Stress. What is it? How does it affect us?

Many years ago, Holistic Health Practitioner, Elite Athlete Coach and corrective exercise specialist Paul Chek identified six types of stressors that harm our body. While I do agree with the types, my definitions, after years of research, goes a bit deeper as I studied the Terrain Theory and the work of Antoine Béchamp, Claude Bernard, Rudolph Virchow, Ethel Douglas Hume, Roy Rife, Gaston Naessens, Gunter Enderlein, Stefan Lanka, Dr Carolyn Dean, and Robert & Shelly Young.

The six types are; physical, mental, nutritional, chemical, radiational, and thermal. These can be broken down into two groups, internal and external.
External stressors are things that stress the body from the outside, such as physical pain from an injury or other external force, toxic chemical exposure, and radiation from the sun and electronic devices.

Internal stressors come from within the body, and most of the time, internal stress is simply the reaction to external stressors. If you, for example, are repeatedly exposed to toxic chemicals, you will slowly become sick and develop a “disease”. And, if untreated, you will eventually develop cancer as the body tries to cope with the stressor by mutating its cells. Even when the toxic chemicals are removed and the body begins to heal, the cancer will continue to stress the bodily systems until it is completely gone – as it has gone from a necessity in a toxic environment to an abnormality in a healthy environment.

If you’re constantly taking on more work than you can handle, or if you’re in an unhappy relationship, you’ll experience a chronic stress response within the body. Chronic stressors increase stress hormones, leading to compromised healing/repair abilities and eventually to disease. In later parts, I will explain this relationship between stressors and disease in greater detail. For now, let us look at the different types of stress that affect our body and health.

  1. Physical stress
    Physical stress in the form of manual labor, exercise, and movement is usually very beneficial. The stress comes from loading the muscles and skeletal system of the body, making us stronger and more resilient. It also helps us to maintain an optimal metabolic rate.
    On the other side of the spectrum is overworking the body. This simply means that you do more labor, exercise and/or heavy training than you can recover from, either neurologically (from central nervous stimulation), or from a metabolic or muscular viewpoint (or all of them). Over-exercising will rob your body of its recovery-, repair- and healing abilities, often leading to upper respiratory infection, chronic fatigue, injuries, and increased inflammation.

    Another form of physical stress is poor posture, as your posture has a significant influence on your breathing, muscle function, blood circulation, joint health, and internal organ support.

  2. Mental stress
    Thinking, challenging yourself and using your mind in a productive and rewarding manner represents good mental stress. It’s the kind of stress you thrive on, that makes you grow and become better as a human. Setting goals and doing the work needed to achieve them is also a positive form of stress. Without mental stress and challenges, our minds would not develop fully.
    However, being rushed or taking on more work or responsibility than you can handle (so that you might feel forced to compromise your standards and values) produces very unhealthy stress. Another common form of destructive mental stress is focusing on things you don’t want in your life instead of what you want. Negative thinking is extremely damaging to both our mind and body. Other forms of mental stress include verbal abuse from others, studying or getting wind up in something (obsessive) to such a degree that your mental faculties begin to decrease.
  1. Nutritional stress
    Every time you eat something, your digestive system is taxed with the challenge of extracting usable nutrients. The more bioavailable and easy to digest the food is, the less stress on the body. Animal-based products are, by a world-wide margin, both the easiest to digest, the most nutritious, and all the nutrients are fully bioavailable.

    The more meals you have, the more stress. The fewer you have, the less stress but also the risk of not getting enough essential nutrients. This is a balancing act, and if you focus on nutrients dense and fatty animal foods, you will most likely get all the nutrients you need.
    Eating too much or too little will also produce extra stress. But the worst offender is to consume the wrong kind of food. Humans are facultative carnivores. This means that we thrive on animal foods, but we can survive for shorter periods of time on plant foods. However, plants are not food, they are medicine in very specific scenarios. You can mix them if you really want to, as long as your base is animal-based, otherwise you will develop nutritional deficiencies, and that will wreak havoc upon your physiology, make you age faster and take years off your life.

