Articles / Blog
Stress Nutrition Basics
February 26, 2013
Good stress bad stress
Lets get right to the premise: We live in a stressful world. There are both good stresses and bad stresses. Bad stresses can be overcome by a lifestyle that includes nutrition as a stress reduction pathway. Good stress can replace the pressures and anxieties of life, but only if our minds and bodies are provided the nutrition needed to cope and prevail. Without the nutritional building blocks for mental and physical health, our stress will overwhelm us.
Bad stress is a persistent feeling of loss of control and being overwhelmed, threatened or isolated. It is a loss of personal pride and a kind of hopelessness or belief that you are not worthwhile or useful. Negative stress derives from a sense of being dominated, bullied or defeated on a regular basis. It can also arise from prolonged inactivity. In fact, it can just as easily be generated from our own thoughts, such as when we attempt to hold onto opposing views and values at the same time. For example, "fence-sitting" on important issues such as values and morals can generate extreme stress. Negative stress can come from external pressures such as careers, relationships, the economy, crime, or from society in general.
Stress and toxicity
Bad stress generates physical toxicity in our bodies. Such stress-induced toxicity arises from natural internal responses to stressors, including the tremendous pressure of social isolation and poor self esteem. In fact, one author blames isolation and lack of freedom as a cause of physical degeneration and vulnerability to disease.
In a book called Wild Health by Cindy Engel, the author quotes Dr. Robert Sapolsk, a neurophysiologist from his book. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: An Updated Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases and Coping. The author paraphrases: “Social isolation can be as deadly as smoking, obesity, hypertension, or lack of exercise. And regardless of gender, age, or race, poverty is the most determinant of human disease.”
According to Sapolsky’s book, physical disease is therefore not just a result of pathogens, but from a toxic social environment that results in suboptimal circumstances. The unhealthy, isolated social background fosters negative emotional-cognitive activity which suppresses the immune system and floods the body with toxins.
Engel noted that most animals in the wild are perfectly capable of warding off simple diseases like Avian flu or anthrax. But put them in captivity and they often get sick and die from far less exotic opportunistic diseases that arise when immune systems shut down as a result of the stress of captivity.
The implications have considerable consequences for people and societies. Isolated people and those without freedom, hope, a sense of belonging, and a sense of relevance become sick internally and socially. Controlled societies increase this sickness, whereas free societies—where people are socially involved and learn to control their destinies, live much healthier, more fulfilling lives.
Long term effects of stress: disease
Negative stress creates emotional and cognitive conditions that perpetuate worry, doubt, fear, anger, disappointment and uncertainty. It is pervasive and quite literally toxic. In fact, the long term effects of this kind of stress can kill you. Tragically, children are being subject to social and emotional stresses that impacts their maturity and development.
Negative stress is a stealthy yet significant killer in Western societies. Workplace stress costs more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and therapeutic interventions. It leads to sleeplessness and hazy thinking. And it isn't just occupational. Stress destroys our personal lives. It encourages us to make bad decisions and to act impulsively. Under stress, we turn to self-abusive habits: overeating, drug use, dependency on prescription medications, more likely to form bad habits. Stressed people lose sleep and often perpetuate or even magnify the condition through insomnia and poor eating habits.
The cortisol connection
One way stressful pressure is toxic is through the overproduction and over stimulation of hormones (the catalysts and regulators of all physiological systems). Cortisol for example is a normal and vital hormone. This chemical is secreted by the adrenal glands, controlled by the hypothalamus, and is involved in numerous life-sustaining processes.
Cortisol has been termed “the stress hormone” because it is automatically produced in much higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to anxiety and fear. It is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
- A quick burst of energy for survival reasons (adrenalin “rush”)
- Heightened memory functions
- A burst of increased immunity
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
But persistent cognitive and emotional pressure can cause the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol, too often. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
- Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body.
Excess cortisol creates a cascade of internal compensating mechanisms that tax the other hormones and glands: thyroid, insulin, progesterone, testosterone, serotonin, DHEA. As a result, stressed people burn certain minerals in their bodies that are used in hormone production and regulation. There are both immediate and chronic effects. Urine and hair analysis of people undergoing recent acute stress shows an immediate loss of calcium, magnesium and zinc.
