What is Stress?
Stress is defined as any disturbance—e.g., heat or cold, chemical toxin, micro-organisms, physical trauma, strong emotional reaction—that can trigger the “stress response.” The stress response is composed of three phases: alarm (fight or flight), resistance, and exhaustion. These phases are largely controlled and regulated by the adrenal glands. If stress is extreme, unusual, or long lasting, the stress response can be overwhelming and becomes quite harmful to virtually any body system.
What causes Stress?
Stress is part of life. According to Selye, the father of stress research, stress in itself should not be viewed in a negative context. It is not the stressor that determines the response; instead it is the individual’s internal reaction, which then triggers the response. This internal reaction is highly individualized. What one person may experience as stress, the next person may view entirely differently.
What dietary factors are important in Stress?
One of the key culprits for many people who are stressed out is caffeine. The average American consumes 150 to 225 mg of caffeine daily, or roughly the amount of caffeine in two cups of coffee. Although most people can handle this amount, people prone to feeling stressed or anxious tend to be especially sensitive to caffeine. During times of stress it is important to cut back or eliminate caffeine. In addition, here are some other very important guidelines for supporting the body’s stress response:
• Eliminate or restrict the intake of alcohol.
• Eliminate refined carbohydrates from the diet, especially sources of white sugar and white flour.
• Increase the potassium-to-sodium ratio by focusing on whole, natural foods.
• Eat regular planned meals in a relaxed environment.
Herbs for Adrenal Support. Several herbal products support adrenal function. Most notable are Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), rhodiola (Rhodiola rosacea), and ashwaganda (Withania somnifera). All of these plants exert beneficial effects on adrenal function and enhance resistance to stress, and are often referred to as “adaptogens” because they help us adapt to (cope with) stress. These plants have historically been used to:
• Restore vitality in debilitated and feeble individuals.
• Increase feelings of energy.
• Improve mental and physical performance.
• Prevent the negative effects of stress and enhance the body’s response to stress. These herbs can be used individually or in combination. Dosage: follow label instructions. Note: sometimes combination formulas seem to produce the best results, e.g., Serenity Formula from Natural Factors.