Over 80 percent of all visits to primary healthcare practitioners are due to stress-related illness.
The Complete Doctor's Stress Solution is the first book to summarize the available scientific research linking stress to the development of a disease and to offer a unifying theory to explain how the hormonal effects of stress result in diverse health problems. Jargon-free text explains the impact of stress on the body and the mechanisms by which it influences health.
With worksheets and checklists throughout, the book is a guide to positive solutions to reduce stress. It includes:
Changing one's lifestyle is a challenge and is often necessary to combat stress. Responding better to stress will reduce the harmful effects on well-being.
Penny Kendall-Reed, BSc, ND is a naturopathic doctor specializing in weight loss reduction and health concerns. She appears regularly on ABC, NBC, CTV and Fox Network television and radio health shows.
Dr. Stephen C. Reed, BM, BCh, MA, MSc, FRCSC, is an orthopedic surgeon and a graduate of Oxford University Medical School.
WHO DOESN'T HAVE STRESS? We all have it, right? Yes! Stress is necessary for our survival. It's perfectly natural, a part of being human. "Complete freedom from stress is death," Dr. Hans Selye commented in his pioneering research into the effects of stress on our health. But too much stress -- or stress that isn't properly managed -- contributes to disease conditions that can lead to our death.
Our response to stress is necessary for our survival. Our bodies are designed to react quickly to stressful situations, either to fend off or flee from danger. This is called the fight-or-flight response. This specific reaction takes place every single time our body senses stress of any kind. It doesn't matter whether the stressful situation is real or perceived, physical or psychological, once our brain interprets a situation as stressful, the reaction is the same. The glands responsible for producing stress hormones can't differentiate between the stress of a wedding or a funeral. They will react in a similar manner to a physical threat, increased workload at the office, financial difficulty, or a relationship problem. Whatever the stressor, the reaction is the same -- the fight-or-flight response.
Caveman vs. Downtown Man
You're probably familiar with the scenario typically used to teach the principles of stress. A prehistoric 'caveman' meanders along, minding his own business, wondering whether to wear the bison or the bearskin loincloth for dinner, when a sabre-toothed tiger leaps out of the bushes. The fight-or-flight mechanism is activated. Adrenaline kicks in, causing the caveman's pupils to dilate, heart and breathing rate to jump, skin to go cold, and hair to stand up. Muscles twitch in anticipation of the next move. Senses are heightened.
The caveman throws a rock (fight), then jumps quickly into a gully (flight), running as fast as he can, powered by the surge of energy from increased levels of blood sugar. By now, cortisol, the major stress hormone, is beginning to rise, supporting the initial adrenaline rush to permit a prolonged reaction to the inherent danger. Cortisol is more potent and longer-lasting than adrenaline, with profound effects at the cellular level.
In just moments, the threat is over. The tiger has stopped pursuing the man, distracted by a passing rabbit, which proves to be a more accessible prey. With a sigh of relief, the danger now past and his cave in sight, the caveman's alarm system turns off. The stress hormones stabilize his body before switching off and returning to normal levels. The fight-or-flight mechanism has worked, enabling survival in the face of danger and restoring his life to normal with no ill effects -- apart from a battered prehistoric ego!
Now, several thousands of years later, 'downtown man', tired from a sleepless night, has already battled with what he perceives as the first stressful situation of the day -- whether to wear the Armani or Prada power suit to the corporate merger presentation -- and is now sitting in traffic, 15 minutes late for work. His mobile phone rings. It's his boss, informing him that if he's late, he might as well not show up at all. No one to fight, nowhere to flee. Reaching to put the phone down, he knocks his coffee over the presentation sheets on the passenger seat. The traffic hasn't moved an inch. Despite the fact that none of this is anywhere near as dangerous as confronting a sabre-toothed tiger, he perceives it as a threat to his employment and his ego. His brain is programmed to interpret such situations as stress.
The primitive areas of the brain and associated hormone reactions involved in the response to stress have not changed much since caveman's loincloth days. The fight-or-flight mechanism kicks into action. The cascade of adrenaline begins in response, followed by longer-lasting cortisol, raising heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing levels. Downtown man sweats, honks the horn, feels rage. He no longer thinks clearly, awash in a recurring cycle of stress hormones.
Unlike the caveman's stress, downtown man's situation does not resolve quickly, and when it does, it is rapidly replaced by another. The stress reaction continually battles to restore the normal biological balance of his body to a 'safe' condition but does not succeed. Eventually, his general health may begin to suffer.
