A hereditary vulnerability and concerns such as economic or political uncertainties, a decreasing quality of life, looming unemployment, and fear of old age or abandonment has led to a general increase in persons who report stress. Other contributing factors include insufficient regular leisure or physical activity, poor diet, an inadequate family structure and lack of a support network. These personal, social, economical and dietary factors interact with biological factors to make stress a leading cause of ailments, from a simple heartburn to a decrease in immune responsiveness, and from this to cancer and other diseases.
In the past few decades a large body of research has confirmed a connection between stress and disease, and between stress management and a reduced risk of, or reduced morbidity and mortality from, certain diseases.
One of the pioneers of modern stress research, the physician/physiologist Hans Selye, was the first to invoke the concept of a physiological response to a wide variety of stressors, both psychological and physical. He coined the term 'general adaptation syndrome' (GAS) to describe the physiological process by which the organism responds to stressors and attempts to re-establish homeostasis. The syndrome consists of three phases: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
During the alarm stage the organism detects a stressor and responds with activation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal medulla, the so-called ‘fight or flight reaction’ during which the body's defenses are mobilized. The second stage, resistance, recruits the pituitary-adrenocortical axis to permit the organism to achieve optimal adaptation and maintain homeostasis. Exhaustion results when the organism depletes its adaptive resources and may give rise to disease or even death.
Selye identified ‘diseases of adaptation’ which include, amongst others, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, peptic ulcer, hyperthyroidism and asthma.
Treatment should involve taking time enough from your schedule to evaluate your life and priorities. Take time to reflect about your choices, your social and family life, work, study and even financial conditions. A stressed-out person should rethink their life, mostly by identifying the sources of stress and make efforts to resolve them. Wise counseling can be very helpful.
When you are under stress, cortisol may be literally eating away at your muscle building potential. An excess of cortisol can lead to a progressive loss of protein, muscle weakness, atrophy, and loss of bone mass through increased calcium excretion and less calcium absorption.
When organic disease is already installed as a result of stress, be it a simple gastritis, a cardiac or lung disease, asthma, allergies, or any suspected stress-related condition, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible. Specific treatment may be required for these ailments. Simple changes however, such as more exercise, improving nutrient status, making more free time, or changes in life habits may be enough to resolve the problem.
Another list of tips includes: listening to others, sending encouraging notes, saying "thank-you", laughing, smiling, sharing - and imagine this - praying.
Allergy: Hypersensitivity caused by exposure to a particular antigen (allergen), resulting in an increased reactivity to that antigen on subsequent exposure, sometimes with harmful immunologic consequences.
Anxiety: Apprehension of danger, or dread, accompanied by nervous restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, and shortness of breath unrelated to a clearly identifiable stimulus.
Asthma: A lung disorder marked by attacks of breathing difficulty, wheezing, coughing, and thick mucus coming from the lungs. The episodes may be triggered by breathing foreign substances (allergens) or pollutants, infection, vigorous exercise, or emotional stress.
Atherosclerosis: Common form of arteriosclerosis associated with the formation of atheromas which are deposits of yellow plaques containing cholesterol, lipids, and lipophages within the intima and inner media of arteries. This results in a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces the blood and oxygen flow to the heart and brain as well as to other parts of the body and can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or loss of function or gangrene of other tissues.
Calcium: The body's most abundant mineral. Its primary function is to help build and maintain bones and teeth. Calcium is also important to heart health, nerves, muscles and skin. Calcium helps control blood acid-alkaline balance, plays a role in cell division, muscle growth and iron utilization, activates certain enzymes, and helps transport nutrients through cell membranes. Calcium also forms a cellular cement called ground substance that helps hold cells and tissues together.
Cancer: Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.
Carbohydrates: The sugars and starches in food. Sugars are called simple carbohydrates and found in such foods as fruit and table sugar. Complex carbohydrates are composed of large numbers of sugar molecules joined together, and are found in grains, legumes, and vegetables like potatoes, squash, and corn.
Cardiac: Pertaining to the heart, also, pertaining to the stomach area adjacent to the esophagus.
Cardiovascular: Pertaining to the heart and blood vessels.
Catecholamine: Any of various amines (as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine) that function as hormones and/or neurotransmitters.
Cholesterol: A waxy, fat-like substance manufactured in the liver and found in all tissues, it facilitates the transport and absorption of fatty acids. In foods, only animal products contain cholesterol. An excess of cholesterol in the bloodstream can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis.
Chronic: Usually Chronic illness: Illness extending over a long period of time.
Constipation: Difficult, incomplete, or infrequent evacuation of dry, hardened feces from the bowels.
DHEA: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid produced by the adrenal glands and is the most abundant one found in humans. DHEA may be transformed into testosterone, estrogen or other steroids. It is found in the body as DHEA or in the sulfated form known as DHEA-S. One form is converted into the other as needed.
Gastritis: Inflammation of the stomach lining. White blood cells move into the wall of the stomach as a response to some type of injury; this does not mean that there is an ulcer or cancer - it is simply inflammation, either acute or chronic. Symptoms depend on how acute it is and how long it has been present. In the acute phase, there may be pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and vomiting. In the chronic phase, the pain may be dull and there may be loss of appetite with a feeling of fullness after only a few bites of food. Very often, there are no symptoms at all. If the pain is severe, there may be an ulcer as well as gastritis.
