Smorgasbord Health Column – Heart health and the Stress Connection.


Over the last two weeks I have been looking at the heart, its structure, function and some of the more common health problems associated with the organ.

You can find all the previous posts in the Health Column Directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-column-news-nutrients-health-conditions-anti-aging/

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to our heart health, as whilst there may be some factors beyond our control, our diet and lifestyle is usually our responsibility, as is the management of the stress in our lives.

One of the leading causes of heart attacks in men and increasingly in women is stress. It is a silent killer that lies in wait and pounces when you least expect it. It is not helpful that the stress that we experience is as unique as our own bodies.

What is Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true.

Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘flight or fight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress.

Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. For example, my husband loves the challenge and rush of downhill skiing on the most difficult of runs. When I tried skiing I created so much stress and fear for myself that I lasted about two days. I was terrified and it made me feel physically sick.

Another example might be a busy high level executive who can find ‘taking it easy’ at the beach on a beautiful day extremely frustrating, non-productive and upsetting. You can be stressed simply doing nothing.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

Others create stress for themselves and those around them. They love the drama it creates and they rarely know how damaging this behaviour is for all concerned. We have all had drama queens in our lives and knowing how to handle them to prevent a knock on effect on your own health is essential.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2018

Next time some strategies to combat stress and some nutritional support from foods that you eat regularly.

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook fromhttp://www.amazon.com/Sally-Cronin/e/B0096REZM2

And Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sally-Georgina-Cronin/e/B003B7O0T6

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4: http://www.moyhill.com/html/just_food_for_health.html

Thank you for dropping in and if you have any questions fire away.. If you would like to as a private question then my email is sally.cronin@moyhill.com. I am no longer in practice and only too pleased to help in any way I can. thanks Sally

Thanks for dropping in and please feel free to share.

 

Smorgasbord Health Column – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – The Six Week Recovery Programme


Welcome to part three of this series on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.. In the last two posts I covered the new research showing the involvement of Vitamin D in our gut health and also some of the strategies you can put in place to minimise the symptoms. I also looked at the impact that chronic stress can have on our digestive system and our gut welfare.

The two previous posts can be read here at these links.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/01/29/smorgasbord-health-column-nutrient-in-the-news-vitamin-d-and-irritable-bowel-syndrome/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2018/02/01/smorgasbord-health-column-irritable-bowel-syndrome-nutrients-and-strategies-to-manage-the-condition/

The six week programme.

The aim of this programme is to reduce the symptoms that you are currently experiencing and to repopulate your intestines with the healthy bacteria needed for your body to function.

You only know if something is working if you keep a record.  So to start, you should write down all your symptoms and over the six weeks keep a journal.  Keep track of symptoms coming or going and check the foods that you have eaten in the last 24 to 36 hours.

Did you re-introduce a grain or dairy product. Did you eat something new or high in sugar?

This will also help you in the future when you perhaps relapse and you can look back and perhaps identify a food or habit that might have crept back in.

Creating a calmer environment.

This programme however, is not going to be effective if you do not eliminate or dilute any triggers that have resulted in mental or emotional stress.

It is tough to deal with chronic stress and there are so many triggers for this condition including family, relationship, financial, health, bullying, school and work.

Having experienced most of these over the years, I know how very hard it is to free yourself from the burden that they lay on you.  The one thing I do know is that asking for help is also up there as a stress trigger. However, As I have found out, once you do that and talk through a problem there is a lightening of that burden. Finding the right person can be difficult but hopefully there is a go to person who you trust and who can guide you to find solutions. It does not necessarily cure the problem but it can help you see a way to manage the situation.

Hard as it may be. The burden falls on you to help your body and your mind through a crisis and the one thing you must try and do is to eat as well as possible and to keep hydrated (not with alcohol). If your body is nourished it will go a long way to keeping your intestines functioning efficiently. Doing some form of daily exercise can also be helpful and being with supportive friends. As they say, two heads (or more) can be better than one.

Here are two posts that you might find helpful if you are suffering from chronic stress.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-heart-and-the-stress-link/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe-the-heart-stress-strategies-and-foods-to-support-you/

Here are the physical elements to the six week programme.

WEEK ONE – Aim is to reduce inflammation and cramps and increase intestinal flora.

Grains are all out for the first week.  You will be getting sufficient carbohydrates from vegetables and fruit.  You will start to re-introduce from week two, one grain at a time.

