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Is Stress and depression causing your health issues?

Stress, anxiety, and fear are often the underlying cause of many health conditions and failure to address this long term can hinder the process of healing.

Within my practice I often present with many cases that stem from stress. IBS and gastric ulcers are common for example. So, often we need to treat the psychological problem which has manifested as a physical one.

Every time we see something that frightens us (real or perceived, including violent movies and negative thoughts), our body responds by releasing epinephrine (adrenaline) into the bloodstream to fight or flight. This adrenaline decreases the flow of blood to the intestines and immune system and instead sends it to the muscles to respond.

Being in a state of fear or anxiety allows us to be abused and easily manipulated. It triggers the lizard part of the brain stem which activates primitive survival instincts such as aggression and flight or fight, overruling logic. Ask advertisers and politicians who take advantage of this to influence you for their own end.

When we are stressed and the threat is perceived (negative thoughts and emotions), the adrenalin in constant and these stress hormones go unspent and store up in the body cause many health issues such as:

Increased blood sugar produced as adrenaline increases glucose and decreases insulin, causing insulin resistance and diabetes

Obesity as adrenalin increases glucose which if not used, is stored as abdominal fat, increasing diabetes and coronary artery disease.

Increased blood pressure as adrenaline constricts the arterioles and veins, predisposing a person to hypertension

Increased cardiac risk as the adrenaline increases the force and contraction of heart muscles, causing arrhythmias and over stimulating the workload on the heart, leading to heart attacks.

Lowered immune system increasing susceptibility to fungal, viral and bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections in females.

Increase muscle tension as the adrenaline increases blood flow to muscle and causes increase muscle tension which can lead to tension headaches, shoulder pain, backache and body pain, which can later cause fibromyalgia etc.

Altered menstrual cycle and hormones causing an irregular cycle or no menstruation, to heavy or painful bleeding.

Sexual problems as adrenaline decreases hormones needed for sexual arousal and performance or erectile dysfunction and impotence, as well as decreased sperm production.

Psychic disorders, such as overeating, anorexia, bulimia, insomnia, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.

Methods to reduce stress and let go of fear

Mindfulness and Meditation

Numerous studies have proven the many physiological benefits of meditation to increase a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation. The latest study conducted by Harvard researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, determined that meditation literally rebuilds the grey matter in brains in just 8 weeks increasing the cognitive and psychological benefits that continue throughout the day.

They also discovered that meditation had a significant effect on clinical symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS and IBD.

There are many online meditation programs of different approaches and all seem to benefit.

There is also lot of scientific research showing that mindfulness or attention training, can benefit health and general well-being. By purposefully paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment, without judgement, participants in trials experienced profound benefits, such as reduced stress, improved sleeping patterns, a greater sense of well-being and increased clarity and focus.

Craniosacral therapy is very gentle non-invasive approach with teaches our body awareness and how to relax into a parasympathetic state which relaxes the nervous system.

Releasing pent up muscle pain

Muscle pain and stress are often referred mental stresses.

Yoga and Pilates

Commit to simple but short daily exercises that will release tight underused muscles. If you spend a lot of time at a desk, I front of a computer, in a car or plane, the psoas muscle, which is the long muscles along the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and pelvis, could be ‘stuck’ causing stiffness, hip, lower back and knee pains. You don’t have to become a gym bunny or even wear yourself out with cardio exercises. Stretch, yoga and Pilates moves, even as little as 5 minutes a day will unlock these sore tight muscles.

Loving yourself and your body

Self image and self love is necessary to reduce self induced anxieties about our body or performance.

You do not have to change your body or environment to start loving yourself. Loving yourself is a choice you make which comes from the inside. Easier said than done, but bit by bit start changing self-destructive behaviour to constructive habits and stop punishing yourself when you slip. Pack the scales away and just focus on giving your body what it deserves in the way of more healthy nutritious foods. Do exercises you enjoy, hang out only with people you enjoy – who do not make you feel bad about yourself. Drop negative thoughts as soon as they start creeping in. Stop comparing yourself to others and putting yourself down to other people – you are uniquely you.

Nutrition and supplements

Nutrition plays an important part and it is important that vital nutrients, such as B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, needed by the adrenal glands, are in good supply. Phosphate minerals such as potassium, magnesium and sodium are needed for the nervous system too.

Supplements such as 5htp, tryptophan, tyrosine, GABA, L-theanine, SAMe etc. have successfully been used in place of anti-depressants (but may be contraindicated to use with medicinal anti-depressants – always use under advice of a health professional).

There are also many tried and true herbs, used for generations to help alleviate stress, depression, anxiety and insomnia such as Passiflora, Rhodiola, Chamomile, lemon balm, Kratom, Sceletium, St John’s Wort, Avena Sativa, Valerian, Hops, Ashwagandha, Bacopa etc.

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