This systemic response to personal stress frequently causes mineral imbalances that disturb the electrical functions that dominate human and animal physiology. Chronic metabolic and psychological dysfunction can result.
Minerals affected by cortisol include:
- Magnesium helps convert blood sugar to energy. It regulates sleep and emotions that can be significantly depressed by the presence of cortisol.
- Calcium regulates cellular function and bone/tissue strength. It is used in all central nervous system as part of electrochemical sensory responses. Stress consumes large amounts of calcium.
- Potassium maintains acid/alkaline balance in your blood. Cortisol uses potassium, which is why clinically depressed people show remarkably higher serum cortisol levels and greatly reduced potassium levels.
- Zinc promotes proper nerve, immune and digestive health and boosts immunity. Zinc is often badly depleted in stressed people, which causes copper to be imbalanced (copper and zinc are antagonistic equalizers for each other).
- Chromium: required to regulate insulin and blood sugar-body fat storage. Newer research finds that supplementing with chromium can affect cortisol. According to research from the UK, chromium can work to blunt cortisol.
- Selenium: an essential element that improves immune and cognitive function. Selenium is shown to reduce serum cortisol.
- Copper is regulated by cortisol and is vital to immune function. It is an essential mineral that sustains healthy skin and tissue, especially the heart. Copper is a significant factor in stress-induced anti-inflammatory response. Yet stressed bodies are often overloaded with copper because it displaces the missing zinc.
Moreover, these and many other chemical reactions to long-term stress in the body simultaneously generate acidic and oxidative conditions that threaten good health. Ultimately, a persistently stressful environment causes physical disease. Diseases known to be caused by stress are many of the same diseases caused by improper nutrition and mineral imbalances.
Stress diseases include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle pain / back pain
- Eczema and psoriasis
- Diabetes in later life
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Decreased immune system
- Heart burn / ulcers
- Raised cholesterol
- Coronary heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Mouth ulcers
Cycle of stress-related dysfunction
Deficiencies in these same minerals and others are strongly associated with burnout and depression. And depressed people become unable or unwilling to self-heal. This is what we mean by depression being caused by an imbalanced brain chemistry. The chemicals are often derived from certain essential minerals. Mental health is directly related to nutritional health. Mineral deficiencies in the clinically depressed include:
- Magnesium: Deficiency can result in depressive symptoms, along with confusion, agitation, anxiety, and hallucinations, as well as a variety of physical problems. Most diets do not include enough magnesium, and stress also contributes to magnesium depletion
- Calcium: Depletion affects the central nervous system. Low levels of calcium cause nervousness, apprehension, irritability, and numbness.
- Zinc: Inadequacies result in apathy, lack of appetite, and lethargy. When zinc is low, copper in the body can increase to toxic levels, resulting in paranoia and fearfulness.
- Iron: Depression is often a symptom of chronic iron deficiency. Other symptoms include general weakness, listlessness, exhaustion, lack of appetite, and headaches.
- Manganese: This metal is needed for proper use of the B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. Since it also plays a role in amino-acid formation, a deficiency may contribute to depression stemming from low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. Manganese also helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent hypoglycemic mood swings.
- Potassium: Depletion is frequently associated with depression, tearfulness, weakness, and fatigue
Dealing with it
Blaming stress on external factors is to admit that the person is without free will or choices. Therefore, stress is a choice, though mostly a subconscious one. The problem is, a chronically stressed individual will often succumb to exhaustion and resignation, frequently including clinical depression. If it takes a conscious decision to overcome it, a depressed person may be unable to find the exit.
Some people will need more help than others; but the ultimate solution requires both a physical and mental health foundation that supports a personal decision not to let external factors dominate the spirit. Such invocations of optimism, hope, and faith absolutely require an inventory of coping resources, which includes the building blocks of physical, spiritual, and cognitive support: nutrition.
The good news is that anyone can win the battle even in our stressful times!
Stress nutrition deals with different types of foods and supplements, which help us deliver our body the indispensable nutrients, vitamins and minerals to win the battle against stress.
Why is stress nutrition important?
Stress nutrition is important for humans because it restores the body chemically and bioelectrically to pre-stress conditions, and allows the afflicted to organize coping strategies in a contemplative and relaxed manner. In long lasting stressful situations our body needs primarily all vitamins from the group B complex and vitamin C and vitamin E.
