Stress is the fundamental cause of many medical conditions. Everyone experiences stress but reacts and copes in a different way. However constant or prolonged exposure to medium or high level of stress affects the entire human physiology but especially the heart, blood vessels, adrenals and immune system. In my clinic I have seen increase of patients with stress related conditions and what impact stress can have on people regardless of age. . Stress may cause insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, obesity, inflammation, chronic fatigue syndrome, fatigue, muscle weakness, immunosuppression and autoimmune diseases. So let’s focus on just one aspect of impact of stress on human body– the digestive system.
How our digestive system copes with stress?
In a stressful situation , the human body increases production of adrenalin which constricts the blood supply to the digestive system and causes inhibition to the release of insulin thus constriction of the vessels of the pancreas. Our whole digestive system shuts down resulting in reduction in saliva, stomach enzymes, intestinal enzymes which do not counteract the Stress Response and instead prepare the body for the “Fear, Flight or Fight “response.
On the other hand there is an increase of blood supply to the vital body organs such as the limbs, brain and heart so we can “flight or fight”. Therefore it is not a good idea to have a meal when one is stressed as more harm can be done that good. Food “sitting” in the stomach while digestive enzymes are low will putrefy leading to the proliferation of unfriendly bacteria in the stomach and the gut. This may also result in parasitic infestation, Candida overgrowth or:”leaky gut syndrome”.
What are the symptoms of stress on the human body?
The symptoms of impact of stress on human physiology are complex and its severity depends on many factors such as diet, genetic predisposition and frequency of stressors: The longer the exposure to high level of stress the more severe the manifestation of the disease and the longer the treatment.The most common signs of inability to cope with stress are:
- Insomnia, depression and anxiety
- Emotional outbursts
- Overeating, excessive behaviour
- Heartburn, indigestion and “bad breath”
- Addictions and dependence
- Memory and learning difficulties
- Neuralgia and muscle weakness
- Headaches and migraines
- Fatigue and “chronic fatigue syndrome”
- Frequent colds and suppressed immune system
- Autoimmune diseases.
The most common mistakes people make in “managing stress”
To cope with stress some individuals are falling into a trap of addictions such as caffeine ,cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, overeating and overindulgence and excessive behaviour such as overspending or watching too much television. Some of us think that we can:”burn the candle from both ends” for long periods without consequences on our health. The human body has amazing mechanisms to heal itself, but to the point. Pain, emotional outbursts and anxiety is not such a bad thing. It is the body’s way of letting us know that there is something wrong with us and we have to do something about it.
How herbal medicine, nutrition and diet can assist in a healthy body and mind?
It is important to recognise impact of stress on your health early and seek professional help from an alternative medicine professional who will guide you how to cope with stress, identify the lifestyle factors, and prescribe appropriate herbal and nutritional supplements, recommend diet and life style changes and other professional help if appropriate. Fortunately for us, Nature has provided the human kind with medicinal plants for every medical condition humans will ever encounter. For instance our nervous system can be nourished and restored by specific plants for the nervous system and adrenal glands. Medicinal plants can lift anxiety, insomnia or depression, help to adapt to stress and perceive stress differently. Also every part of our digestive system can be revitalised and restored by specific medicinal plants and nutrition.