Are You Stressed Out?

The normal pressures of everyday life are enough to stress most people out; however, when you add a sudden illness, the loss of a job, an accident, or some other trauma or tragedy, it's easy to see how Christians become overwhelmed.

The majority of the patients that I see on a daily basis are overstressed, and this contributes greatly to the illness or disease from which they are suffering. Let me explain further. Our mind and body seek a state of peace and relaxation, which is called homeostasis. In this state, our mind and body remain in complete harmony, keeping excessive demands from being placed on our organs and tissues. Thus, our minds and bodies are able to stay strong, energized, charged, and resistant to disease. When a person becomes "stressed out" by too many demands being placed on them (including lack of sleep, a traumatic event, illness, emotional problem, verbal abuse, etc.) reactions begin to occur in the body that lead to the general adaptation syndrome. This syndrome is simply the way in which the body responds to stress.

There are three main stages to the general adaptation syndrome: the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage. The first response to a stressor is the alarm response, which is a "fight or flight" reaction. This is simply a survival response that God placed in us for our protection. For instance, if you were planting some shrubs in your yard, heard a rattling noise, looked around, and saw a six-foot rattlesnake, you would suddenly experience an alarm reaction. Your heart rate would increase, your mind would become very alert, breathing would increase, digestive secretions and enzymes would decrease, perspiration would increase, and your muscles would prepare for "fight or flight." This reaction occurs because the sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal glands are stimulated by a survival mechanism in the hypothalamus of the brain to produce hormones that get us ready for fighting or fleeing. As a result of this alarm response, you would run from the rattlesnake. The running would help to dissipate the alarm reaction by burning off the stress chemicals that are charging through your body. Once you are safe from the perceived danger, you could then settle back into homeostasis, becoming relaxed and tranquil. However, if this alarm response occurred fifty to a hundred times a day over events such as having an argument with your child or spouse, being cut off in traffic, being antagonized by a fellow employee, or watching a thriller or an action movie high-energy chemicals and hormones would be pumped throughout the body without an outlet of fighting or fleeing. They are then left to stew in their own juices, and this is how the damage begins.

When the alarm reaction is triggered multiple times throughout the day over emotional or physical stresses, it can eventually lead to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, food allergies, malabsorption, digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, palpitations, and even high blood pressure. The alarm response is usually brief; however, when it occurs continually throughout the day, and a person perceives a loss of control, it usually leads to the second stage of the body's response to stress, which is the resistance stage.

The general adaptation syndrome is the way in which the body responds to stress. The three main stages to the general adaptation syndrome are the alarm stage, the resistance stage, and the exhaustion stage. Last month we talked about the alarm stage, which gets our body ready for "fight or flight." The second stage is the resistance stage. It occurs if the stressor is severe or persists for a prolonged period of time, causing the mind or body to perceive a loss of control. This actually locks in a long-lasting stress response. The resistance stage is a natural survival response placed in us in order to survive without adequate nutrition, such as during times of famine, war, and pestilence. It actually prepares the body for long-term survival. I see this commonly in patients who have been working the same job for years, feel trapped with no way for advancement, and perceive a loss of control.

Someone may also enter the resistance stage when they are under considerable financial stress with no way out and no way to pay all the bills. This may occur if there is chronic illness or strife in the home, or any other situation in which they perceive a loss of control or have a "give-up" attitude. During this stage, a person usually begins to overtax the adrenal cortex, as it produces excessive amounts of cortisol. This natural substance is actually similar to the drug cortisone. Cortisol causes blood pressure to rise slowly, sex drive to decrease, fats to be released into the blood, and gastric acid to increase in the stomach. The body is on high alert, unable to sleep well, and the immune system is usually compromised. If the resistance stage continues for prolonged periods of time, a person will eventually enter into the final stage of the general adaptation syndrome, which is adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal exhaustion is the worst stage because a person is almost assured of developing disease if it continues.

