Naturopathic Nutrition: Recharge your batteries

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Stress is a response to any taxing physical or emotional demand. Though the body is equipped to deal with brief episodes of stress, sustained high-level stress can eventually take a heavy toll on your physical and mental health.

The body’s initial reaction to stress, called the fight or flight response, is a natural healthy reaction in which the adrenal glands prepare the body for impending danger. In caveman times this would be either running from a hungry lion or fighting it.

When that fight or flight response is triggered, cortisol and noradrenaline (known as the stress hormones) are produced by the adrenal glands. These stress hormones shut down non-essential biological functions like digestion and increase blood flow to essential organs like the heart, brain, lungs and muscles to help us fight or run away. As digestion is put on the back burner at this time, people can often mistakenly self-diagnose food allergies and omit certain foods, causing further unnecessary stress to the body and mind.

So the theory is our stress response helps us to run from or fight our stressor and then our nervous system returns to normal. However, this physiological reaction to stress is now somewhat outdated and unfortunately our bodies have not performed an evolutionary overhaul to adapt to this new mode of constant stress. On-going stress that does not have an off switch can be the underlying cause of many health conditions – high blood pressure, IBS, exhaustion, headaches, depression, ulcers, insomnia and even infertility.

We spend so much time thinking about stuff that happened in the past and worrying about what may happen in the future that we often forget to actually appreciate or enjoy the moment we are in. We get so lost in being busy, meeting deadlines, working, family commitments, relationships, we forget about ourselves and our lives pass us by.

Although the stresses of modern life are inescapable, it is important to remember that we can control our stress and our response to it. What can I do? Take some time out to do enjoyable, peaceful, relaxing things – spend time alone, with nature, laugh with friends, dance, exercise, music whatever makes you feel good, restores equanimity and reminds you that you are alive. A wise man once said: we can’t stop the waves but we can learn how to surf.

By Nicky Flood

Nicky is a Naturopathic Nutritionist practising in Dublin. She writes, speaks and advises nationwide on all aspects of health, nutrition and wellbeing.