What does stress do to the human body

How many saber-toothed tigers tried to maul you to death today? Hopefully, the stressors in your life don’t involve an apex predator chasing you through the bush, as was the case for our cavemen ancestors. Still, stress affects us the same way it did them. We are wired for stress physiologically much the same way we were millennia ago, with our primordial fight or flight response well alive within us to keep us alert and safe.

Though not all stress is bad, we need a break from bad stressors, otherwise our health may begin to deteriorate.

Modern humans battle bad stressors that might not seem like a fight or flight scenario — staying in an unhealthy or challenging relationship with a partner; financial hardships; job dissatisfaction; drug and alcohol abuse; nagging in-laws — all this distress may cause the body to:

• Elevate blood pressure
• Increase heart rate
• Slow down digestion and metabolism
• Flood the bloodstream with chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol
• Tense up muscles

Have a white-knuckle commute on the freeway to work every morning? Welcome to this modern life’s version of the caveman being chased by the saber-tooth tiger. Though you might not have to flee your car and run, the same chemical cocktails are coursing through your body as the caveman’s.

Cortisol is one of those chemicals. Like adrenaline, it helps us deal with stress, but too much of it can be harmful to the body. Research has linked it to body fat storage around the abdomen. In turn, piling on the pounds around the belly can lead to heart disease.

Excessive cortisol flooding the bloodstream can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Some doctors believe that adrenal exhaustion (think: someone who is constantly tired) is the main culprit behind every chronic disease. Dr. Lawrence Wilson isn’t alone in thinking that the mainstream medical profession often fails to recognize adrenal burnout as a real health concern.

WebMD reports that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor visits are stress-related, but in its assessment of stress on the body, nowhere does it mention adrenal fatigue due to excess cortisol, which is sometimes referred to as “the stress hormone.”

Failing to cope with bad stress, and thus severely fatiguing the adrenal glands (which rest over the kidneys), has a domino effect on the body’s many symptoms and functions, including:

Hormonal (hormonal pathways can be disrupted)

Musculoskeletal (you won’t burn fat as efficiently and gain muscle)

Immune (adrenal fatigue from bad stress wreaks havoc on the immune system)

Digestive (bad stress slows digestion, chronic digestion problems may arise)

Cardiovascular (adrenal fatigue can lead to heart palpitations and other problems)


People who suffer long-term stress may also be more prone to obesity, according to a new study from University College London. The research, which involved examining hair samples for levels of cortisol and was published in the journal Obesity, showed that exposure to higher levels of cortisol over several months is associated with being more heavily, and more persistently, overweight.

While stress and weight long have been thought to go hand-in-hand (think stress eating and comfort foods), this study confirms the link by examining long-term cortisol levels in more than 2,500 men and women over a four-year period.

“People who had higher hair cortisol levels also tended to have larger waist measurements, which is important because carrying excess fat around the abdomen is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and premature death,” Dr Sarah Jackson (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) who led the research, said in a press release. “Hair cortisol is a relatively new measure which offers a suitable and easily obtainable method for assessing chronically high levels of cortisol concentrations in weight research and may therefore aid in further advancing understanding in this area.”

Weakened immune system:

As if mounting bills and a tenuous marriage weren’t enough stress to make your blood vessels dilate, your pupils enlarge, your breathing rapidly increase and your sweat glands kick into overdrive, perhaps reading that eating an unhealthy diet also plays a major role in contributing to adrenal fatigue.

How? Eating the wrong foods over many years can break down the mucosal barrier in your gut. Think of the mucosal barrier as the body’s second skin as well as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens, or unwanted nasty critters invading your gut.

Your immune system lies mostly in your gut, so if over the years you continue eating poorly, the integrity of the mucosal barrier system becomes severely compromised. In the long run, digestion is compromised. With most of your immune system residing in your gut, your immune system will weaken.

Concerned about what stress has done to your body? Seek a medical professional or alternative health practitioner who understands adrenal fatigue and knows how to restore hormonal pathways. A nutritional approach to battling stress should also be applied.

credit: Judd Handler

Alternative medicine is now a $30 billion industry. But does it work?