Probably the most common symptom of adrenal exhaustion that I see is fatigue. A person can sleep eight to ten hours a night and still awaken fatigued. Their sleep is not restful because they usually don't enter into the deeper stages of sleep. During the exhaustion stage, many of the organs and systems in body have been harmed. There is usually a significant enlargement of the adrenal cortex from excessive production of cortisol. There is also usually a decrease in the amount of white blood cells, a rise in blood pressure, excessive stomach acid, decrease in the size of the thymus gland and spleen, and a significant compromise in immune function. Thus, a person usually becomes very susceptible to infection, allergies, Candida, autoimmune disease, and even cancer. Patients in the exhaustion stage gain more body fat in the abdominal region and actually lose muscle mass because cortisol causes muscle wasting. Additionally, they may have elevated cholesterol and triglycerides. Unfortunately, when most patients finally come to my practice, they are already in this final stage of the general adaptation syndrome. Often they have been to numerous other Practitioners, and while some medicines and treatments have helped short-term, there has been nothing that has helped most of these patients on a long-term basis.

I have learned when a person reaches adrenal exhaustion; we shouldn't just treat their body with vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. We must also treat the person mentally, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually.

The Extraordinary value of Anti-Oxidants 1. Free radicals cause damage to your cells. Each cell in your body usually receives between 1,000 and 10,000 free-radical hits per day. Excessive free-radical damage can eventually lead to cancer. Some of the best-known free-radical fighters are anti-oxidants. 2. Anti-oxidants in the form of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and plant nutrients help to neutralize free radicals. I believe it is vitally important for us to take comprehensive Super foods, vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants, along with eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day. 3. The anti-oxidant activity of green tea is 200 times more potent than vitamin E and 500 times more potent that vitamin C. I recommend drinking one to three cups of green tea per day. If you dislike the taste of green tea, you may purchase green tea extract capsules at a health food store.

The final stage of the general adaptation syndrome is called the exhaustion stage. At this point, the sympathetic nervous system, the hypothalamus, and the pituitary axis of the brain have been chronically stimulated. When this occurs, a chain reaction takes place. First, the adrenal gland is gradually depleted, which in turn decreases the amount of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. With the depletion of these two hormones, there are more side effects including low blood sugar, fatigue, and immune dysfunction. Immune dysfunction then leads to inflammation and allergies. Finally, with all of these things having happened, certain mental effects begin to appear. They include impaired concentration, memory problems, anxiety, insomnia, and irritability. It is critically important to treat these patients physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as spiritually. Rest and relaxation are at the top of my list for rebuilding the adrenal glands rest rebuilds the body, repairs the tissues, removes toxins, recharges, restores, rejuvenates, refreshes, and recuperates us from exhaustion. Thus, start with adequate rest, getting at least eight hours of sleep a night.

Learn to relax, and practice this regularly. Learn to set limits and say no in order to decrease your number of commitments. Honour the Sabbath. Take at least one day off a week in order to rest and rejuvenate your body. Choose a well-balanced diet, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils such as fish oil, flaxseed oil, etc. Avoid sugar, caffeine, and foods you are allergic to. Exercise regularly: begin light and then move to moderate as you rebuild your adrenal glands. Brisk walking a few times a week, starting for five minutes and gradually building up to twenty or thirty minutes, is sufficient. If you feel depleted and exhausted after exercising, either decrease the intensity or the duration of the exercise. Nutritional supplements are also vital.

Even more importantly, the primary battle against adrenal exhaustion begins in the mind. The Bible gives valuable instructions that, when followed, will help us walk in divine health. The Bible tells us to cast down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God and to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 10:5).

If you choose to think positive thoughts and line your mind up with the Word of God, you can overcome adrenal exhaustion. However, if you choose to think negative thoughts, only focusing on the symptoms- fatigue, allergies, depression, anxiety, etc. You will develop a hopeless attitude. It is also important to take control of your tongue. Proverbs 18:21 says, Death and life are in the power of the tongue; And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof (ASV). This is why it is so powerful to memorize and quote Scripture because our bodies will line up with God's Word! Joy and laughter are also two of the best ways to rebuild the adrenal glands and the immune system. Proverbs 17:22 says, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine....’ And Nehemiah 8:10 says, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’

Health Tips 1. Ideally, consuming two Litres of water per day is recommended to help flush the body of toxins that are taken in through our food, drink, and air. 2. Another excellent method of detoxification is perspiration. One of the best ways to perspire is to exercise regularly through such means as aerobics, brisk walking, or outside yard work. And if you have access to an infrared sauna, it is an additional avenue to initiate perspiration.