A Close Relationship Between Stress and Illness

Studies have consistently shown a close relationship between stress and illness. Stressed people get ill more often and when they do, on average the illness is more serious.

Twenty years ago stress was said by doctors to be responsible for at least two-thirds of all illness; nowadays, the most often quoted figure is around 90%.

Stress arises from a mis-perception or mismatch of the demands made upon us and our ability to meet those demands. It can be physical, mental or emotional. When the body and/or mind have been taxed to the limit without sufficient nourishment, rest and recuperation we get stressed.

It affects the immune system and creates physiological changes such as increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and sweating. These changes can be beneficial if you’re running away from danger, but only if they’re of limited duration. If they continue too long the body’s ability to regain and maintain equilibrium is compromised. For example, there’s a direct link between stress and lower back pain, a tight jaw and clenched teeth, which lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches and tension around the eyes.

There’s little doubt that people who feel stressed or under threat (real or imagined) are at greater risk of becoming ill, which may be why the number of heart attacks on Monday mornings is statistically higher than could be predicted by chance alone. Children are more likely to develop a temperature or sore throat on the day of a school test and those terrified of bullying often developing eczema, asthma or some other condition to avoid going to school. One shy little girl I met was so scared of attending birthday parties she develops a balloon phobia.

Sometimes the effect is even more dramatic. I knew a woman whose 40 year-old husband, a keen runner, dropped dead a few seconds after opening a malicious letter – the emotional shock literally killed him.

Since most illnesses have a psycho-somatic component, it follows that any diagnosis, treatment or therapy which doesn’t take mental and emotional factors into account is likely to fail or be impermanent. Fortunately many doctors are waking up – but there’s still an awfully long way to go!

 

©David L Preston, 24.3.2017

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Health, Nutrition and Stress

Do you value your health? What kind of fuel do you put into your body? Do you pickle your brain and liver with alcohol? Clog your arteries with grease? Blacken your lungs with tobacco smoke? Are you slim and full of energy, or overweight and sluggish? Do you huff and puff going up stairs?

Health is our least appreciated asset.

We owe it to ourselves to attain the best possible level of health and fitness. We need to be healthy to enjoy life to the full and handle stress. We can’t trade our bodies in for new ones; we must make the best of the one we have.

Good health is about good habits. Some habits work for you, some don’t. Smoking is a habit that can kill you. Living off junk food will cause you to put on weight and put strain on your vital organs. On the other hand, the habit of daily exercising and deep breathing gets you into shape and gives you more energy.

Good health demands a total approach incorporating physical factors (i.e. nutrition, exercise, fluids,  breathing etc.), a healthy energetic environment  and the psychological.

What to Eat (and Avoid)

Hippocrates (460-377 BC), the ‘Father of Medicine’, wrote, ‘Let your food be your medicine and medicine be your food.’

Food is like a drug which affects the functioning of your body and brain. Poor nutrition is proven to result in lack of energy and brain-power, poor health, and lower resistance to disease.

All nutritionists agree:

  • Cut down on refined starch and sugar
  • Have sufficient protein
  • Control fat intake
  • Increase fibre
  • Eat plenty of raw plant food

Avoid unhealthy foods and cultivate a taste for healthy foods! Easy, isn’t it? So what’s the problem? The problem is, the foods people enjoy most are the least desirable from a health point of view. The healthiest foods are not necessarily the tastiest. For instance, refined sugar contains only calories (no other nutrients) and plays havoc with blood sugar levels.

Protein helps to keep your body in good working order. Thirty to forty grams per day is needed by most people. If you eat meat, opt for white meats (such as chicken), and fish. In addition to animal sources, many vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and grains are also excellent sources of protein. Remember, what matters is not the chemical composition of a food, but what you assimilate.

Your body retains fat – you eat it, you wear it! It clogs the arteries and imposes extra strain on the heart. Keep fats to a minimum.

Fibre aids digestion, lower the risk of heart disease and prevents constipation. Fibre intake can easily be increased by switching part of your consumption of white bread, pasta, rice and flour over to their wholegrain equivalents. Whole cereals are also more filling, low calorie, and terrific for weight control

Eat plenty of raw fruit and vegetables and salads. Go for variety – there’s no need to get stuck on lettuce, celery and tomatoes – liven it up with grated carrot, apples, fennel, chick peas, nuts etc.

Salad

Fluids

Obey your thirst. Try to stick to fruit and vegetable juices, mineral water and herbal teas as much as possible; these all help prevent the body being poisoned by its own waste matter. Sip water frequently during the day.

  • Tea and coffee are diuretics – drink in moderation.
  • Animal milks and beers should be treated as foods rather than liquids.
  • As for alcohol, the occasional glass of red wine or whisky can actually be beneficial so long as you avoid using them as a crutch.
  • Avoid drinking less than half an hour before and one hour after meals, because this dilutes the digestive juices.

Take vitamin and mineral supplements

Today’s supermarket foods are lacking in nutrition compared with naturally grown foods of yesteryear, so take a large multivitamin tablet and one gram of vitamin C daily as an insurance policy against ill health.

Improving your diet

Gradual changes are best. An ideal regime for most would be:

  • 60% fresh fruit and vegetables
  • 20% whole grains
  • 10% protein foods
  • 10% fats

Try this: Write down everything that has passed your lips in the last twenty-four hours. Circle anything that falls into the following categories:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Salads
  • Whole grains
  • Fruit juices, mineral water, herbal teas

What proportion of your total intake have you circled?

  • More than 80%: Good for you!
  • 50% to 80%: Quite good
  • 20% to 49%: Considerable room for improvement
  • Less than 20%: You have a death wish!

What changes do you need to make?

Blood sugar

One must for  energy management is keeping a close check on your blood sugar (glucose) level. Low blood sugar causes listlessness and lack of concentration and can put you in a bad mood.

Sugary food are not the answer – within half an hour of eating sweets or drinking high sugar drinks, blood sugar increases, you feel good and your energy level soars. But it drops just as quickly and soon you feel worse and your energy level plunges.

Moreover, if you consume large quantities of processed sugar on a regular basis, the immune system (which seeks out and attacks viruses, bacteria and cancer cells in the bloodstream) is compromised, exposing you to a variety of health risks.

If you feel your blood sugar level is too low and you need a quick boost of energy, take fruit and freshly squeezed fruit juices. In the long term, the only lasting solution is a balanced diet containing plenty of complex carbohydrates (fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains etc.)

Nutrition and stress

Some foods place severe stress on the body. Did you know, for instance, that four cups of full-strength coffee can have the same effect on your body as standing on a railway line with a train coming towards you? The main offenders are anything containing high levels of caffeine (found in coffee, cola drinks, tea, chocolate etc.), refined sugar and starch, alcohol, red meat, and chemical flavourings and preservatives.

If you eat mainly natural, whole and living foods, and take a multi vitamin and mineral supplement daily to help build up the nervous system, stress will be less of a problem for you. The benefits of eating a healthy diet more than make up for the effort involved!

If you are tempted to eat something unwise, stop for a moment. Consider the problems you may be storing up for yourself in the future and the payoff from healthy eating. Then dismiss the idea of eating the unwanted substance from your mind.

Occasionally breaking the rules won’t harm you unless it becomes a habit. If 90% or more of your diet is healthy, you can allow for the occasional indulgence. Treat food as a pleasure to be savoured. Eat well, enjoy your food and take pride in your healthy body!

©David Lawrence Preston, 30.7.2016

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