Report finds that 59 million Americans use complementary medicine.

Alternative medicine is big business in the U.S. A new report found that Americans spent more than $30 billion on alternative therapies in 2015. That includes treatments such as homeopathy and acupuncture as well as supplements, yoga and meditation.

The report, released jointly by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 59 million Americans sought out some type of alternative therapy. Most of the alternative therapies are being used by adults, not children, the researchers found. Of the $30.2 billion, about $28 billion was spent on adults, compared to $1.9 billion for children.

Researchers estimated that one out of five Americans spent money on at least one type of alternative therapy, which could include practices such as Ayurveda, biofeedback, chelation therapy, chiropractic manipulation, energy healing therapy, tai chi, hypnosis, naturopathy, progressive relaxation and massage therapy.

Overall, spending on alternative remedies amounted to just around 9 percent of out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures. But the report found that Americans with lower incomes were shelling out more of their income proportionally than their more affluent peers. Families making less than $25,000 per year spent around $314 per person on complementary medicine and $389 per person on natural supplements. Families earning more than $100,000 per year spent an average of $518 per person on alternative treatments and $377 each on supplements.

While there have been studies confirming the therapeutic benefits of some treatments — such as acupuncture and yoga — other forms of complementary medicine, namely homeopathy, guided imagery, energy healing and some natural supplements have faced severe scrutiny for the lack of scientific data to support their use.

Yet despite this lack of data, the alternative medicine industry is continuing to grow in the U.S. And according to researchers, this confirms the need for more research into to ensure that the products and treatment options offered are safe.

Credit: Jenn Savedge

Ayurvedic medicine the oldest healthcare system

Ayurvedic medicine was born in India 5,000 years ago and is considered to be the world’s oldest healthcare system. Named for the Sanskrit word ayurveda, meaning the “science of life,” the holistic practice is based on creating harmony between body, mind and spirit and maintaining that balance to prevent illness, treat conditions and contribute to overall good health.

“Ayurvedic medicine looks at you as a whole person. As a practitioner I talk to patients about sleeping, energy, bathroom habits, health, emotional well-being and how it’s all connected to the physical,” says Jessica Blanchard, an ayurvedic practitioner in New Orleans.

Most people see an ayurvedic practitioner when they want help with a specific illness or condition, though a small percentage of people seek general wellness. “You might see patients with a variety of illnesses and conditions such as migraines, hormone imbalance, digestion, allergies and many others,” says Blanchard.

Treatment can include dietary changes or the addition of yoga practice, different postures and breathing exercises, aromatherapy or massage. In the United States, ayurvedic medicine typically focuses on diet, herbs, oils and massage, and takes sleep and stress patterns into consideration.

The ayurvedic lifestyle is early-to-rise and early-to-bed — a pattern in harmony with nature’s rhythms. It advocates setting aside quiet time in the morning for meditation, yoga or massage. A vegetarian type diet with an emphasis on healthful grains and fruits and vegetables is recommended.

The guiding principles

Ayurvedic practice teaches that that each person is a blend of three doshas, or guiding principles, within the body. The principles are vata, pitta and kapha, though usually one or two are prominent. Disease is attributed to an imbalance or an ungrounding in the doshas.

“Essentially we look at everyone as three body types,” says Anisha Durve, an ayurvedic practitioner at the University Hospital’s Integrative Medicine department in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here’s a breakdown of the types:

Vata is the air/wind body type. These people are high-energy, creative, dynamic, flexible, and tend to be dry, cool, light and airy. A vata type may be thin, with cold hands and feet, and dry skin. If imbalanced, vata types manifest anxiety, nervousness, insecurity, insomnia, constipation, arthritis, restlessness and lack of focus. They may be sensitive to sleep issues and digestion problems.

Pitta is the fire/sun body type. These people have strong digestion, sharp intellect, make good debaters, and do well with intellectual pursuits. They are described as hot, fiery, sharp and vibrant. Those who are mostly pitta will be more likely to have medium builds, oily skin and good appetites. When imbalanced, pitta types can erupt in anger, impatience, jealousy and competiveness. Pitta people are prone to inflammatory diseases ranging from heartburn to rashes.

