic
exposure to a high level of interpersonal
stress heightens the potential to express
a reactive inflammatory response to
In another study, rheumatoid arthritis
patients were observed to have an
increased level of inflammation when
exposed to increased levels of stress.
Subsequently, many simple and effective
techniques including the use of diet,
nutritional and herbal medicine and
exercise prove helpful in reducing both
the perception of stress and the damaging
effects of an inflammatory load.
So if you're feeling your heart
thumping in your chest way too much
lately, if you feel overworked, struggling
with deadlines, dealing with relationship
issues, lacking motivation, or feeling
anxious or moody, then take heart in the
fact that there may be an effective strategy
that can help you manage your stress.
Or perhaps you just need a cup of
chamomile, a little lavender under the
pillow and an early night... unless you
actually are about to get attacked by a
tiger, in which case, let your stress response
go nuts and RUUUN!!!
Jeremy Hill (Diploma of Natural Therapy)
is a Qualified Naturopath
'Rheumatoid arthritis patients were observed to have an increased
level of inflammation when exposed to increased levels of stress.'
'...vigorous exercise can even protect against the damaging
shortening effect that chronic stress has on telomere length...'
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