Dairy is out for the first week – you will introduce butter week two, milk week three and cheese week four.  Calcium will come from vegetables, canned fish etc.

No alcohol for six weeks or any other processed packets, cans or bottles of sauces of any kind including mayonnaise.

One coffee no milk per day in the morning (suggest decaffeinated but if you are used to drinking four or five coffees a day – wean yourself off them one cup at a time) but note any intestinal symptoms 30 – 60 minutes after eating.  Tea – black without milk – Green tea anti-bacterial – peppermint tea – great for spasms and cramps.

FOOD YOU CAN EAT WEEK ONE.

Vegetables – for first week or two avoid cabbage or cauliflower as nutritious but can increase wind. At least five a day of spinach, broccoli, watercress, Rucula lettuce, courgettes, leeks, onions, (every day) mushrooms (shitake are excellent) garlic (fresh if possible) carrots, parsnips, swede, potatoes, butternut squash (carbohydrates), tomatoes, (see how you feel the next day as pips in tomatoes can cause a problem if you suffer from diverticulitis), red peppers, peeled cucumber, half an avocado per day.

Flavour with a little olive oil and herbs or spices. Balsamic vinegar with some olive oil and herbs makes a good salad dressing.

FruitAt least two per day – bananas (helps both diarrhoea and constipation) oranges, lemons, apples, pears, grapes, berries of all kinds, plums, melon.  Avoid dried fruit in week one.

Protein –  Red meats are harder to process and I suggest that for the first couple of weeks that you stick to chicken, turkey and eggs any way you wish.  If you are not using milk you can still make scrambled egg and omelettes by whisking the whites first.  Use the microwave or a pan with a little olive oil.

Fish – at least three times a week.Salmon fresh or frozen (look for unfarmed deep sea) and canned (mash the soft bones in for added calcium) tuna, sardines, halibut and any other fish.  Give shelled fish such as prawns, crab and lobster a miss for week one and two and then introduce one a week.

Oils Olive oil for all cooking and dressings – mix with herbs and spices like garlic to drizzle over jacket potatoes and salad.  Use extra virgin olive oil as least processed.

Coconut oil – As the intention is to rebuild the good bacteria in your guts, you need to take in healthy fats. It is believed that coconut oil not only helps kill bad bacteria in the gut but also soothes inflammation.

Examples of meals.

Breakfast. 

Water on rising – leave at least 30 minutes before eating if you can.

Here are some choices.

  • Spanish omelette with two eggs, chopped potato, tomatoes and onion (chop the night before and keep in fridge)
  • Fruit salad with fresh pressed juice on top.
  • Poached egg on spinach with half an avocado.

Lunchtime

  • Homemade vegetable soup – no stock but you can add seasoning and salt.  For example butternut squash and carrot – if you can find a fresh made soup without sugar and preservatives then go for it.
  • Large salad with egg, avocado tinned salmon or sardines with chopped potato and balsamic dressing.
  • Jacket potato with drizzle of olive oil and a tin of tuna

Dinner

Fish or chicken all fresh – green vegetables – carrots and potatoes – use olive oil or coconut oil to prepare and use herbs and spices to season.

Snacks between meals.

Fruit, nuts and seeds. (make a note of any reaction to nuts and seeds that may cause problems once they get to the intestines)

If at the end of week one you are still experiencing severe symptoms drop the fruit and repeat week one.

WEEK TWO – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS

You can introduce oats every other day – porridge with a banana and a small cup of whole milk.  You can also put a dash of milk in your tea and coffee. No more than 250ml per day. If you symptoms worsen drop the milk and stay with the oats.

WEEK THREE – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS

You can introduce corn tortillas and two tablespoons of brown rice at one meal a day.

You can also start to use some butter to drizzle over vegetables etc.

WEEK FOUR – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS.

Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower (check for increase in symptoms).  Also a couple of ounces of cheese every other day.

You can introduce rye – Ryvita will add some variety to snacks and lunches.

WEEK FIVE – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS

You can introduce wheat again – try reduced sugar Irish soda bread – one slice per day.  It is at this point that you want to pay particular attention to your symptoms over 48 hours.

If you notice an increase you are probably gluten intolerant which means that certainly for the conceivable future you need to only eat gluten free products.  Gluten is not just in bread of course, it is in many processed foods and meats such as sausages and in sauces.

You can have good quality yoghurt every other day.  Note any increase in symptoms.

WEEK SIX – ALL OF THE ABOVE PLUS

You can introduce whole grain pasta – make simple sauces from scratch like tomato and basil etc.

