Stress kills. But what is stress exactly? I would define stress as an environmental or psychological pressure that places an upward demand on the body’s regulatory systems. Many people experience stress at work or just in their daily lives. The way individuals respond to stress can be very different. Let’s take an example of a group of kids who decide to have arm wrestling contest at lunch every day. After a few days of this, some of the kids will be experiencing chronic pain. Clearly, they have placed too much force too many times too frequently for their arms to cope. Some of the kids will be just fine. Some of the kids exceeded one or more parameters: too much force on some component of their arm; a force that could be tolerable if encountered less frequently; or a combination of the two. The group of kids who experienced no problems falls outside the above conditions. Either they were the studs who easily beat all of the other contenders, or the weaklings that lost on the first round every day and sat out as spectators. Over time, the weaker kids may see large improvements in their strength, while the studs would see less, or even start to have pain.
Also called “eustress” (good stress), hormesis refers to a stress applied periodically at a low enough level to produce beneficial changes. The group of kids who got stronger was subject to a proper dose of stress with a frequency over time that resulted in more strength.
The group of kids that experienced pain immediately was most likely injuring something. This acute trauma causes an immediate inflammatory response that sent pain signals to the brain to put a stop to the injurious behavior so that healing can take place. Inflammation is how the immune system works. There are five characteristics to acute inflammation: pain, redness, swelling, heat, and loss of function. Loss of function is the body’s final attempt to heal.
Low dose stressors are sometimes harder to detect. Our bodies change to put up with the stress, but the frequency and duration become too much. At this point, an acute episode ensues. A heart attack is a perfect example. After years of the body’s compensatory mechanisms, there is a major acute episode. These episodes in the presence of chronic bodily changes are usually catastrophic as in the example of diabetes, strokes, Alzheimer’s, and tooth loss.
STANDARD AMERICAN DIET & STRESS
The SAD is a huge chronic stress. It is at the heart of our modern health crisis. The constant blood sugar spikes spurred mostly by carbohydrates cause chronic inflammation. The high Omega-6 content of our diet is fuel to the flame. Over time, the body produces too much cortisol (the major stress hormone), and the body becomes insulin and leptin resistant. This causes carbohydrate cravings, obesity, hypertension, high triglycerides, low HDL, atherosclerosis, diabetes, sleep apnea, gum disease, tooth decay, osteoporosis, coronary artery plaque formation, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS
EAT a Paleolithic diet devoid of processed food, industrial seed oils, and grains. Include good fats like pasture fed butter, eggs, and liver for the fat soluble vitamins vital for certain functions. This will deal with the major baseline stress from the standard American diet, and normalize body composition.
SLEEP eight hours every night. This will help keep cortisol and leptin normalized, while increasing the sex hormones.
WALK most days.
WORK OUT hard for ten minutes 2-3 times per week.
ENJOY mid-day sun for 10 minutes often.
DON’T work long hours or at night.
CHILL, MEDITATE, DO YOGA or JUST PLAY!