In times of stress do you find your waistline quickly expanding? Often get sick? Ever wondered why? Dentistry is arguably one of the most stressful professions, so chances are you have had first-hand experience with the damaging effects of stress. The purpose of this article is to explain the physical impacts of stress and to give you some simple guidelines that will “stress-proof” your body!
When we experience stress, our body responds by secreting very powerful adrenal hormones, including cortisol. These adrenal hormones form the “fight or flight” response which provides our body the physical and mental energy to deal with stress. When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to release of amino acids (the “building blocks” of protein) into the bloodstream. These amino acids are then used by the liver to synthesize glucose for energy, in a process called gluconeogenesis . This process raises blood sugar levels so the brain will have more glucose for energy. At the same time, the other tissues of the body decrease their use of glucose as fuel. Cortisol also causes the release of fatty acids, an energy source from fat cells, for use by the muscles. These energy-directing processes together ensure the brain and body are alert and energized to deal with stress. Cortisol plays a very important role in the body; however, when it is secreted in response to day-after-day, unrelenting stress, cortisol has toxic effects. It is a neurotoxin, which means it is toxic to the brain.
Research shows a strong link between cortisol and Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Excess cortisol also encourages fat storage and weight gain. Research has shown that stress and elevated cortisol tend to cause fat deposition in the abdominal area rather than in the hips. This fat deposition has been referred to as “toxic fat” since abdominal fat deposition is strongly correlated with the development of cardiovascular disease including heart attacks and strokes. Excess cortisol also increases appetite, suppresses the immune system, and accelerates aging. There are many circumstances which stimulate the secretion of excess cortisol: physical stress such as over-exercising, lack of sleep, dieting, and poor nutrition; mental stress such as a high stress work environment; and emotional stress such as a marriage breakup or death of a family member.
>We all have to deal with stress on a daily basis. We can’t change that. However, we can reduce the detrimental impact of stress by following these ANTI-STRESS ESSENTIALS:
#1: Drink lots of PURE WATER!
Staying hydrated is essential for stress management, because when we become dehydrated, energy decreases; and when we are low in energy, we are less able to deal with stress effectively. For optimum hydration, the body needs at least 10 8oz. glasses of pure water every day! Be proactive! Aim to drink 1 glass of distilled or filtered water every hour you are awake. And reduce consumption of alcohol, coffee, sodas (including diet sodas), sports drinks, and fruit juices. Sugar and caffeine increase stress!
#2: Eat small meals often
Your blood sugar remains stable for about four hours after a meal before it begins to drop rapidly. When your blood sugar is low, mental, physical, and emotional energy decreases, and stress increases. Don’t starve yourself! Eat small meals every 4 hours.
#3: Avoid stress-inducing foods; emphasize stress-reducing foods
Eating processed carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour, breads, pasta, cakes, pastries, and white rice causes a blood sugar spike which triggers your body to overproduce insulin. Excess insulin causes your blood sugar to plummet which is a stressful event causing cortisol to be released. To stop this cycle, get EnergyFirst! Start every meal with 4-6 ounces of lean, complete protein. Protein is your greatest energizer. It fills you up, keeps your blood sugar stable and reduces cortisol production. Examples include salmon, tuna, white fish, eggs and egg whites, chicken breast, lean red meat, turkey, shellfish, whey protein, cottage cheese, tofu, and non-fat dairy. Don’t have time to cook protein every meal? Try using whey protein isolate powder. It is the purest, most absorbable form of protein available and is quick and convenient to use. It is great mixed in an energy shake or added to oatmeal or yogurt. Next, add a tablespoon of good fats/oils . Good fats contain omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids, which provide lasting energy and are essential for heart, joint, brain, skin, and digestive health. Examples include raw seeds, raw seed oils, raw nuts, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil. Raw nuts are a great energizing snack. A nd lastly, add no more than 1 serving of unprocessed carbohydrates. Unprocessed carbohydrates are the body’s best source of glucose, the only fuel your brain can burn, and they provide essential antioxidants and phyto-nutrients for optimal energy. Examples include 2 cups of vegetables, 1 cup of whole grains, 1 cup of legumes, and 1 cup fruit. Green vegetables are the best carbohydrate on the planet. Why does this combination work? The lean protein and good fat slow down the conversion of the carbohydrates into glucose in your blood stream, making them time-released, therefore keeping your blood sugar stable and controlling the release of insulin and cortisol. The result: A lean, high energy, body that is ready to deal with the daily ravages of stress!
#4: Drink an energy shake for breakfast
Are you in the habit of starting your day with stress-inducing foods such as sugary cereals, breads, pop tarts, fruit juices, and coffee? How do you feel by 10am? Most likely you feel stressed and fatigued. Want to stop that vicious cycle? Try an energy shake for breakfast! It’s the perfect balanced meal that is quick and easy to make, and will give you sustained energy for your stressful mornings at the office. Blend 1-2 cups of water with 1-2 scoops Whey Protein Powder, 1/4 cup raw seed blend or raw seed oil, 1 TBS. powdered green superfood blend, and 1 cup of frozen fruit. The energy shake is an anti-stress essential!
#5 Take essential anti-stress supplements
When under stress, the body produces large amounts of free radicals, the most significant cause of aging and degenerative disease. Antioxidants such as beta carotene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E stop the effects of free radical damage. Stress also increases the body’s need for B-vitamins which are essential for energy production. A high quality, broad spectrum multi vitamin/mineral with extra antioxidants as well as B-complex vitamins are essential to help your body deal with stress. Phosphatidyl Serine, a phospolipid that forms brain cell membranes, has also been shown to significantly reduce the impact of cortisol.
Oxygen is essential for stress management. The more oxygen you get to every one of your cells, the more energy you will have to deal with daily stress. Aerobic exercises such as walking while pumping light hand weights, swimming, jogging, and stair climbing, as well as yoga and stretching, are proven to reduce stress.
#7: Breathe and Focus !
Stop for a moment and notice how you are breathing. Most of us breathe in short, wispy breaths all day long and rarely take a deep breath. When we breathe in this way, we deprive our bodies of energizing oxygen reserves, and our body reacts by releasing stress hormones. Taking a few minutes out of your day to breathe deeply in a quiet space can reduce stress instantly! It is also remember that your state of mind when faced with a stressful situation plays a role in determining the physical impact of that stress. Getting overwhelmed and caught up in the stress of the moment stimulates the release of stress hormones. Placing your focus on not being defined by your circumstance and being grateful for what it is teaching you will help you to remain calm and centered in stressful times.
Adopt these anti-stress essentials and, before you know it, you will be feeling better and dealing with stress more effectively than you ever though possible.