Gastrointestinal: Pertaining to the stomach, small and large intestines, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
Glucose: A sugar that is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It is commonly referred to as blood sugar. The body breaks down carbohydrates in foods into glucose, which serves as the primary fuel for the muscles and the brain.
Hormones: Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.
Hydrochloric Acid: (HCl): An inorganic acidic compound, excreted by the stomach, that aids in digestion.
Hypertension: High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.
Hyperthyroidism: An abnormal condition of the thyroid gland resulting in excessive secretion of thyroid hormones characterized by an increased metabolism and weight loss.
Hypothalamus: An important supervisory center in the brain regulating many body functions. Despite its importance in maintaining homeostasis, the hypothalamus in humans accounts for only 1/300 of total brain weight, and is about the size of an almond.
Immune System: A complex that protects the body from disease organisms and other foreign bodies. The system includes the humoral immune response and the cell-mediated response. The immune system also protects the body from invasion by making local barriers and inflammation.
Insulin: A hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood glucose levels. Insulin stimulates the liver, muscles, and fat cells to remove glucose from the blood for use or storage.
Ischemia: Localized tissue anemia due to obstruction of the inflow of arterial blood.
Magnesium: An essential mineral. The chief function of magnesium is to activate certain enzymes, especially those related to carbohydrate metabolism. Another role is to maintain the electrical potential across nerve and muscle membranes. It is essential for proper heartbeat and nerve transmission. Magnesium controls many cellular functions. It is involved in protein formation, DNA production and function and in the storage and release of energy in ATP. Magnesium is closely related to calcium and phosphorus in body function. The average adult body contains approximately one ounce of magnesium. It is the fifth mineral in abundance within the body--behind calcium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Although about 70 percent of the body's magnesium is contained in the teeth and bones, its most important functions are carried out by the remainder which is present in the cells of the soft tissues and in the fluid surrounding those cells.
Mineral: Plays a vital role in regulating many body functions. They act as catalysts in nerve response, muscle contraction and the metabolism of nutrients in foods. They regulate electrolyte balance and hormonal production, and they strengthen skeletal structures.
Multiple Sclerosis: Demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system, causing patches of sclerosis (plaques) in the brain and spinal cord, manifested by loss of normal neurological functions, e.g., muscle weakness, loss of vision, and mood alterations.
Nervous System: A system in the body that is comprised of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, ganglia and parts of the receptor organs that receive and interpret stimuli and transmit impulses to effector organs.
Peptic Ulcer: A general term for gastric ulcers (stomach) and duodenal ulcers (duodenum), open sores in the stomach or duodenum caused by digestive juices and stomach acid. Most ulcers are no larger than a pencil eraser, but they can cause tremendous discomfort and pain. They occur most frequently in the 60 to 70 age group, and slightly more often in men than in women. Doctors now know that there are two major causes of ulcers: most often patients are infected with the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori); others are regular users of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), which include common products like aspirin and ibuprofen.
Pituitary: The pituitary gland is small and bean-shaped, located below the brain in the skull base very near the hypothalamus. Weighing less than one gram, the pituitary gland is often called the "master gland" since it controls the secretion of hormones by other endocrine glands.
Prolactin: An anterior pituitary peptide hormone that initiates and maintains lactation.
Prostate: The prostate gland in men that surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra and produces a secretion that liquefies coagulated semen.
Protein: Compounds composed of hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen present in the body and in foods that form complex combinations of amino acids. Protein is essential for life and is used for growth and repair. Foods that supply the body with protein include animal products, grains, legumes, and vegetables. Proteins from animal sources contain the essential amino acids. Proteins are changed to amino acids in the body.
Psoriasis: An inherited skin disorder in which there are red patches with thick, dry silvery scales. It is caused by the body making too-many skin cells. Sores may be anywhere on the body but are more common on the arms, scalp, ears, and the pubic area. A swelling of small joints may go along with the skin disease.
Serotonin: A phenolic amine neurotransmitter (C10H12N2O) that is a powerful vasoconstrictor and is found especially in the brain, blood serum and gastric membranes of mammals. Considered essential for relaxation, sleep, and concentration.
Spasm: Involuntary contraction of one or more muscle groups.
Sympathetic Nervous: Sympathetic nervous system: Portion of the autonomic nervous system that is generally associated with “flight or fight” reactions by increasing blood circulation and respiration and decreasing digestion.
Tinnitus: A sensation of noise (ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition and can usually only be heard by the person affected.
Ulcerative Colitis: (Colitis ulcerosa): Ulceration of the colon and rectum, usually long-term and characterized by rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, frequent urgent diarrhea/bowel movements each day, abdominal pain.
Zinc: An essential trace mineral. The functions of zinc are enzymatic. There are over 70 metalloenzymes known to require zinc for their functions. The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, protein synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism. Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Zinc is necessary for the proper metabolism of alcohol, to get rid of the lactic acid that builds up in working muscles and to transfer it to the lungs. Zinc is involved in the health of the immune system, assists vitamin A utilization and is involved in the formation of bone and teeth.