You can have a glass of red wine three days apart – watch for increase in symptoms.

By now you should be very aware of how your body and more importantly your intestines are reacting to the food you are eating.This is not a weight loss exercise although those who are overweight will lose some but those who have been starving themselves out of desperation will put it on.

As I mentioned earlier – you can extend each phase to two weeks.  The key is to make sure that you keep an accurate record of both food intake and symptoms.

SUPPLEMENTS.

I mentioned supplementation with Vitamin D3, Peppermint capsules and Acidophilus in the last post. Although you should be getting most of what you need from the foods you are now eating, it might be a good idea to supplement for this six weeks to help the process.

There is another supplement that helps many people although you do need to start with a low dose until your body has got used to it.

 

Aloe Vera gelthis is highly nutritious and provided you begin slowly you may find it will help with symptoms, reduce the cramping and give you a boost.  I suggest starting with a teaspoon a day before breakfast and graduate up to a dessert spoon twice a day over a two week period. After that you can increase to the recommended doseage on the product.

Multi-vitamin supplementIf you are suffering from a basic nutritional deficiency then do go to one of the larger health food chains and ask their advice regarding the best multi-vitamin that they have.  You want one that is yeast and sugar free and I find that the new oral sprays that get absorbed directly into the bloodstream suit me best.

So those are the basics.  Six to twelve weeks to perhaps discover the one or two foods that might be the cause of all your misery.  A time to rest your digestive system and encourage your healthy bacteria in your gut and also stimulate the natural muscular activity to restart.

I hope that you will find that this is not a starvation programme but one that you can enjoy, experiment with and learn something about you, as an individual.

Having improved your symptoms – you may well have to make minor adjustments going forward – it might be gluten free – sugar reduced – dairy alternatives – but all are worth the price if you are free of symptoms and stress.  If there are foods that will always cause you a problem you will find that there are many that will not.  A small sacrifice to have the freedom from the symptoms of IBS.

On that note, as you begin to feel better and have the urge to exercise, find something that enables you to relax and be calm – leave the marathon running and the extreme sports for a while!

I am happy to answer questions confidentially by email if you prefer at sally.cronin@moyhill.com. If your question is general and might help someone else then please include in the comments.  I hope this has been helpful.

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Heart – Stress – strategies and foods to support you.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

In the last post I covered the basics of stress both acute that is happening right now.. And chronic which builds up over time and can be very dangerous… I will be looking at diet later in the post.

Firstly though some basic techniques to help you manage whatever stress you do have in your lives. It would be a perfect world where we had absolutely no worries whatsoever but I am afraid there are only a few people who live in that serene an environment.

  1. It is easier said than done, but you must find a way to relax that suits you. Think carefully about what makes you feel alive but calm, that gives you satisfaction and creates a feel good factor. For you as an individual it could be skiing down a mountain or it could be walking along a sandy beach at sunset. As unique as the causes of stress are so are the ways that we find to counteract the tension. It might be that you have several physical, mental and emotional activities that you find distracting and calming. Perhaps a game of tennis, followed by doing the Sunday crossword and then watching a weepy movie. Certainly you will find it very beneficial to learn some deep breathing techniques. Counting to ten before blowing your top can actually be very effective. Breathing exercises
  2. If you really cannot think of anything on your own then find yourself a professional advisor who can help you find your bit of space and peace. It is always a good idea to find someone who has been referred by a friend or family member but your G.P should also be able to recommend someone.
  3. Keep to a regular sleep pattern, although people do need varying amounts of sleep the average is seven hours. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time even at the weekends. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of stress. After several nights of less than your normal quota you will begin to feel stressed and also very tired.
  4. I am afraid that stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol and recreational drugs are absolutely the wrong things to rely on during a stress episode, as hard as it may be, avoid these at all costs.
  5. In the first post I mentioned that others can induce both acute and chronic stress on you and your life. Sometimes it is difficult to manage if the person is someone dependent on you; an elderly parent for example. In my experience a lack of reaction is probably one of the best strategies in those circumstances as a calm response is no fun at all! Walking away is not always an option but if you are to remain both physically and mentally healthy you need to fix  the situation or ask professional advice.

A Word about Diet and stress

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fresh, pure water per day and more if you are on holiday or living in very hot climates.

