Stress – What Impact Does It Has On Us?

Stress is a physiological reaction by the body in response to a real or perceived threat.

Everyone today is living very busy, fast-paced, & filled-to-the-brim lives, with seemingly never-ending to-do lists. Being in a state of stress puts our bodies into the sympathetic nervous system state, commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ state. Our body pumps out cortisol & adrenaline, heart rate increases, blood is diverted to our limbs, our pupils dilate, & we prepare to fight or to flee the danger.

The alternative to this option is known as being in the parasympathetic nervous system state, where we can focus on ‘rest and digest’. Our muscles relax, blood heads toward our abdomen to digest our food, breath slows down, and our heart rate decreases. In this state we absorb our nutrients, create important hormones & neurotransmitters, & we feel calm.

Stress is necessary to keep us safe and alive, however a prolonged, high stress state can lead to serious and detrimental health consequences.

This is why I am so passionate about addressing the root cause of your symptoms –

and more often than not stress is playing a role.

What Factors Contribute to Stress?

  1. Poor Digestion

How do you know if you have compromised digestion? Diarrhoea, constipation (or both), bloating, excess gas, abdominal pain, burping and reflux, or an upset tummy are all signs that your digestion is off. If you have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease or Coeliac disease, finding a practitioner that resonates with you cannot be underestimated. Personalised & bio-individualised treatment here is vital.

As much as you can, eat in a very slow, relaxed, calm state. Slow & relaxed eating optimises the stimulation of our stomachs’ hydrochloric acid and stimulates the pancreas to create an abundance of digestive enzymes. This will further enhance your digestion, absorption & assimilation of nutrients. Very important!

Keeping a food & symptom diary is an excellent way of identifying your individual triggers. You may wish to cut them down, cut them out, or take a little break and assess how you feel. If you are eliminating foods, I do recommend seeing a professional to talk you through this new way of eating so you are not at risk of any nutrient deficiencies.

  1. A Toxic or Inflammatory Environment

Toxins are everywhere. However, we can control what we put in our bodies, on our bodies, and what we surround ourselves with. Our natural hormones are absolute superpowers in my opinion, but they are quit sensitive little things, especially to toxins. Slowly phase out toxic products in your home by replacing them with more natural alternatives. Choose organic or pesticide-free produce where you can. Farmers markets are a great (& one of the most affordable!) places to start.

  1. An Excess in Stimulants

I know no one wants to hear this so I’ll keep it short!

Caffeine → Increases cortisol output

Alcohol → The classic toxin. Burdens the liver, affects your sleep, mood, & depletes the body of nutrients

Medications May deplete the body of nutrients, antibiotics kill off beneficial good bacteria.

Sugar → Disrupts the microbiome, causes inflammation, burdens the liver, excess stores as adipose tissue

  1. Illness

Illness creates a constant stress on the body, regardless of whether you feel stressed or not. Depending on the illness, it may create an inflammatory environment for you to exist it, dampen your immune system leaving your more susceptible to other diseases, rob your body of vital nutrients, impair absorption of vital nutrients, zap your energy, etc.

My advice here is to put yourself first and work with a qualified, fantastic health care practitioner of your choosing.

  1. An Over-Burdened Liver

An over-burdened liver cannot do its complex detoxification processes thoroughly. The liver must process almost every item you take in through your mouth & put on your skin – so please be mindful of this. A ‘sluggish’ liver is an ineffective liver. The biggest strains on the liver are caused by the subjects mentioned in the points above.

  1. Your Perception of Pressure & Urgency

This is a phrase borrowed from the wonderful Dr Libby. We all feel pressure & urgency in our lives – however it is our perception of these pressures, and our perception of these urgencies that contribute to our stress levels. If we can work to reframe our pressures and urgencies, and see them as the environment we created for ourselves, and feel blessed to even have them – much of your stress and anxiety may subside. Gratitude lists are beautiful ways to remind ourselves of how lucky we are.

Deep belly breathing with extended exhalations can do wonders for your nervous system too.

How Can a Naturopath Help?

  • Through thorough dietary education, swaps and alterations
  • Lifestyle suggestions and changes
  • Hormone, cortisol, & adrenal functional testing
  • Increasing the right kinds of movement & exercise for your body right now – whilst decreasing the kinds that are not serving you
  • Nutritional supplementation

Some key nutrients for a healthy stress response include;

Herbal medicine is an absolute star for assisting with stress. Nervous system restoratives, adaptogens, anxiolytics, and adrenal tonics work beautifully to nourish your adrenal glands and support a healthy stress response.

Some of my favourite herbs for the nervous system include;

  • Rhodiola
  • Schisandra
  • Withania (also known as Ashwagandha)
  • Skullcap
  • Licorice
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Passionflower

Anti-inflammatory & Antioxidant herbs are very beneficial too, some examples include;

  • Turmeric
  • Ginger
  • St Mary’s Thistle
  • Schisandra
  • Rosemary

By Jaclyn Cave
Naturopath
BHSc (Nat)