STRESS AND ITS FAR-REACHING EFFECTS

Stress is one of the biggest triggers of acute and chronic illness. It causes a cascade of behavoural and hormonal reactions, which can give rise to symptoms affecting all our vital systems.

The current economic circumstances are affecting people on many levels. Many people have serious financial concerns, and the anxiety from this can literally eat away at one’s health. For those people who have not been so badly affected financially, it is often at the cost of working very long hours, dealing with or worrying about work matters at home, and the inevitable commute for those who work in large cities.

Those who have to commute into central London every day are likely to have high stress levels before they even begin work. Although London can be very enriching, and full of endless activities, when it comes to pushing and shoving on crowded trains in the rush hour, or driving and getting stuck in traffic, spending long hours in the work place trying to keep on top of ever increasing tasks and at the same time prove that you are not dispensable, another stress-filled journey home, and then trying to find some solace of relaxation before going to bed, getting up and doing it all again – well, London life under these circumstances doesn’t sound quite as attractive. You may want to move to the countryside to get away from it all, but if you can’t find a job there it would incur an even more complicated commute. Making some adjustments such as working at home can take away a large part of the stress, but this isn’t an option for many people, despite the improved communication system. Cycling instead of the stress of public transport or driving is great for some, but again not viable for most people. One consolation is that while on this treadmill you may be getting paid a reasonable amount, which cannot be said for the many people who do not have well-paid jobs or no job at all and are experiencing greater stresses and strains just trying to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, the knock-on effect of this level of stress is that many people seek relief in increased consumption of alcohol, sugar, smoking or other drugs. While these provide some temporary relief, the long-term effects can of course be disastrous.

There are, of course, many other factors involved besides stress. The increased amounts of toxins and chemicals in foods causes physical stresses and nutritional imbalances which conjoin with emotional issues to disrupt the entire digestive and endocrine systems.
The digestive system is where most of the physical manifestations start, as inflammation, caused by toxins or stress, can lead to an imbalance in gut flora and the erosion of the digestive tract lining. This can result in alterations in your brain-gut connection, which can cause or worsen numerous gastrointestinal disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, food intolerances, and more. Cortisol levels – already elevated due to stress – continue to rise in response to inflammation, the immune system becomes compromised, nutritional absorption is further impeded, and the endocrine system runs amok.

Constant production on cortisol will result in the immune system being suppressed, so you can often continue on the treadmill of life for long periods without any disruptions for illness – but as soon as you have a holiday and cortisol levels reduce somewhat, your immune system will start working again to throw out all the accumulated toxins, and you may spend part of your holiday feeling ill.

Further on down the line, if the adrenals remain on high alert for long enough, causing a permanent ‘fight or flight’ reaction, they will eventually get tired and start to wear out. When this happens, cortisol production goes in the other direction and reduces permanently. Without this anti-inflammatory protection, your immune system will weaken, leading to an increased susceptibility to infections, viruses and allergic reactions. The risk also increases for many more serious illnesses, such as autoimmune diseases and cancer.

The apparent rise in fertility problems is just one of the consequences of increased cortisol levels, as it can lead to the ‘cortisol steal’ effect – the hormone DHEA is the precursor for both cortisol and the reproductive hormones, and if stress levels cause an increase in the amount going down the cortisol pathway, there will be a decrease in the amounts of DHEA available for the reproductive system.

Many of the temporary measures used to alleviate stress, and the lifestyle factors that ensue, will exacerbate the situation by putting greater physical stress on the body. For example, not only does increased sugar and alcohol increase the production of insulin and cortisol, which in themselves can lead to weight gain and blood sugar instability, but the empty calories can also cause weight gain. Sleep may be affected by anxiety, and lack of or disrupted sleep in itself creates more stress, due to the many negative effects on body and brain.

So the result of stress, and the associated factors, is that ‘lifestyle’ diseases are now having a more serious effect than communicable diseases, and imbalances are being seen in many more people at a much younger age than would have been expected in the past. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease (cortisol also restricts the blood vessels), certain cancers, high blood pressure, insomnia, and some mental health conditions are examples of diseases that have their roots in stress, and can be helped via lifestyle changes.

With all these health factors at stake, it is vital to take steps to reduce your stress levels. In my work I deal with holistically balancing your system. Firstly I make sure that you are not sensitive to basic nutrients and do treatments to correct this, so that you can properly absorb vitamins and minerals, which are the raw materials of all the necessary enzymes and hormones. Then I deal with sensitivities to other basic foods, environmental substances, heavy metals and other negative issues, to eliminate the imbalances and weakening effects that these sensitivities can cause. Alongside this I do balancing treatments for glands, hormones, organs and detoxification pathways, as well as giving nutritional and lifestyle advice.

Good nutrition and absorption of nutrients, with a minimum of sugar and toxins, exercise, healthy sleep patterns, and relaxation techniques such as meditation – these are the cornerstones of good health and are the issues I aim to help you with. I know that health treatments can be another complication for those who are already suffering the stress of financial burdens, or for those who are so busy they don’t feel they have the time – but what price can be put on your health? Maybe the cost of treatments is worth it when weighed against the gains to your health, energy, relationships, peace of mind, and longevity.

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