Acute Stress Response Cascade
Acute Stress Response
The stress response involves a series of events designed to promote survival in a threatening or harmful situation. In its simplest terms, it works like this. The brain interprets incoming information (sight, sound, smell, touch, etc.) and decides that the body is in danger. Almost instantly, the activity of one of the body's automatic nervous systems (the sympathetic nervous system) increases. These nerves transmit impulses to most organs and tissues in the body so that within seconds, the fight-or-flight response is initiated. This sympathetic system is powered by adrenaline released from the nerve endings and is backed up by rapid release of large additional amounts of adrenaline into the bloodstream by the adrenal glands. The sympathetic system provides a rapid but short-lived response in the stress cascade.
The adrenal glands boost this initial output and then provide a stronger and more sustained reaction. Cortisol, also released from the adrenal glands, is the hormone that drives the majority of the fight-or-flight response, acting on tissues and organs throughout the body, altering metabolism and cellular processes in a way that will benefit the body in the short term to overcome the dangerous situation. Once resolved, the system shuts down, levels return to normal, and the body stabilizes.
Chronic Stress Response
In the chronic stress response, rather than benefiting the body, the fight-or-flight response becomes so overstimulated that two things occur. First, rather than a controlled daily cycle of cortisol release with intermittent peaks, there is persistent secretion. While short bursts of this hormone are essential to normal function (for example, the surge in levels just before getting up in the morning), chronically elevated levels have a severely detrimental effect on most tissues and cells in the body.
Second, the body becomes unable to handle a real emergency. Akin to a hormonal 'cry wolf' situation, truly dangerous circumstances fail to produce sufficient cortisol release from the adrenal glands. The result of these two factors is a body that is overweight, sleep-deprived, poorly muscled, fragile, prone to infection, and often depressed, unable to perform under pressure or handle a difficult or threatening situation or illness.
Continual stimulation of the fight-or-flight response and adrenal cortisol secretion seems to reset the body's 'set' point where biological balance or equilibrium rests. There is now a persistent secretion of cortisol, disruption of the normal daily cycle, development of 'cortisol resistance', and impairment of the feedback mechanism that would normally exert control over the whole system.
This chronic stress condition is surprisingly common. An increasing body of evidence is showing how chronic stress is contributing to disease in the general population.
Metabolic syndrome or syndrome-X is well recognized as the association of a number of health conditions in one individual. They include obesity (abdominal), high blood pressure, high insulin levels with insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The syndrome affects a large proportion of the adult population of industrialized countries and likely represents the largest single threat to health in the upcoming decade. Initial theories about the development of this syndrome center around diet, and while this is clearly an important factor, evidence is pointing to chronic stress as being the primary cause.
Fortunately, chronic stress can be treated and prevented. While the first section of this book further explains the basis of the chronic stress condition based on an extensive review of current scientific research, the second section presents a comprehensive solution to this chronic stress problem, involving a combination of therapies, including diet, supplementation, exercise, physical therapies, and relaxation programs. The third section of the book practically applies this program to specific stress-related disorders and diseases, ranging from diabetes and heart attack to anxiety and depression. The programs presented are relatively easy to implement, safe, and effective. They have been proven in our medical practice and are supported by many of our colleagues in the medical and naturopathic doctor professions.
Most of us cannot immediately or completely change our lifestyles. Stressful situations will continue to bombard us every day. We can, however, change our bodies to handle the stress more efficiently, without detrimental effect to our health. After all, we never know when that sabre-toothed tiger is going to come round the corner. So, we should be ready.
Chronic Stress Response Cascade
Natural Biological Therapies
Our approach to treating chronic stress can best be called natural biological therapy. The goal is to restore biological balance in the body by altering hormone levels, enzymes, blood sugar, and neurotransmitters in order to re-establish a homeostatic balance. This corrects the physiologic malfunction at the root of stress and thus resolves disturbing physical, emotional, and neurological symptoms.
To achieve this goal, we recommend natural therapies, which include good nutrition, natural supplementation (for example, botanical extracts, vitamins, and minerals), exercise, physical therapies (for example, massage, shiatsu, and yoga), and relaxation techniques to create physiological changes in the body. These treatments all affect the physical body in several ways to solve the problem of chronic stress. Natural biological therapies are some of the easiest to execute from a patient's point of view and are easily incorporated into one's lifestyle.
Natural therapies can be used successfully in conjunction with psychological counseling. Together, these therapies prepare the physical body to address emotional issues, such that harmony is restored both physiologically and psychologically.
While in traditional medical and psychological practice, biological therapy per se includes the use of pharmaceutical drugs, shock therapy, and surgery, we only cover drug therapy in this book.
Anti-Stress Natural Supplements
Anti-Stress Exercise Therapies
Anti-Stress Physical Therapies (Bodywork)
Anti-Stress Mental Therapies
8-Week Stress Solution Program
Treating and Preventing Stress-Related Disorders and Diseases
Immune System Disorders and Allergies
Chronic Pain Disorders
Anxiety and Depression