This blog is inspired by Dr. Gabor Maté’s When the Body Says No: the Cost of Hidden Stress.
Stress: “Knock, Knock”
Body: “Who’s there?”
Stress: “It’s your best friend, Stress.”
Body: “Go away, I don’t appreciate your visit for any extended period of time…”
Stress: “What do you mean ‘go away’? I am your best friend, and have been here with you for the past few months now! I’m always here for you! I just thought I would say hi & remind you of my presence, because sometimes you seem to forget about me…”
Body: “Quit nagging me, and just go away.”
We are all familiar with stress. In fact, people can experience prolonged stress without being completely aware of it. Many scenarios and triggers create feelings of adrenaline and uneasiness: driving in rush hour traffic; the passing of a loved one; finances; studying for a big test or exam; as well as relationship issues (to name a few). Stress is not all bad – it can be good under certain circumstances. Stress is healthy when it motivates us and is experienced short-term. But what about long-term stress? Some of us habituate to stress, to the point where we think that how we function and feel is considered “normal”. This can be a problem.
Is it “normal” to feel the need to be busy from the minute you wake up until right before you go to bed at night? Is it normal to experience mind-racing in the middle of the night? Or what about the mind preventing you from falling asleep at night? These signs and symptoms are indicative of stress.
Long-term stress decreases immune system function resulting in frequent colds and illnesses. For women, stress effects hormone production resulting in irregular or absent menstrual periods. Digestion is also compromised under stress and this causes inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract lining. Food sensitivities may develop as the permeability of the intestinal tract increases. The list goes on…
Have you heard about the mind-body connection? Our emotional, mental, and spiritual health is just as important to consider and address as physical health; thoughts and feelings can manifest as physical symptoms. Have you ever experienced a traumatic event in your life, and have “never been well since”? Significant long-term stressors will demand the body to “pay-up”, resulting in the body turning against itself in such situations. The latter can manifest as autoimmune disease(s), neurological disease(s), and even cancer.
Naturopathic Doctors look at physical symptoms, but also take into account mental, emotional, and spiritual health. During your initial visit you can expect to be asked several questions pertaining to your health history; some of these questions include perceived stress levels, quality of sleep, and energy levels. Naturopathic Doctors may order salivary cortisol testing to evaluate your stress levels throughout the day. If the regular diurnal pattern is disrupted, suggestions will be given to help decrease stress levels and dietary/nutritional support given to optimize adrenal health.
Ashley Kowalski is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Embrun, Cornwall, and Ottawa. She is currently accepting new patients.