REDUCING STRESS FOR HEALTH AND WELL BEING
Contrary to nature's original intention, the level of stress inherent in just being alive today can invoke the body's "flight or fight" survival mechanism into nearly continous operation. For many people in the late 20th Century, life feels more or less like being trapped in a speeding car with one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator at all times. Eventually, the car is going to break down, which is exactly what will happen to a body in continuous stress.
According to Dr. Hans Selye, the foremost researcher on the physiology of stress, "Stress is a nonspecific response of the body to any demand put on it." It could be as simple as shivering in response to cold air: You shiver to produce more heat, and the blood vessels contract to diminish the loss of heat from the body's surface. Whether the stress is minor or traumatic, joyful or heart-wrenching, every instance of stress requires a response - an adaptation or adjustment - to re-establish normalcy in the body. The nervous system must adjust itself to intrusions. Dr. Selye calls this the General Adaptive Syndrome.
1) Alarm Reaction, 2) Resistance, and 3) Exhaustion.
When exposed to a stressor, the involuntary portion of our nervous system (called the Sympathetic Nervous System), prepares the body to defend itself. Once invoked, the nervous system's Alarm Reaction stimulates the production of adrenaline which raises our blood pressure, heart rate and general metabolism. This reaction is natural for the body. However, since no human being can constantly live in a state of alarm, the second stage, Resistance, follows wherein the body more or less regroups itself to return to a more normal state. If the stressor overpowers the body, or if the body's adaptive functions are overextended, the body enters into a state of Exhaustion. In this stage, there can be premature ageing, illness and death because the limits of the body's adaptation to stress have been exceeded.
The length of time that it takes for the body to reach a state of Exhaustion differs for each person, depending upon his or her innate adaptability and on the nature of the stressor or stressors. It can take years, an entire lifetime, or even one single event for the body to go through all three stages. But, once the limits of adaptability are exceeded, an overall negative effect on one's health is established that can be difficult or impossible to reverse.
When the body can no longer adapt to stress, the result for some people will be to develop cancer, and for others, arthritis, asthma, ulcers or some other serious and/or chronic illness. These illnesses usually develop in the body's weakest areas, even though all parts may be equally exposed to stress. Dr. Selye says:
There are many possible approaches to dealing with stress. As noted in the discussion of The Pythagorean Center's "Philosophy of Health," Stress is one of a triad of factors contributing to the state of a person's health, the others being Physical Structure and Nutritional Balance. Each of these factors has an effect upon the others, both in contributing to an imbalance and in working to alleviate the symptoms and causes of illness. Of the three (and excepting serious physical injury), however, Stress can be said to have the most invasive and pernicious effect on all aspects of health.
To follow is a discussion of some of the effects of stress on the body and some of the remedies recommended and employed by the Center.
NUTRITION AND METABOLISM
"Thy food shall be thy remedy."
The food he was referring to, however, is that which exists in its natural state as it did in his day, without processing or additives. This means eating food that is "whole" and has not been broken down into its component parts as when, for instance, brown rice is converted to white rice. In the "process-ing," essential B-Complex vitamins are lost to the body. Re-introducing nutrients via even naturally-produced vitamin supplements is but a limited substitute in the way the body is able to assimilate and use them.
For food to support health, it must be also be free from chemical treatment and preservatives that can affect assimilation or compromise the body's natural processes. Food that heals is food that promotes healthy metabolism and elimination without adding stress to the body's digestive system.
For an additional discussion of nutritional deficiencies and digestive imbalances, please see the article, "Nutritional Healing."
It is known that stress depletes the body of protein, Vitamins A, E, B (particularly B-2, riboflavin), B-6, B-12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, choline, Vitamin C and also pituitary and adrenal hormones.
Stress increases the production of adrenal hormones which, in turn, increases the metabolism of protein, fats, carbohydrates in order to produce more energy for the crisis. As a result of increased metabolism, there is also an increased excretion of potassium and phosphorus, and a decreased storage of calcium.
It should be noted that many of the disorders related to stress are not a direct result of stress, itself, but are a result of nutrient deficiencies caused by stress-induced increased metabolism. Vitamin C, in particular, is utilized by the adrenal glands during periods of prolonged stress, causing a depletion of Vitamin C and a consequent weakening of the immune system.
Periodic detoxification with juice fasting or special herbal programs is helpful in eliminating the waste products (fatigue poisons) generated by stress. In addition, the efficient functioning of the large intestine or colon can have a tremendous effect on the entire body. Improving colon function can be done by increasing the bulk or fiber in one's diet, and by cleansing herbs, enemas, or colonics. An excellent book to read along these lines is Colon Health, by Dr. Norman Walker.