    Besides having no bioavailable nutrients, plant foods contain a lot of fiber, sugar, antinutrients, defense chemicals, herbicides, and pesticides. All of them create enormous stress on the digestive system, our organs and body as whole. However, even worse are plant-based man-made Frankenstein foods that are full of preservatives, thickeners, colorings, emulsifiers and other chemicals.

  2. Chemical stress
    Our body is full of naturally produced chemicals that are essential to our health and wellbeing. The work of producing these is a necessary stress, and is lessened if you have sufficient nutritional stores and get all essential nutrients from your food. If you have any nutritional deficiency, the production of some chemicals, especially hormones, may be hampered and your body will struggle to function as it is supposed to.
    We touched on the chemicals in plant-based foods above, and how stressful they are. Other dangerous chemicals include those found in beauty products, hair and shaving products, commercial hygiene products, softeners, plastics, air pollution, and of course in pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers that contaminate all plant-based foods. As for animal foods, the main concern is antibiotics. Always make sure to buy organic and preferable locally.

    Many of these chemicals are synthetic, and our bodies do not have the mechanisms to neutralize them. Instead, we rely upon bacteria to consume and get rid of most toxins, which then are disposed through feces, our skin, and by mucus and snot. However, if you are under heavy toxic load from chemicals, they will accumulate and make you sick. Many modern diseases are due to build-up of toxins, including cancer.

  3. Radiational stress
    The natural electromagnetic field of the earth and the electromagnetic wavelengths of the sun are good sources of stress. As for sunlight, it’s needed for the production of vitamin D and the regulation of the hormones melatonin and cortisol. If we do not get enough sunlight, our health will deteriorate rather quickly. The earth’s electromagnetic field helps control the rhythm of our hormones and other physiological functions.
    Over-exposure to sunlight can be a bad stress for the body. This however, is related to your nutritional status, especially vitamin A, copper, vitamin B9 and B12, and cholesterol. All of these are needed for the skin to heal, be youthful and to produce melanin to tolerate a lot of sun exposure. Most of these are not found in plant-based foods.

    Other very dangerous sources of radiation are electric radiation (most electronic devices, and especially tv/monitor screens), radiofrequency (RF) and microwave radiation (radio, tv, mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, smart meters, baby cameras, anything wireless). All of these forms of radiational stress are very harmful, damaging and killing cells, and causing dysfunction in your hormonal and autonomic nervous systems.

  4. Thermal stress
    Maintaining your core body temperature is obviously a necessary stress. When it’s hot or cold, your body will adjust and that is also a good stress, as it is needed to maintain a dynamic capacity for body temperature regulation.
    Anything that burns you, makes you too hot or lower your body temperature too low for an extended period of time is bad stress. Fever is also a kind of necessary but very tough stress and it occurs when you need to get rid of pathogens or severe toxicity where your body has to produce exosomes (soap-like protein dissolvents) also called viruses, which cleans out the tissue.

Stress is interpreted by several control systems of the body – limbic/emotional, hormonal, visceral, nervous, musculoskeletal and subsystems. The good stressors that are used by the body to regulate and maintain optimal bodily function while being in a low-stress environment will keep us in the “green” zone. This is where we function at optimal levels. The bad stress discussed in previous parts will add stress upon your current level of stress, and too many or too much of any stressor can throw the body out of balance. All the stressors are added up together and processed by our nervous system to create an overall stress picture in the body. As long as you can stay in the green zone (as in homeostasis), the total stress picture is favorable for the body. You will be able to perform well and recover quickly from stressors such as exercise. Your body will be able to heal and repair, provided adequate nutrition.

If the sum of all stressors increases, you will begin to move towards the yellow zone. If you don’t make the necessary changes to reduce the stress or stressors, your body will begin to break down and you will progressively move into the red zone. Once in the red zone, your ability to cope with external stressors, such as exercise, will slowly diminish, as will your ability to tolerate internal stressors. The further you get into the red zone, the more easily disease will be able to take hold. Most modern diseases are the result of either, and/or, nutrition deficiencies, toxic load, and high levels of stress.