Stress nutrition is perhaps a fundamental key for survival in modern society. It emphasizes vitamins and especially minerals that can balance the brain chemistry. If we are physically and psychologically unable to employ winning strategies, we cannot survive. Stress nutrition is therefore a prerequisite to all coping strategies.
Stress nutrition involves:
- Whole foods: reduced cheap carbs: more proteins, fruits, vegetables
- Infusions of superfoods and green diets
- Less cooking: raw foods, stir fry & sauté preparations
- Eliminating microwave preparation
- Supplementation with bioavailable minerals: focus is on complete and viable sources of pure minerals
- Natural foods/organic foods
- Foods from a non-stressed food chain: free range foods
- Reduced packaging, additives, preservatives
- Reduced trans-fats
- Elimination of refined sugars
- Use of safe herbal products over harsh prescription products
- Complementary healing pathways: detoxification, relaxation, exercise, holistic medicine, and hydrotherapy
The market for nutritional approaches to combat stress are based on the premise that it is unlikely for a modern person eating a typical Western diet to take in enough bioavailable minerals to sustain proper nutrition. Our soils and foods are becoming horribly deficient in trace minerals, and food refinement neutralizes or eliminates natural nutrients. The “enrichment” efforts are futile attempts to add substandard elements, often the by-products of industrial production into the food chain. This replacement of natural, biocompatible nutrients with manmade compounds only makes foods all the more toxic.
Stress nutrition and detoxification
Stress nutrition goes hand in hand with tissue detoxification. Not only does the re-establishment of proper amounts and ratios of macro and trace minerals open self-healing pathways, but where toxic mineral accumulation has manifested as a result of imbalances and manmade forms of metals, the stress nutritionist will seek ways to decontaminate the tissue.
Doctors see in people who live in biologically stressed conditions, a combination of physiological and behavioral diseases. In each case, mineral-metabolic imbalances are exhibited in familiar patterns.
The following are examples of behavioral diseases correlating with mineral imbalances:
- Hyperactivity, ADD: copper, cadmium, toxicity; zinc, magnesium, calcium deficiency
- Autism: mercury, lead, copper toxicity; suppressed zinc and trace elements: digestive problems leading to inadequate mineral absorption
- Depression: depleted manganese, magnesium, potassium; suppressed zinc and vitamin B
- Addictive/compulsive disorders: depleted selenium, magnesium
- Chronic fatigue: Heavy metal poisoning (lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, aluminum); Mineral deficiency: Iron, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc
- Schizophrenia: Calcium (Vitamin D3), lithium, magnesium deficiency; overall balance of the alkaline minerals; vitamin B6 and zinc are often helpful.
Toxic levels of cadmium, mercury, lead, iron or manganese, and copper can require detoxification intervention as well as the proper supplementation of counteractive minerals.
Antistress nutritional therapy with clay
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same supplement that supported stress nutrition also served as a powerful metal and pathogen detoxifier? Among the best products on the market is an all-natural mineral complex that functions as a 2-in-1 supplement. It is a variety of Calcium Montmorillonite, sometimes called Calcium Bentonite that holds a balance of nature’s ionic, colloidal minerals in active form and plentiful amounts.
Our ION-MIN® products contain one of the most powerful, all-natural bio-compatible internal detoxification substances available anywhere. ION-MIN® is a completely safe mineral product that contains a rare, pure and electrostatically active form of Calcium Montmorillonite (sometimes called Calcium Bentonite). This amazing compound delivers 57 bio-available minerals in sustained-release ionic form. These minerals form the basis of all nutrition and cell function, but are increasingly depleted in our modern diets. ION-MIN® provides immune-boosting trace minerals as well as a balanced portfolio of electrolytes needed to support self-healing. But it does more. It harnesses the power of negative ionic energy to detoxify the body and the environment. See more about our active mega-mineral detox supplement here.
Information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Only your healthcare provider should diagnose your healthcare problems and prescribe treatment.
Statements regarding dietary supplements are provided solely to offer our customers additional information about alternative medicine. No health claims for these products have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nor has the FDA approved these products to diagnose, cure or prevent disease. You should consult your healthcare provider before starting any course of treatment.
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