Seven good reasons to drink water

  1. Your body consists of between 60% and 75% water.
  2. Each day our body loses 2 litres of fluid through urination,
  3. Breathing and through our skin.
  4. We require even more fluids in warm climates or if we have a higher activity level.
  5. Not drinking enough fluids puts a great deal of stress on the body. Kidney function particularly will be affected and there is a danger of kidney and gallstones forming. Immune function is impaired leaving us more prone to infection.
  6. Lack of water causes a number of problems that we tend to shrug off. Headaches, irritability (especially first thing in the morning and in children) aching legs, water retention, poor skin tone, circles under the eyes, dull and lifeless hair, lack of energy and poor emulsification of fats.
  7. Drinking water helps prevent water retention. Your body knows that it will die very rapidly without fluids so it tends to keep as much as it can in reserve.
  8. If you are taking regular medication basis you need to make sure that you flush your system daily to ensure that there is no build- up of toxins in your cells, kidneys and liver.

There are some vitamins and minerals which the body needs to handle stress especially as during a stress interval the body will use up additional reserves of many nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are necessary and here are a few of the particular nutrients that will help you handle the stress in your life.

  • Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)
  • Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)
  • Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole-grains, eggs and milk.)
  • Vitamin B5, better known as Pantothenic Acid, controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.)
  • Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin, which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)
  • Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

Minerals necessary to help the body manage stress

Calcium helps you relax and studies have certainly shown that for women it can help reduce the symptoms of stress related to their periods. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, onions, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

The aim of a healthy diet is to provide your body with the necessary fuel in the right proportions to enable it to achieve homeostasis, or balance. If you are living a very stressful lifestyle then you need to ensure that you address that balance as quickly as possible. If you suffer from low to moderate levels of stress you will find that by adopting relaxation techniques and giving your body the correct fuel to deal with the situation will have long lasting and very beneficial effects on you now and also years ahead in the future. Don’t allow your stress levels today creep up on you unawares in 20 years time, deal with it today.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998- 2017

Please feel free to share the post and also I welcome your feedback. Thanks for dropping by.. Sally

 

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Heart and the Stress link


Smorgasbord Health 2017

One of the leading causes of heart attacks in men and increasingly in women is stress. It is a silent killer that lies in wait and pounces when you least expect it.  It is not helpful that the stress that we experience is as unique as our own bodies.

What is Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘flight or fight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

radio stress

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

stress three

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH  (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress.

Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. For example, my husband loves the challenge and rush of downhill skiing on the most difficult of runs. When I tried skiing I created so much stress and fear for myself that I lasted about two days. I was terrified and it made me feel physically sick.

Another example might be a busy high level executive who can find ‘taking it easy’ at the beach on a beautiful day extremely frustrating, non-productive and upsetting. You can be stressed simply doing nothing.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

Others create stress for themselves and those around them. They love the drama it creates and they rarely know how damaging this behaviour is for all concerned. We have all had drama queens in our lives and knowing how to handle them to prevent a knock on effect on your own health is essential.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

Next time some strategies to combat stress and some nutritional support from foods that you eat regularly.

Please feel free to comment and to share. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017- Weight Reduction – Stress factor.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Stress is the modern equivalent of being chased by a mammoth which you promised your wife you would bring back for dinner and knowing how ‘disappointed’ she is going to be when you fail to do so! In our modern world we have a different set of stress triggers and it can certainly cause you to gain weight and certainly sabotage your efforts to lose excess fat. Stress is silent and can be deadly. It is useful to understand why we react in this way and to manage this natural response to life’s ups and downs.

mammoth

WHAT CAUSES A STRESS REACTION?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competitive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be cave lions or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss, financial worries and traffic jams on the way home. There are two types of stress. Acute and Chronic stress and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes, days or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body after a few hundred thousand years is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example on-going stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland that are the master controllers for the body to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear. If not controlled stress leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and ulcers. Mental health is also affected as people struggle to contain what is essentially a heightened sense of fear.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT WEIGHT GAIN AND LOSS?

I understand after all these years, that my relationship with food has always been dependent on my stress levels. It is learned behaviour. As a child our parents or older family members did not just reward us with sweets and food if we had been good. They would also indulge us if we skinned our knees, banged our heads, were frightened by next door’s dog, and had an earache. How many of us have run off, lost sight of our mother or father, been in panic mode, been found and given a great big hug, lots of attention even if it meant being scolded, everybody so happy to see you. “Come on we will all have an ice-cream. That will make it feel better”. How many times have we seen the toddler, working up a head of steam, stamping feet, getting red in the face being appeased by a cuddle and some food?

