Graham Beaton BHSc, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Stress is something that is often discussed with regards to health, but most people are not clear about what stress is, let alone how it impacts on one’s health.

Stress Defined
Stress is generally defined as any influence that disrupts the body from its normal state. These influences can be emotional, physical, social, economic or can be other factors that require a response.

When faced with a new situation, we go through a process of evaluating the meaning of the event. The event may be perceived in many ways, being positive, neutral or negative. A negative or potentially negative event is further evaluated to determine whether one has the coping abilities and resources to overcome the challenge. It is this subjective appraisal of the balance between the level of harm, future consequences and coping abilities that determines if a situation is perceived to be stressful.

Stress, What Happens?
When we encounter a situation that is perceived to be stressful we react in 3 distinct stages, called the Stress Response. During the first stage, our bodies react by initiating changes that will allow us to mobilize energy to deal with the situation. Symptoms experienced here include increased heart rate and blood pressure, rapid breathing, sweating, and decreased rate of digestion.

If we are not able to resolve the conflict, we enter into the second stage where exhaustion and the consumption of long term stores of energy are consumed, using up available bodily resources. At this point, symptoms include a greater sense of pressure, memory loss, tiredness and fatigue, and anxiety. The immune system is also affected, decreasing its ability to defend against such things as colds and flu.

Chronic stress caused by drained energy stores then sets in if the situation is still not resolved. At this point the body is unable to meet energy requirements to deal with the event and for normal activity. More serious health effects may result, including cardiovascular disease, insomnia, personality changes and mental illness.

Long Term Effects of Stress on Health?
Long term exposure to stress has many health effects. These include high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, alterations of metabolism and blood clotting, increased inflammation, and digestive problems. Other effects include decreased immune responses, chronic fatigue, changes to normal protein synthesis, and increased rates of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, how people choose to cope can also put them at risk. For example, some people may over eat, consume excess alcohol, or turn to drugs, which will thus lead to other health problems.

How Can We Help
Stress is a condition that is effectively treated by Naturopathic Medicine. Graham will help you to identify stressors and contributing factors, work with you to devise ways on how to effectively manage your stress and give dietary and dietary supplement suggestions to help your body cope with the increased requirements.

If you have questions about how to manage your stress or on Naturopathic Medicine, please call 613-290-6115 for more information.

Graham Beaton is a Naturopathic Doctor located in the Golden Triangle neighbourhood of downtown Ottawa.