Being sick can be a pain, literally! Everyone experiences being sick at some time or another. And, everyone experiences stress. In fact, life is full of low-grade daily stress. But it’s when stress mounts up, or is compounded by an unexpected event, that we get tipped over the edge and then not only our mood, but our health suffers. It’s when your body has been under stress for some time, that our coping mechanisms are compromised and we leave ourselves open to illness. And, it’s when we don’t get on top of our stress that common conditions are driven deeper into disease, both chronic and severe.
Did you know that stress can be behind some of the most common medical conditions?
Dealing with the immediate symptoms of any illness is always important, but dealing with the driver behind the illness is just as important for regaining your health, energy and vitality and to prevent further complications or chronic suffering of the condition. Here’s Just Some Illnesses That Stress Can Be Behind 1. Viral Infections – yes, we are all at the mercy of viral exposure. Who hasn’t had a cold or flu, especially in the winter. It’s when the virus invites bacteria to the party, that things turn nasty. And this usually happens because your immune system, which is fighting the virus, is compromised and bacteria gets hold. Chronic stress causes the inhibition of your T-helper cells – the ones whose job is to fight viral and bacterial invasion. 2. Shingles – if you’ve ever had the experience of shingles, you will know how nasty and excruciatingly painful it is. Shingles is the varicella zoster virus (the same virus as chickenpox) that lays dormant in your nerve cells after exposure to chicken pox. It is more prevalent in the over 50s, because back then chickenpox was a common childhood illness and most of the baby-boomers were exposed. When you’re under extreme stress, or have been struggling with underlying stress for a long time, the virus becomes activated. It’s similar to the the cold sore virus (herpes simplex) which also lays dormant waiting for your body to become depleted by stress and you will experience a flare up. 3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome – abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea – these symptoms (and more) are covered under the heading of IBS. The body’s autonomic nervous system is divided into two categories -“fight/flight” and “rest/digest”. Unfortunately, only one of these systems can dominate at one time. So, when you are in “fight/flight” mode (under stress), your “rest/digest” system takes a back seat. When stressed over a period of time, you will have compromised digestive function leading to those unpleasant symptoms. 4. Adrenal Fatigue – the ultimate end result of not dealing with your stress. You may not have had experience with this condition, but believe me, I see a lot of patients with varying degrees of adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands respond to every kind of stress (physical, emotional, psychological). Their job is to regulate body functions by producing hormones (including stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol) to enable you to cope. When these little glands are over-stimulated by chronic episodes of stress, they become exhausted! And then – so do you.
Chronic stress leads to ill health
What You Can Do to Get Your Health Back
- Listen to your body – why do we feel the need to “soldier on” when we clearly know that we need to rest? Society puts a lot of pressure on us to perform, to show up and to deal with everything in our lives. Clearly, this is not an ideal situation for our health. When you are sick, take the time to rest, to nurture your body – step off the merry-go-round for a little while.
- Eat whole foods – what you put in your body has a direct effect on your health – that’s a no-brainer – especially if your digestive system is not functioning properly. Give your body a break from trying to process foods that it has trouble with. If you have digestive issues, you may need to look at eliminating certain foods that can be causing you more grief than enjoyment.
- Try some relaxation techniques – such as breathing, mindfulness practices, have a massage or a facial, take a bath. There are so many ways to de-stress and relax out there that won’t cost you a cent. For more stubborn stress loads, you may be wise to get professional advice and support.
- Take herbs – there is no better way to get your stress under control than by taking herbs. Your body responds beautifully to herbs that support your adrenals, nervous system, digestion and immune function. Give them a go.
- Boost your nutrient intake – when you are sick, your body uses up nutrients more than at other times. You may need supplementation of certain vitamins and minerals to get your body back on track. You can boost nutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and calcium, but it is best to seek out advice and get specific with your bio-individual needs.
Don’t let stress creep up and cause your body to fall into ill-health. Treat stress as a preventative part of your health and lifestyle practice. With your health in mind, Catherine
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Catherine McCoy is an Integrative Naturopath, who is the founder of the iNaturally Clinic in Canberra, ACT. Catherine helps busy women who are experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and overwhelm to regain their health and take back control of their health. Contact Catherine for more information. www.inaturally.com.au