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Dr. O – Managing Stress While the World Burns

manage stress

2020 = Unpredictable Stress

At the start of 2020, no one could have predicted the things our world has seen in just the first half of this year. With a booming economy and things going seemingly well, who could have foreseen summer riots with looting and burning buildings? Or, would anyone have thought that a so-called “pandemic” would leave all of us isolated with millions out of jobs and an economy brought to its knees?

manage stress

With all of this happening, it’s no surprise that many of us are dealing with a real fear of how to provide for and protect our families. Our bodies are in a constant struggle of fight or flight mode and attempting to manage chronic stress is threatening to destroy our health. Your adrenal glands can only take so much. So how exactly do we get out of this physical and emotional state when outside conditions threaten to keep us in it?

Escalating Stress and the Media

While things are certainly abnormal right now, the media has taken the condition of our world and heightened things substantially. Media bias is out of control, facts are being twisted, and a narrative, though many may not realize it, is being pushed. Just with COVID-19, everyone was told that one million people would die and the virus can’t be stopped, but the death toll has been nowhere close to that.

Though this may seem insignificant, it has an impact on health. Constantly being shown anger, violence, and burning buildings without highlighting the good that is also happening can lead to sadness, fear, and ultimately poor decision making. As this frenzied state continues, rights are gradually being taken away, curfews enacted, and now, some cities are questioning whether to defund law enforcement.

How the Body Responds To Stress

While stress times can be tough to manage mentally, it also has a physical impact on the body and one that can snowball if not properly cared for. This impact includes:

  • Cortisol levels increase, creating a loss of muscle, and reducing the metabolic rate. This can lead to weight gain, primarily around the heart and intestines, which is associated with heart attacks and disease.
  • Depletion of Vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium. Magnesium and calcium are electrolytes that are vital for neurological function. Without these, muscles shorten and muscle spasms or injuries are likely to occur.
  • Elevation of blood sugar. Proteins in the blood are glycated (glycated = coated with sugar) making the viscosity increase. This puts more pressure on the heart and peripheral vascular tree. It makes it harder for blood and oxygen to reach tissue, which could lead to an increased risk for chronic degenerative disease.
  • Drives up adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are neurotransmitters produced by the adrenal gland that over time will ramp up the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight response. This reduces the ability to sleep and to digest items which can impact vitamins and nutrients being processed. A lack of sleep can inhibit healing and repair leading to further stress.

Steps to Elimination

With such a great impact on health, it’s important to eliminate and manage chronic stress when the realization hits that it is occurring. One of the first steps is to turn off the television, specifically the media. In many cases, they are lying or concealing the truth and there seems to be a hidden social agenda happening that will only create more fear and panic.

Once the TV is turned off, start looking at areas of life that can be improved or changed yourself. These include:

  • Stopping to pray, meditate, or perform deep breathing exercises.
  • Spending time with family and friends who are supportive and uplifting.
  • Starting an exercise routine or continuing your current one. Stress can cause muscle atrophy, water retention, and weight gain, but exercise helps. Focus on something simple like a Tabata workout, instead of severe exercises. Consistency is key.
  • Keep your diet real. Don’t fall to the temptation of all things gluten. It will only make the problem worse.

Ensuring Proper Nutrition

manage stress

Another important step to helping manage chronic stress is eating a proper diet to receive proper nutrition. One of the side effects of stress is an increase in carb and sugar cravings. People tend to gravitate toward their “comfort food” like cookies, cake, and ice cream, which may cause satisfaction for a time, but ultimately leads to increased cravings. And if those cravings happen to contain gluten as well, you are in for an even bigger problem.

With an increase in sugar comes an increase of yeast in the GI tract, leading to another hardship on the body, inflammation. Alcohol is another comfort many turn to in times of trouble. However, it also contains a significant amount of sugar, is an immunosuppressant, and can cause liver damage and inflammation. I have personally made this mistake a few times this year.

Supporting Your Adrenal Glands and Stress Response

Another option that I personally partake in to support the body while dealing with chronic stress is incorporating supplementation into my routine. The more stress you have, the more nutrients you will use or excrete, and the more malnourished you can become. Simply put, stress causes nutritional deficiencies. In addition to eating clean, organic food, consider these supplements:

  • A daily multivitamin is a good idea because much of our conventionally grown foods lacks nutrient density.
  • Vitamin C – This nutrient will ensure that the body does not run out of adrenaline, noradrenaline, or dopamine. Dopamine is considered the “happy hormone” and without it, one could become depressed, fatigued, lethargic, or experience muscle tremors.
  • Pantothenic Acid – This nutrient, also known as Vitamin B5, the anti-stress factor, or the anti-graying factor is also crucial in periods of high stress. It supports the adrenal glands so that they are able to keep up and maintain proper working conditions during high stress periods.
  • Organ meat or adrenal organ gland in capsule form – Though this may sound strange, it contains several nutrients and chemical compounds to help support you in chronic stressful situations.
  • When stress is super intense, when your muscles are cramping, and you are so overwhelmed that you are struggling to relax and get enough sleep, GABA, L-Theanine, and the amino acid, 5 HTP, can have a calming effect on your muscles and nerves.

More Suggestions to Preserve Your Adrenal Function During Chronic Stress

The reality is, 2020 has been, and will most likely continue to be a very stressful year for most of us. We cannot control “the crazy” around us, so we need to focus on what we can control. Aside from the tips listed above, don’t forget, the importance of sleep, adequate sunshine, minimizing the use of stimulants (including caffeine), and hugs. Especially hugs. Human connection with those you love is one of the best forms of medicine.

Stress is Not All Bad

While most of us associate the word stress in a negative context, it’s not all bad. It is a built-in, hormonal response that is there on purpose and has the ability to kick us into gear. It allows us to make quicker decisions rather than deferring to procrastination and is only a problem when it becomes chronic and overwhelming to our system.

At that point, it is crucial to take a step back, identify the items that are causing it, and address them individually. Doing that along with implementing a proper diet, supplementation, exercise, prayer or meditation, and a social outlet will help you deal with it and set you up for success in every difficult situation.

What are you doing to manage your stress during this time? Comment below.

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