The nervous system is a combination of two systems. The peripheral nervous system, which controls conscious movement, and the autonomic nervous system, which controls automated actions in the body that you don’t normally regulate through conscious thought, such as digesting and eliminating food, releasing hormones, breathing and regulating blood flow to muscles and organs.

The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system. When activated, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) produces a fight-or-flight response. That is, whenever threatened our natural inclination is either to fight or to run for our lives. This response is characterized by the release of large quantities of epinephrine from the adrenal gland, including increases in corticotropin and cortisol secretion. Any potentially stressful situation will activate the SNS and prepare your body for survival by producing the following responses:

  • Release of stress hormones that elevate your heart rate, increase cardiac output and blood pressure. This also includes an infusion of glucose being shot into the bloodstream for a quick energy boost.
  • Redirecting blood away from your internal organs to the skin and muscles, which greatly reduces or stops all digestive and eliminatory processes.
  • Pupillary dilation and bronchial dilation.
  • Raise in body temperature and increased sweating.

These responses are very common when you’re suddenly faced with a frightening or challenging situation.

The sympathetic nervous system is seen as catabolic (break-down of tissue). When your fight-or-flight response is activated, levels of the stress hormone cortisol are elevated. Whenever cortisol levels are above normal, your growth and repair hormones are suppressed. Long-term over-production of cortisol leads to a breakdown of body tissue and fatigue of the adrenal glands. It’s also associated with a variety of physiological problems, including hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), which can lead to type 2 diabetes mellitus, and hypertension (high blood pressure), which can lead to cardiovascular disease. As the adrenals fatigue, the body is unable to maintain balance between catabolic (breakdown) stress hormones and anabolic (building) hormones, which leads to hormonal dysfunction. Many years of chronic stress results in disease and premature death.

The sympathetic nervous system doesn’t destress the body once the threat or the danger has passed. The parasympathetic nervous system works to calm the body down. That is, The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work together to maintain this baseline and normal body function.

If you are repeatedly stressed, you’re continually mobilizing your energy reserves for immediate use. Also, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) will be suppressed. And as mentioned earlier, the PNS regulates digestion, metabolism and the release of tissue building hormones (DHEA, growth hormone, testosterone, estrogen and others). If the PNS is constantly being suppressed, you will be unable to effectively digest foods, detox and repair your body. This is why over–stimulation of the SNS is a common cause of many chronic fatigue states and chronic diseases, not to mention emotional imbalances and distress.

In order to get a better understanding of our responses to stress, we need to examine how our brains developed. Current research by neuroscientists explains that our brain is actually made up of three brains: the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, and the new mammalian brain, also known as the human brain.

All three parts are fully functional units integrated with each other. The most important feature inherited from the reptilian and mammalian brain is our primary concern for our own safety, followed by our survival instinct to feed and seek sustenance. In other words, basic survival instincts that we can observe in all animal life.

As humans, we have this unique ability to ignore our instincts. When stressful situations arise, we often think and behave irrationally. One classic example of this is when we ignore our reptilian instinct to be safe and secure by spending money that we don’t have on stupid stuff such as expensive cars, jewelry, designer clothes and other junk we perceive as status symbols. When doing this, we sacrifice financial security in exchange for what we believe is an improved social status. The same is true when it comes to food. Many people will sacrifice their health by ignoring the second most important concern of the reptilian brain – eating good nourishing food, which would make us stronger, healthier and more resilient to any stress and dangers. Some do it because of addiction, and others compromise their health and well-being by eating cheap junk food so they can afford some silly gadget that they think will improve their social status.

