Chapter 7

STRESS ...Turning Stress Into Strengths

Chronic negative stress, if left unchecked or unresolved, not only can cause disease, but can also manifest in the body as a myriad of physical and emotional problems aggravating many conditions including PMS, menopausal symptoms, allergies, hypoglycemia and candida infections. Stress can be a cause of many of these conditions; it can cause the conditions or may just aggravate and accentuate them!

Often a major life stress, trauma or crisis such as the loss of a loved one, or a relationship change can weaken the body. This, in turn can aggravate PMS' allergies, a impaired immune system or other disease processes which can occur at any point in a person's life. Sometimes critical events, even when occurring years before, can lead to the manifestation of a condition or disease. Many women state that they don't feel the same even years after the birth of a child. Complaints of fatigue and "hormonal imbalances" are not uncommon.

Stressful situations can cause hormonal and biochemical imbalances often affecting the nervous system, immune systems and health in general. Fortunately, much can be done through Naturopathic Medicine to help correct these situations.

Therefore, by understanding what physical and emotional stresses you may have undergone in the past, we can often discover much about your present health.

What can be done about stress?
A lot can be done. For example, it is very important that you are comfortable in the doctor's office. It is not uncommon for blood pressure tests to be inaccurate at a doctor's office because the person was nervous when the test was given. Try to relax and think pleasant thoughts when taking tests.

By learning about what stress does to our health, people can often reduce negative stress and turn it into positive strengths.

* Counseling and Effective Communication
In our clinic, we encourage you to ask questions about every aspect of your health. After discussing your health concerns and relating your specific circumstances, the physician should review your test results with you, then formulate a treatment program that you can understand.

* Physical and Physiotherapies Help Reduce Stress
You can have fun at the doctor's office! Because stress reduction is so important in rebuilding and restoring health, the physician and his clinic should utilize many gentle, soothing approaches, and help dissolve stress and tension. You should then be able to extend these beneficial effects to your home and family.

* Light Therapy (Phototherapy)
Scientific research shows that the pituitary gland lacks stimulation in climates such as found in the Pacific Northwest which do not get much winter sunshine. This lack of pituitary stimulation increases depression and worsens many other conditions. The physician (and your own home) should have special types of full spectrum lights to help these conditions. It really makes a difference!

* Serotonin
Neurotransmitters (brain hormones such as serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine) are natural phenolic compounds involved in many important regulatory processes in the body.

Studies have shown that low serotonin levels are implicated in bedwetting, severe headaches, depression, insomnia and even criminal behavior. PMS symptoms such as sobbing uncontrollably, heightened fears, hostility and extreme irritability have been linked to low or fluctuating levels of serotonin. These symptoms often overlap with those seen in sleep deprivation. In fact, women with PMS often report a feeling of deep exhaustion upon awakening as if they had not slept at all, even after sleeping for as much as 10-12 hours. If the body produces an inadequate amount of serotonin, a person may not enjoy "full" sleep usually indicated by a lack of "R.E.M." (Rapid Eye Movement). The "R.E.M. sleep state" is a healthy condition experienced during the dream-cycle portion of sleep. A lack of R.E.M. sleep has been shown to affect mood and is linked to depression. Although R.E.M. sleep may cause a person to sleep very heavily, women with PMS (i.e. low seratonin levels) often wake feeling tired. [32]

By balancing the body's level of serotonin and other neurotransmitters (using the same principles as in the treatment of allergies), many seemingly unrelated conditions such as PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, and childhood conditions such as bedwetting, learning disabilities, and overactive behavioral problems may be helped.

How does stress affect the digestive process, organ and hormone function, and proper nutrition?
Chronic negative stress can impair stomach and intestinal functions causing poor absorption and the improper digestion of food. In turn, the body may not receive the optimum amount of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for good health.

For example, in a normally functioning body, protein is broken down into amino acids which are then reconverted by the liver into another type of protein called "enzymes" essential to vital life processes including helping the body break down foods (digestive enzymes). Stress and improper nutrition can disrupt enzyme and pancreatic bicarbonate production thus decreasing the body's efficiency. This decreased vitality can promote fatigue and other diseases.

Your specific nutritional and enzyme imbalances can be diagnosed and then corrected through the use of special diets, therapeutic nutritional programs and the proper balance of enzymes. A thorough evaluation can significantly reduce the anxiety caused by worrying about a seemingly unending or un-treatable problem.

It is important to remember that the liver is the chief organ of detoxification. Like other organs, it is composed of cells which require Vitamin C, enzymes and other nutrients for proper functioning. If the amount of these elements are reduced due to stress-related other factors, liver function can become less efficient permitting toxins, drugs, estrogen and other waste products to accumulate. This can then cause a rise in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Furthermore, if a woman is constipated, the level of estrogen can rise even higher because of the recirculation of unmetabolized estrogen. Chronic negative stress can, in itself, lead to poor bowel function and increased levels of cholesterol and estrogen along with decreasing the levels of progesterone, thyroid, blood sugar and adrenal hormones. This imbalance can result in weakness, fatigue, and a weakened immune system.

A knowledgeable physician should help people rebuild and restore health by strengthening the liver, thyroid and other organs. In addition, the doctor should improve absorption, digestion and elimination through the use of specially formulated diets, natural medicines and supplements.

Next Chapter 8 : PAIN . . Treating Causes Not Symptoms