A much overlooked factor in the body-mind's self-healing mechanism is what Herbert Benson, M.D., described in his classic text as "The Relaxation Response." Benson, on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, performed research on stress and meditation methods some 25 years ago. What he formulated, now called the "Relaxation Response," is used worldwide by people from all walks of life.
Dr. Benson suggests that there are two avenues to coping with the bombardment by stress in our lives. One is to prevent the stimulation of the Sympathetic Nervous System by avoiding all stressful situations or by altering one's response to them. For most people, this approach is not feasible, although every attempt should be made to lead a balanced life-style.
The second approach is to purposely stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which is the restorative or regenerative portion of the body. Such deliberate activation of the body's inherent self-righting mechanism will de-activate the "flight-or-fight" response. Then, adrenaline will decrease, blood vessels and muscles will relax, and healing will occur. Dr. Benson developed the Relaxation Response to bring this re-balancing mechanism into play. (Guidelines to employing the Relaxation Response may be found in Dr. Benson's book.)
In addition to relaxation and meditation techniques, methods such as Hatha Yoga and Polarity Yoga and other physical activity can greatly assist in the relief of mental and physical fatigue.
Exercise and Rest
Exercise is tremendously beneficial in countering the effects of stress and building stamina. We burn off a lot of fatigue poisons through the skin and lungs with exercise. Proper rest is also essential to counter stress, allowing the body to regenerate. A body fatigued due to lack of rest will not regenerate. If stress has progressed to the point of strain (long-term chronic stress with a severe accumulation of fatigue poisons), simply resting will not be adequate for the body to heal. A strained body must have some type of corrective care in order to get well.
In the chiropractic field, a strained body will show a spine that is out of balance. One or more areas of the spine will not have the proper range of motion. Postural balance will be off as evidenced by a person seen to be leaning too far forward, backwards, or to the side. Chiropractically, we will also locate in a strained body tender areas on the surface of the body that reflect the tension and exhaustion of the adrenal, thyroid, or pituitary glands. By treating these surface areas that are tender, by restructuring the spine that has lost its proper balance of strain, fatigue poisons will be eliminated, and vitality will be returned to the body.
In addition, "light touch" techniques such as the Logan Basic Chiropractic Technique, commuicate with the body-mind complex and tell it that it is all right to relax; the crisis is over and the "flight or fight" response is no longer needed. A light, stroking touch to the body produces a "Relaxation Response" that approximates Dr. Herbert Benson's work with the mind. In essence, we "re-tone" the nervous system; that is, we turn down the thermostat of "flight or fight" and turn up the restorative portion of the body's thermostat. When we do let go, internally the entire organism has the potential for self-healing. (For additional discussion on the "light touch" chiropractic technique employed at the Center, please also see "The Logan Basic Chiropractic Technique.")
Allergies may cause stress to the body or may, in fact, also be a result of the stress syndrome. The well-known nutritionist, Adele Davis, made the connection between exhaustion of the adrenals and the body's consequent vulnerability to allergens. She said: "If animals' adrenal glands are removed to prevent cortisone from reaching the blood - simulating adrenal exhaustion in humans - the allergic reaction to an injection of a foreign substance is extremely severe and fatal." (She went on to say that identical injections to animals with healthy adrenals, had little effect.)
Thus, a pituitary-thyroid-adrenal system worn out as a result of stress leaves us susceptible to allergic reactions to drugs, vaccines, serums, cosmetics, insects, plants, pollens, dust, dandruff, bacteria, molds, foods, vitamins, etc. Reactions to these substances may be skin rash, eczema, hives, hay fever, asthma, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, sinus infections, digestive disturbance, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and many other symptoms.
It should be noted that, if our endocrine system is not stressed or strained, we are more resistant to allergies, but sometimes we are born with certain inherited or fixed allergies, or we may have higher requirements of certain nutrients in our diet than others. These fixed allergies or higher nutritional requirements need to be isolated and considered as a separate factor.
The famous writer, C.S. Lewis, wrote in his book, Miracles, the following comments which fully support the Center's philosophy of healing:
In our opinion the "re-set" button is a healthy, whole diet and nutritional program; exercise and relaxation for stress reduction; and "light touch" chiropractic methods (as opposed to forceful heavy methods which only reinforce the defensive Sympathetic Response). With a balanced approach to health care and wellness, this medicatrix nature (nature's medicine) is within our grasp.
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