Reptiles and mammals have sex for the purpose of perpetuating their species, but they only engage when they’re safe and well fed. Interestingly, this has also been observed in many ancestral human tribes (and the few isolated tribes still existing today), where they prepare the chosen mothers for more than a year before conception, by giving them the best and most nutritious parts of the animal (organ meats, bone marrow, blood, and milk). This continues throughout pregnancy and up to three years after birth, as the mothers instinctively breastfeed their children until the age of 3 or even 6 years old – to guarantee a healthy and strong new member of the tribe. And as Weston A. Price observed in all his journeys and research, all tribes untouched by western civilization had perfectly developed facial structures, eyes, teeth, skeletal structure, and muscular bodies.
In today’s society, many humans on the other hand, prioritize sex over health and safety. An overly stressed body will automatically respond by decreasing the sex drive to preserve energy for the first and second reptilian priorities. This is why viagra and cialis has become so popular among deprived, malnourished and overly stressed men.

Ignoring our reptilian and old mammalian instincts does very little to improve our stress levels. Modern society is driven by the new human brain and its desire to look better and have more material goods, to be popular and fit in, often at the expense of physical and mental health, resulting in more stress and disease.

Now, let us look at a few ways to manage stress. And before we do, remember the six different stressors we discussed in part one. Most people today associate stress with only mental or emotional stress, with taking on too much work or being involved in too much drama. That is only one of the six stressors we discussed. All stressors will “fill the cup”, so to speak. So, removing the biggest offender followed by what we can remove with “ease” will always be the first step. Many of you might not even be aware of some stressors until you really examine your life and lifestyle. An example of this is piercings or tattoos. I love the look of tattoos, but I will never get one myself because I have done my research and know that it causes chronic inflammation and thus a chronic stress response. It might look cool as f**k, but it’s one big added stressor to your cup. The same holds true for any toxins in your environment, such as the deodorant you use, or the perfume or aftershave. They’re extremely toxic and will cause a stress response. Instead, opt for natural options. So, now when I have widened your understanding of stressors, let’s look at some solutions.

  1. Identify your primary stressor
    Start by focusing on reducing stress in the area causing you the most stress. Remember, the reptilian priorities are security, sustenance, and sex. Is there anything (or many things) in your life that is threatening these priorities?
    If you can alleviate the main stressor/stressors, it often creates a domino effect reducing or even wiping out other stressors.

  2. Make a plan to remove your primary stressor
    Once you have identified and written down the culprits as you can see them, make a realistic plan to lessen and remove it/them. Break it down and set a series of achievable short-term goals, allowing you to clearly see and recognize your progress as it’s made.
    If it’s difficult to make a plan, do some searches and look for articles, videos or books that address the issues related to your primary stressor/stressors.

  3. Consume highly nutritious food
    Your body needs all essential nutrients to be healthy, to heal, and to be able to combat stress and disease. Any minor nutrient deficiency will cause some bodily function to be hampered or even shut down.
    The only food source that has all vitamins, minerals, cofactors and every nutrient you need as a human in bioavailable form is animal foods. Do not get fooled by the money-making agenda to consume totally worthless plant foods. That is slave food, human kibble.
    Focus on organ meats and fatty cuts of meat. Add in egg yolks, fish roe, fatty fish, hard cheese, and some other dairy if you wish. You can still have some plants for texture if you really must, but the main focus should always be on the most nutritious foods mentioned above. Please refer to this post for more information:

  4. Move and exercise
    Regular exercise can be very effective to combat stress. However, as we mentioned in part one, doing too much will raise stress levels instead. If you are already suffering from stress and stress-related diseases, high intensity exercise should be kept to a minimum. In these cases, focus on breathing exercises, on slow relaxing walks in the woods or a park, or even some beginner-level yoga.

  5. Mental exercise
    Brian Tracy once wrote in his book, The Luck Factor; “You’re a living magnet and you inevitably attract into your life, the people, circumstances, ideas, and resources in harmony with your dominant thoughts.”
    This simply means that you should always strife to harmonize your thoughts, words and actions with your goals. By using positive and empowering words, you will notice that it decreases a lot of perceived stress in your life. A lot of stress is caused by negative thinking, that is, thinking about what you do not want instead of what you want. Positive thinking is not some hippie thing, it’s about how you word your thoughts and in essence, how you communicate with yourself and others.
    Another very efficient mental exercise is meditation. There are a ton of apps, books, and videos available that will guide you through it. These modalities will help reduce your stress levels by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.
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