What I want to illustrate is that we are not just at the mercy of outside stress we also are quite capable of working ourselves up into a frenzy and creating a physical response that activates all the same reactions. The expression “worrying myself to death” is firmly established in our modern language.

If you are mentally, physically and emotionally under pressure, being concerned about the food you are putting in your mouth seems to take a back seat. Just give me chocolate!

baby-eating-chocolate

Also when hormones like cortisol which have normal, daily functions in the body are being secreted all the time, some of your maintenance systems are affected. Cortisol should be at different levels at certain times of the day – highest in the morning and lowest last thing at night. This makes sense as it helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, raising it early in the morning as you wake up and decreasing it as you go to sleep.

You can imagine how confused the body is going to get if you are pumping cortisol into the system at increased levels throughout the day in response to your stress triggers. Cortisol is also necessary for metabolism or the fats and carbohydrates that we eat for that fast hit of energy and also the management of insulin and blood sugar levels.

We all know that sugar high that we get after eating too many sweet foods and then the sudden drop that urges us to consume even more of the nectar…. And that is why diving into the chocolate biscuits or the tub of ice-cream when stressed is so predictable. Particular if this has been your learned response since childhood.

As I mentioned earlier during a stress response the digestive process stops. That may be fine for an hour or two but if you are stressed the whole time you are not going to be able to process any healthy foods that you do eat efficiently. Long term this can lead to nutritional deficiency syndrome that encourages your body to store rather that utilise fat.

So if you are on a weight loss programme and even if you are eating a wonderfully rich diet of unprocessed foods, if you do not get your stress levels reduced, you will find it difficult to lose the excess weight.

HOW CAN WE MANAGE MODERN DAY STRESS AND SUCCESSFULLY LOSE WEIGHT?

When I started this theme of weight loss, I mentioned that we need to have a three dimensional approach to losing weight.

Physically, mentally and emotionally.

The physical is getting the foods right and by consuming non industrialised foods (some of our foods have to be processed such as milk, cheese so it is wrong to cut out all processed foods). We also need to limit our sugary food intake as this causes a chemical imbalance in our blood that encourages storage particularly around our middles. You need to consistently provide your body with the basic nutrients it needs on a daily basis to function efficiently and healthily.

But you also need to back this up by recognising where you are in real terms in the stress cycle – acute or chronic? Is the stress external or are you the one that is creating the stress yourself. Whatever the origin you have to learn how to drop the threat level. This is not just about losing weight but preventing possible long term health problems.

A major challenge is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is now on tap 24/7; you only have to switch on a communication device including the mobile one in your pocket, to get a slice of world stress. At another level we have our own personal stress and we also affected by the stress we inflict on others around us. We have all heard the term ‘mass hysteria’ and you can see the affect if you watch an audience of mainly teenage girls at a One Direction concert. Within minutes thousands are screaming, crying, some are distraught. This might only be for a 2 hour concert but it is still a stress reaction. In more subtle ways this happens to our family and friends as our behaviour raises their stress levels. You need to recognise if this is your pattern and if so learn how to adapt that behaviour for your own health’s sake and those around you.

Finding ways to reduce both externally and internally created stress is a challenge. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. One person may delight in throwing themselves out of a plane at 15,000 feet attached to a small, silk umbrella which would frankly freak me out!! A busy executive might find a beach holiday boring and unproductive leading to stress whereas another can completely chill out.

Although too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, physical stress from work or exercise is very unlikely to cause these problems, unless you really do overdo it. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. That is another good reason to include a regular exercise programme alongside the changes you have made to your foods.

Here are some basic techniques to help you manage whatever stress you do have in your lives. It would be a perfect world where we had absolutely no worries whatsoever but I am afraid there are only a few people who live in that serene an environment.

