Stress Medical Considerations
Kava Kava: Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum) is an herb that has been used in the Fiji Islands for many years. There it is cultivated in large quantities, and the islanders use it as a social beverage, much like how we would use either coffee or alcohol. The effects of Kava Kava are a relaxation of mental stress while at the same time an enhancement of mental capacities. Kava Kava also helps to relax striated muscles. Striated muscles are the muscles that can be voluntarily moved such as arm and leg muscles groups, or neck muscles. Kava Kava does NOT affect smooth muscle such as the heart muscle or diaphragm muscle used for breathing. It is proposed that the reason Kava Kava enhances mental capacities is because relaxation of stressful situations coupled with relaxation of tense or spastic muscles such as the neck muscles, allows more blood flow to the brain. Additionally, by putting some of the stressful affects aside, anyone can think clearer.
Relaxing Herbs: Valerian Root is an herb that is used extensively in Alternative Care Medicine to provide sedative and relaxation effects, as well as sleep promoting benefits for many patients. Passionflower, which is more widely used in Europe than America, may help combat Parkinson’s disease. (Reference: The Herbal Handbook, by David Hoffmann.) Many other herbalists also agree that Passionflower may help combat Parkinson’s disease. Passionflower contains two reportedly effective anti-Parkinson’s compounds, harmine and harmaline alkaloids. (Reference: The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke, Ph.D., 1997, p. 353.) Passionflower has anti-anxiety and sedative effects. Lemon Balm and Skullcap are traditional herbs for calming the nervous system.
A good night’s sleep allows Alpha Brains Waves to become active, which is important for quality rest. Alpha brain waves are most active during the phase of sleep known as “Rapid Eye Movement (REM) or more commonly referred to as “Deep Sleep.”
Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for: processing calcium in the body; relaxation of all muscles including the heart during its relaxation phase of the heart beat which helps protect against a spastic heart muscle and irregular heartbeat; eases Fibromyalgia symptoms; assists in lowering blood pressure by relaxing the muscle walls of arteries; and may reduce the severity of asthma attacks by allowing relaxation of chest wall muscles. Magnesium improves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and has shown to aid in reducing complications of diabetes. Magnesium is needed to counter the effects of stress and therefore extra magnesium is needed in times of stress. Magnesium is also needed in over 300 other biochemical and enzymatic pathways in the body.
Blood Sugar: The inability of your body to control blood sugar levels will create both physical and emotional stress.
Chronic negative stress, if left unchecked or unresolved, not only can cause disease, but can also manifest in the body as a myriad of physical and emotional problems aggravating many conditions including PMS, menopausal symptoms, allergies, hypoglycemia and candida infections. Stress can be a cause of many of these conditions; it can cause the conditions, or may just aggravate and accentuate them! Often a major life stress, trauma or crisis such as the loss of a loved one, or a relationship change can weaken the body. This in turn, can aggravate PMS, allergies, a impaired immune system or other disease processes which can occur at any point in a person’s life. Sometimes critical events, even when occurring years before, can lead to the manifestation of a condition or disease. Many women state that they don’t feel the same even years after the birth of a child. Complaints of fatigue and hormonal imbalances are not uncommon. Stressful situations can cause hormonal and biochemical imbalances, often affecting the nervous system, immune systems and health in general. Fortunately, much can be done through Naturopathic Medicine to help correct these situations. Therefore, by understanding what physical and emotional stresses you may have undergone in the past, Naturopathic Medicine can often discover much about your present health.
Scientific research shows that the pituitary gland lacks stimulation in climates such as found in the Pacific Northwest, which do not get much winter sunshine. This lack of pituitary stimulation increases depression and worsens many other conditions. The physician (and your own home) should have special types of full spectrum lights to help these conditions. It really makes a difference!
Neurotransmitters (brain hormones such as serotonin, norepinephrine and acetylcholine) are natural phenolic compounds involved in many important regulatory processes in the body. Studies have shown that low serotonin levels are implicated in bed-wetting, severe headaches, depression, insomnia and even criminal behavior. PMS symptoms such as sobbing uncontrollably, heightened fears, hostility and extreme irritability have been linked to low or fluctuating levels of serotonin. These symptoms often overlap with those seen in sleep deprivation. In fact, women with PMS often report a feeling of deep exhaustion upon awakening as if they had not slept at all, even after sleeping for as much as 10-12 hours. If the body produces an inadequate amount of serotonin, a person may not experience the deep sleep usually indicated by a lack of “R.E.M.” sleep, (Rapid Eye Movement). The “R.E.M. sleep state” is a healthy condition experienced during the deep-sleep portion of sleep. A lack of R.E.M. sleep has been shown to affect mood and is linked to depression. The hormone “Growth Hormone,” in an adult, serves to help heal, or rebuild the body. Growth Hormone is only released during R.E.M. sleep. Although R.E.M. sleep may cause a person to sleep very heavily, women with PMS (i.e. low serotonin levels) often wake feeling tired. By balancing the body’s level of serotonin and other neurotransmitters (using the same principles as in the treatment of allergies), many seemingly unrelated conditions such as PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, depression, and childhood conditions such as bed-wetting, learning disabilities and overactive behavioral problems may be helped.
Chronic negative stress can impair stomach and intestinal functions causing poor absorption and the improper digestion of food. In turn, the body may not receive the optimum amount of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for good health. For example, in a normally functioning body, protein is broken down into amino acids, which are then reconverted by the liver into another type of protein called “enzymes” which are essential to vital life processes including helping the body breakdown foods (digestive enzymes). Stress and improper nutrition can disrupt enzyme and pancreatic bicarbonate production thus decreasing the body’s efficiency. This decreased vitality can promote fatigue and other diseases. Your specific nutritional and enzyme imbalances can be diagnosed and then corrected through the use of special diets, therapeutic nutritional programs and the proper balance of enzymes. A thorough evaluation can significantly reduce the anxiety caused by worrying about a seemingly unending or untreatable problem. It is important to remember that the liver is the chief organ of detoxification. Like other organs, it is composed of cells that require Vitamin C, enzymes and other nutrients for proper functioning. If the amount of these elements are reduced due to stress-related other factors, liver function can become less efficient permitting toxins, drugs, estrogen and other waste products to accumulate. This can then cause a rise in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Furthermore, if a woman is constipated, the level of estrogen can rise even higher because of the recirculation of unmetabolized estrogen. Chronic negative stress can, in itself, lead to poor bowel function and increased levels of cholesterol and estrogen along with decreasing the levels of progesterone, thyroid, blood sugar and adrenal hormones. This imbalance can result in weakness, fatigue and a weakened immune system.