DMD Podcast # 13 – Stress and its impact on the body
So, if you know me and you know my story, you know that I went through a very rough patch when I was going through chiropractic college. My health completely went to crap in a short period of time. I went from a completely healthy, vibrant, 22 year old to a decrepit, broken down old man in a matter of two years. The story goes that I turned my life around after completely changing my diet and way of life and that is STILL COMPLETELY TRUE, however there is another component to that story.
This is a very, very stressful time period of my life. I’m in this new setting, I’m studying nearly 60 hours a week, the home that I grew up in and was the central hub and hangout spot of all my friends is now sold and gone forever, and I’m in a very long distance relationship. Stress can not be higher. In my mind, I’m actually dealing with it quite well. I’m doing well in school, but my body is clearly breaking down.
Yes, once I adapted a new diet a new lifestyle, I was able to heal myself. But part of that healing also included dealing with the stress in my life. I ended the long distance relationship. I dealt with and came to accept that my childhood home was gone forever. And I learned how to relax and have fun and not spend so much time worrying about achieving perfect grades. Once I did that, in combination with changing my diet, I was able to get my life back. I HAD TO DO ALL THIS IN ORDER TO DIG MYSELF OUT OF THIS HELL THAT I WAS IN FOR WHAT CAME TO BE TWO AND A HALF YEARS.
The point of that story and the point of tonight’s podcast, is to illustrate how important the role of stress is in our day to day lives and our health. The truth of the matter is, stress and stressful periods of our lives will bring to the surface any underlying issues we have. Many of us can have underlying health issues that are basically lying dormant, and when we’re under periods of great stress, our body can no longer adapt and that health issue, whatever it may be, is now allowed to rise to the surface like a volcano.
I understand it may sound cliché to say it, but stress really does kill. Many of the top causes of death in this country such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, all have stress as the common denominator.
Heart disease results from chronic stress on the coronary arteries.
Cancer is related to stress because stress releases a hormone called norepinephrine that can stimulate tumor cells and allow the
cancer cells to migrate into different parts of the body at a faster rate.
Diabetes results from the pancreas being under too much
stress for too long to the point where it no longer can perform its functions properly. The same is true of kidney disease.
And it doesn’t end there.
You can name nearly any health issue and guess what will be at its core? Stress. The common
cold, asthma, infections, poor sleep, ulcers, headaches, depression, Alzheimer’s, back pain,
neck pain, shoulder pain, indigestion, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, amenorrhea, loss of sexual
desire, acne, autoimmune conditions, weight gain, etc. It is estimated that 75-90% of all doctor
visits are due to stress-related ailments and complaints. These are all diseases of lifestyle and therefore preventable!!!
SO, before we get into how we can reduce stress let’s talk about what exactly can cause stress. I go into detail in my online course about the science of stress and how it really impacts the body but for the purpose of tonight’s podcast we’ll keep it brief.
What is it, exactly?
Stress is anything that triggers the “fight or flight” response and causes of whole cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters to be released which thus causes you
to feel either consciously or subconsciously so
me sort of strain, be it physical, mental, or
emotional. This can take many forms.
It can be financial stress – behind on bills, debt, struggling
to put food on the table.
Family stress – a sick family member, major disagreements, falling outs.
Emotional stress – anxiety, loneliness, depression.
Relationship stress – fighting with a spouse, infidelity, lack of intimacy.
Personal stress – problems with career, weight gain, low self-esteem.
Mental stress – academic rigor, too many responsibilities, striving for perfection.
Physical stress – health issues, disability, aging.
However, not all stress is bad stress. There is such a thing known as eustress, which is a
moderate or normal amount of stress that allows us to grow. This can be exercising, raising children, starting a new job, planning and traveling for a vacation, undergoing a home
improvement project, donating time or money to a charitable cause. We need stress in our lives, the good and the bad, to balance out. This is what makes us human, and why we cannot just sit on the couch and binge Netflix every day.
Ok so now that we’ve identified what the bad stress is let’s talk about way to combat it.
- Stop eating so many damned processed foods and carbohydrates.
Look, not all carbs are bad. But excessive carbs and excessive calories will spike insulin and constantly riding that insulin roller coaster can cause an increase in the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine which act like adrenaline and will further stress you out.
- Practice meditation (stoicism)
Daily meditation practices have been proven to reduce levels of epinephrine and cortisol. I personally like to use the app called Calm, there’s also another one called Headspace that I’ve used. Also, last time I checked, speaking of Netflix, headspace has an introductory series on meditation that I also found helpful.
As I mentioned earlier yes technically speaking exercise is a form of stress but if done properly it functions more as a Eustress which is what we want. And I’m not even going to get into the particulars of what exercise you’re doing here I don’t care if its walking, running, swimming, weight lifting, boxing; whatever you like to do be consistent with it so you get out of your minds and into your bodies.
Sleep is a BIG one. I like to say that sleep is the most important thing we do all day. And this one can be tricky because it acts like a positive feedback loop. The more stressed out we are, the harder it is to sleep, and the less sleep we get, the more stressed out we become. It may be hard to break this cycle, but we must try. Here are 5 easy things to do to increase your chances at a better night of sleep.
- Have your last meal at least 2-3 hours before bed
- Avoid artificial light near bedtime like from a phone, tv, or computer screen
- Keep your bedroom pitch black
- Avoid caffeine later in the day, my cut off point is 3pm
- Supplement with 500mg of magnesium and night
- Connect with loved ones
- This one is obviously less quantifiable. But sometimes all we need to feel better is to spend some time with those who really care about us. It can be a cold cruel world out there and this can make us stressed out and feel alone. Often times be re-connecting with family and those who care about us, we can at least step away from the coldness of the real world for a while. I’ve experienced the power of this myself.
For a time period of my life, I was living far, far away from anyone I knew. I was completely isolated. And yeah, I made new friends, but it still wore on me. Eventually, my health began to suffer and for months my arms would get numb and extremely heavy when I would lift them up over my head to use a comb to fix my hair every single morning. So heavy that I wouldn’t be able to hold them any longer and I’d need to take a break.
One week I had family visiting. That very next morning, after picking them up at the airport, I immediately noticed that the numbness and heaviness was just completely gone. I didn’t change a thing, other than I spent time connecting with people who really cared about me.
So, once again I share that story to illustrate the fact that reducing stress has a huge impact on how we feel physically and go back to my original point which is that stress will bring to the surface any underlying health issue.