  1. It is easier said than done, but you must find a way to relax that suits you. Think carefully about what makes you feel alive but calm, that gives you satisfaction and creates a feel good factor. For you as an individual it could be skiing down a mountain or it could be walking along a sandy beach at sunset. As unique as the causes of stress are, so are the ways that we find to counteract the tension.
  2. Next time you begin to hyperventilate, and start getting wound up, saying things like “I’m freaking out!” take a breath and check to see if this is an external threat that needs to be dealt with or it is your own creation. If in doubt walk away and find somewhere you can think about the situation for a few minutes calmly and rationally. Of course if you are faced with immediate physical danger then you need to do whatever you must to survive.
  3. If you really cannot think of anything on your own then find yourself a professional advisor who can help you find your bit of space and peace. Learn relaxation techniques and new coping mechanisms that are not based on your reward system. It is always a good idea to find someone who has been referred by a friend or family matter but your G.P should also be able to recommend someone.
  4. Keep to a regular sleep pattern, although people do need varying amounts of sleep the average is seven hours. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time even at the weekends. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of stress and has been linked to weight gain
  5. Try to find at least 30 minutes in the day when you are not being bombarded by any outside stimulus. Music does not count. As you know I consider it to be another food group, and provided it is your favourite type of music, sticking your headphones on and closing your eyes for half an hour will help break the cycle of daily stress.
  6. I am afraid that stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol and recreational drugs are absolutely the wrong things to rely on during a stress episode. As hard as it may be, avoid these at all costs.

DIET AND STRESS.

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fluids from various sources per day and more if you are exercising hard or live in countries with very low humidity. (See last Friday’s blog) This is particular important for young children – they need moderate amounts of fluids regularly as their small bodies get dehydrated very quickly.

We have already established that when the body is under stress, the digestive process is compromised and your body will use stored nutrients in an effort to keep the systems functioning. However, if the stress situation continues for a period of weeks or months you will not be replacing these stored vitamins and minerals and you need to increase levels of particular foods as they contain specific vitamins and minerals which the body needs.

The shopping lists that I have already given you have plenty of these vitamins, however, they are basic levels needed during normal activity and you need to up slightly during stressful times. If you cannot eat because you are stressed then at the very least make some homemade soup – Chicken and vegetables, blitz in a blender and drink three or four cups during the day.

VITAMINS ESSENTIAL FOR THE BODY TO MANAGE STRESS.

Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, spinach, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)

Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)

Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole grains, eggs and milk.)

Vitamin B5 better known as Pantothenic Acid controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, liver, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)

Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)

Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

MINERALS NECESSARY TO HELP THE BODY MANAGE STRESS.

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

As we get older and our body less efficient in processing foods it can be a good idea to take the B-vitamins in supplement form. Make sure you get good advice and get the best quality you can. If you feel that you are under stress for long periods of time, do not be afraid to ask for help from a nutritionist and get some counselling.

Finally something to watch to calm your frayed nerves from reading this lengthy blog on stress.. I would not want you tearing your hair out in frustration!  Down girls……..

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-reduction-programme-2017/

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Men’s Health Week Revisited- One of the most dangerous silent killers of men – Stress


men's health

In the first post in the series I identified the main risk factors that are likely to result in serious health issues in men.

Stress is becoming a great deal less gender specific in our modern age as we are all bombarded with dire news from around the world, we struggle with finances, jobs and relationships. However, men still appear to be most effected physically than women.

I usually approach my work from a three dimensional perspective when working with clients. Physical, mental and emotional.  Women are more open to talking through their problems amongst themselves and this is a great stress release valve.  Men not so much.

We have all heard the expressions ‘The Strong Silent Type’ and ‘Real Men Don’t Cry’ or ‘Man Up’.  Unfortunately bottled up stress and emotions are not great for the body physically.

Raised blood pressure, over production of stress hormones leads to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients and if prolonged can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.

So part one today is a recap of stress and the effects on the body and if you recognise some of the symptoms then I suggest you read part two which I will post on Friday.

I have worked with Cathy Blackburn D.Hyp MIAPH for several years and asked her last year to put together a stress busting, self-hypnosis post.  You will find it very relaxing and puts the control firmly in your own hands when faced with stressful situations.

In the third post on stress I have some breathing exercises that you can complete every morning and evening for five minutes a time that will help to increase the flow of oxygen to the entire body and also reduce stress.

Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

radio stress

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insom­nia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diar­rhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

A Word about Diet and stress

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fresh, pure water per day and more if you are on holiday or living in very hot climates.

There are some vitamins and minerals which the body needs to handle stress especially as during a stress interval the body will use up additional reserves of many nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are necessary and here are a few of the particular nutrients that will help you handle the stress in your life.

  • Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)
  • Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)
  • Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole-grains, eggs and milk.)
  • Vitamin B5, better known as Pantothenic Acid, controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.)
  • Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin, which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)
  • Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

Minerals necessary to help the body manage stress

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, onions, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

Don’t allow your stress levels today creep up on you unawares in 20 year’s time, deal with it today.