Kapha is the water/earth body type. These folks are stable, grounded, loving, compassionate individuals with a cheerful outlook, good stamina and endurance, and a strong immune system. They’re considered serene and grounded. Predominant kaphas may be overweight, slow, calm and deliberate. When imbalanced, kapha types suffer congestion, swelling and diseases like diabetes, depression, weight gain and lack of motivation. Exercise, dance and travel are helpful.

Determining your dosha

Practitioners also take the pulse to determine which body type you are. There are a lot of qualities to consider about the pulse — its weakness or strength, its location and other factors.

“If you know which body type you are, you can be more proactive about your health and diet, lifestyle and exercise choices and prevention,” says Durve. For instance, if you have a specific condition like migraines, a vatta type would need grounding herbs while a pitta type would need cooling herbs and cooling dietary suggestions to offset the heat building up in the body, explains Durve. Each type requires different treatment.

Adopting an ayurvedic lifestyle is an excellent way to get more balance in your life. For more information on ayurveda or to locate a practitioner near you, see the National Ayurvedic Medical Association website.

credit: Mother Nature Network

Read more: http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/what-is-ayurvedic-medicine#ixzz3fjgsmX2I

Dr. Yogi: Physicians Integrate Yoga Into Medical Practice

Rajan Narayanan isn’t your average yoga instructor. During his classes, he uses words like “neuroplasticity,” avoids Sanskrit terms and sometimes shows up to teach in a suit and tie.

And often, as was the case on a recent Monday at a Maryland conference center, most of his students are doctors and nurses.

Stretched out on orange and green yoga mats for a weekend-long workshop, the 30 students learned breathing techniques, lifestyle tips and research findings that support the health benefits of yoga.

Narayanan, a longtime practitioner and economist by day, is one of the founders of Life In Yoga, a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate people on the benefits of this ancient Indian practice. A major part of this effort, however, is directed at integrating yoga therapy in the mainstream health care system by training medical providers to use yogic breathing and techniques to treat various maladies.

“We need to expand the horizons of physicians — yoga is much more than just relaxation response,” he said.

Since starting this push in 2010, Life in Yoga has trained 145 doctors. Its programs, jointly sponsored by Howard University College of Medicine, are recognized by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. That means doctors can earn credits they need to keep their licenses current by learning about yoga. A four-day yoga course costs doctors $695.

Yoga therapy is a relatively new addition to the list of accredited courses, but one that has proved helpful to physicians, said Dr. Murray Kopelow, president and CEO of the ACCME.

“These are things our professionals need to know,” he said. Dr. Harminder Kaur, an internist in Clarksburg, Md., agreed. Kaur, who also practices yoga in her personal life, said the Life in Yoga curriculum has helped her patients with illnesses such as sleep apnea and arthritis.

“It takes one case to be successfully treated, then your mind is open to it,” she said.

Narayanan from Life in Yoga makes weekly visits to Kaur’s practice to focus on specific techniques geared toward certain problems. They are currently working on ways to use yoga therapy to help patients with hypertension.

For Narayanan, the ability to hone in on a specific disease and have evidence of a proven outcome is the crux of his work with health care providers. He said psychiatrists often see the most powerful results of the practice — sometimes replacing drugs with breathing exercises.

But to make an impact on the health care system, Narayanan wants to dispel the popular image of yoga as just an exercise or good stretch and focus on its scientific side. And he and his partners forgo any salary or compensation to make sure that happens.

“Yoga is being misrepresented,” he said. “If thinking doesn’t change, if it’s not useful in a doctors’ practice, it cannot work.”

At the Maryland workshop in February, Narayanan and the team of physician instructors asked the doctors and nurses in attendance to try out some techniques to share with their patients.

And at the end of the course, the students — a group that included cardiologists, psychiatrists and physicians assistants — stood up to speak about their experiences over the weekend. Almost every person used the word inspired.

Source: NPR.org