There are two types of stress.
The first is ‘normal’ stress; our natural fight or flight response. We feel this when we are scared, aggressive, angry or excited.
The second is chronic stress; when we respond to something with excess stress hormones on a nearly continual basis. Someone who is suffering from chronic stress might feel persistent anger, resentment, fear – both real and imagined – and their ability to absorb nutrients will be under fire.
Chronic stress takes a tremendous toll on the body. It can tear apart organs, cause serious problems for our mental health, induce disease states and eventually lead to death.
Chronic stress is something that can be present in both children and adults and is something we need a better understanding of.
And a great place to start is understanding the different stress responses.
How do our bodies respond to stress?
Stress responses are a natural function of our bodies. However, if we are suffering from chronic stress then these responses might be taking place when they do not need to be.
1. Blood Sugar
When we are stressed, our blood sugar spikes, perhaps causing us to feel drowsy or have unclear thoughts.
As a response, our body then releases a ton of insulin. However, the body overshoots and often releases more insulin than we need which causes our blood sugar to drop – fast. At which point we often become irritable, aggressive or edgy.
In the case of children, this often looks like ADD or ADHD. And too often, when this stress response occurs repeatedly, children are misdiagnosed and are prescribed medications when in fact, many of these ‘symptoms’ can be relieved by normalising the blood sugar.
To go about normalising the blood sugar, the most important nutrients we need are B Vitamins which you can find in whole grains, leafy greens and many other vegetables.
Hyperventilation is a common stress response.
Our respiration goes up and we breathe more rapidly. As we do so, our bodies release increase levels of free radicals as a response to kill off bacteria and viruses that we might be exposed to. In the long term, this can cause problems for our immune system.
Stress on the immune system can fester if we don’t attend to it, sometimes leading to further problems like allergies, auto-immune disease and even cancer.
For children, we should be particularly aware of the immune system around the beginning of autumn when perhaps kids are heading to school during which time they may be under both physical and emotional stress.
To strengthen the immune system, I highly recommend the use of supplementation and especially an increased intake of protein. Alfalfa is also a great source of nutrients for the immune system and can be given in the form of a tea to even very young children.
When we experience chronic stress it disturbs our digestive systems and prevents us from getting the nutrients out of the food as well as we would normally – this is the case for both children and adults.
Stress causes the blood flow to move away from the digestive system and redirects it towards our muscles, ready for the fight or flight response.
Not only does this make us less able to absorb the nutrients we need from our food but it can also result in diarrhoea or constipation. With children, it’s more likely that they will become constipated.
The best remedy for this is an increased intake of fibre and ensuring proper hydration – you should be taking in half your body weight in ounces of water per day.
Something to think about…
We’ve discussed the three main stress responses and how to help keep each in check if you are suffering from chronic stress. However, it’s also important to be aware of some further problems that are associated with this.
For adults, our blood pressure and heart rate can increase as a result of chronic stress.
In both adults and children, chronic stress can cause an increase in cholesterol and our blood’s ability to clot. These sorts of issues begin in childhood so it’s crucial that we are aware of events that might be causing repeated stress responses, especially in our children.
For adults and children alike, if you have a blood pressure increase on a regular basis, your ‘normal’ blood pressure will increase to accommodate this which will eventually lead to hypertension.
Limiting our exposure to, or at least increasing our awareness of, events that cause repeated stress can help us avoid this type of long term damage. For more information on my recommendations for supplementation and nutritional remedies for chronic stress, listen to my talk on Stress Management For Children & Adults.
For further discussion on specific research surrounding this issue, listen to my comprehensive talk ‘Stress Management for Children and Adults’
I put aside a bit of time each month to help individuals with their questions and concerns. If you have questions or require additional information, don’t hesitate to contact my office for a free, fifteen-minute consultation.
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