Over the past 2 months, we've covered 2 major potential sources of inflammation in the body - sugars/refined carbohydrates and too much physical activity - and this month, I'm going to address a third extremely important source of inflammation - stress.  Recent studies demonstrate clearly that too much stress causes far more ill health than we have previously realized, so learning to handle it well is essential - and you can.

   How Does Stress Cause Inflammation and Disease?

Until recently, it was not clear how stress influences disease and health, but now researchers have found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response.  The effects of psychological stress on the body's ability to regulate inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease.   Prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone.  That is, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect.  As a result, runaway inflammation is believed to promote the development and progression of many diseases. 

I'm sure you're familiar with cortisol's role in the 'fight or flight' response.  This immediately increases energy at the expense of processes not required for immediate survival.  This is helpful in 'real' emergencies, e.g. running away from a bear.  However, today, many of us are chronically stressed by many matters that are not life-or-death, and pumping out cortisol almost constantly can really wreak havoc on our health.

Chronic stress and the resulting inflammation has been linked to:

  • blood sugar imbalance and type 2 diabetes
  • weight gain and obesity
  • immune system suppression
  • digestive problems
  • cardiovascular disease
  • cancer
  • insomnia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • pain
  • depression
  • dementia
  • other.
   Stress Management and Reduction

The good news is that there is a lot we can do to manage stress and reduce it to a healthy level.

Physical activity
If your stress levels build up, you may feel you have excess energy that you need to burn off.  By exercising vigorously for as long as it takes you to calm down, you will 'burn off' excess cortisol, and you will then be able to relax.  Exercise sometimes works like a charm when all the best relaxation techniques you may know don't seem to do a thing.  It's worth trying as a first step - you could save yourself a lot of time and frustration!

Yoga is a form of exercise that has really beneficial effects on stress.  There are many different types of yoga and anyone can enjoy its benefits.  Tai chi and Qi gong are also highly effective.

Relaxation techniques
Breathe!  Yes, of course, you're breathing, but deep breathing can really help to de-stress you.  This works especially well if you're relaxed and focusing on your breathing, so that your mind is quiet and not actively thinking about any problems.  This is actually a form of meditation.

Meditation.  Meditation is gaining increasing recognition as one of the best things you can do to ensure good health in general and to manage stress in particular.  You don't have to be formal about it.  The idea is simply to quiet or still your mind - it should be as blank as possible.  If you do this for about 15 minutes once or twice a day, you will really benefit. There are many types of mediation - too many to explain here.  For an introduction, I suggest reading How to Meditate at http://www.wikihow.com/Meditate.

Be mindful, be present.  Take 5 minutes and focus on 1 behaviour with awareness.  For example, notice how the air feels on your face when you're walking or how your feet feel hitting the ground.  Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.  When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, this helps you feel less tense.

Reach out.  Talk to close friends, preferably face to face, or at least on the phone.  Share what's going on and get a fresh perspective on your situation.

Listen to music.  Listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety.  But you can also blow off steam by cranking it up with more upbeat tunes and/or singing at the top of your lungs! 

Laugh!  It's true that laughter is the best medicine, for more than recovering from illness - it definitely helps with stress too.  It lowers cortisol levels, and boosts endorphins which help improve your mood.  Watch a favourite comedy or sitcom, talk with a friend who makes you laugh.

Don't worry, be happy!  We need to be aware that our stress levels are not actually due to the situations we find ourselves in, but to our perception of the situations.  We have the power to change our perceptions and our beliefs (See our newsletter of November 2012 on the Biology of Belief). 

Jack Canfield writes about taking 100% responsibility for ourselves.  He gives an equation,

E + R = O
or Event + Response = Outcome.

Our response to the event is the only thing over which we have control - total control. 
Learning to choose your response wisely is crucial to leading a low-stress life.  Implementing the theory takes work, but it can be done.  The first step is taking total responsibility for yourself, and not blaming anyone else for your circumstances.  This may sound harsh, but if you think about it, I think you'll see how necessary this is.  This way, you (and only you) control your level of happiness.  It's worth noting that those who are healthiest and who live the longest (in good health) are happy, optimistic, and socially engaged.

Chew gum.  Studies suggest that chewing gum can reduce cortisol levels, thereby reducing stress.  Note that you should avoid gum that is sweetened by aspartame because aspartame is a neurotoxin.  Xylitol and stevia are the 2 safe sweeteners.  Of course, I highly recommend Nature's Sunshine's Xylitol Gum in either spearmint or cinnamon which you can order directly from our office at 613.829.0427.

Hang out with your pet.  Dog owners have been shown to be less stressed out, most likely thanks to having a buddy to cuddle (or to take for a walk).

Write it down.  Keeping a journal helps with stress-related symptoms.  The act of writing out your problems helps to quiet your mind.  You also reflect on your issues and may see solutions when you see things in writing.

Keep a gratitude journal.  Closely related, it's a really good practice to write down 5 things for which you are grateful at the end of each day.  This finishes the day on a positive note and helps with preparing to fall asleep.  It also helps to review your list to remind yourself what really matters.  It's more effective to write this than just think about it.

 If you should find that efforts to relax only make you feel more stressed you may need to talk to a health care provider (see counseling below).

Other stress management techniques
Counseling may help you address psychological issues related to your stresses.  If you have past issues that are getting in the way of dealing with current stresses, I can help you.  I use methods to 'clear' the past issues and you don't even have to tell me about them in any detail.  Please call for an appointment at 613.829.0427 if this could be helpful to you.

EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique is a simple technique that is easy to learn and easy to do almost anywhere, any time.  Briefly, it involves tapping on different meridian points to release energy while you state your problem either mentally or out loud, and your feelings about the problem, until you feel a positive shift, and the problem seems to almost dissolve.  It doesn't take long, and once a problem has been resolved this way, the solution is permanent.  It has been used successfully on serious disorders such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome) in war veterans.  It may sound too good to be true, but there is a scientific basis for it, and I recommend reading about it.  The best source of information is a book called The Tapping Solution - A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living by Nick Ortner.  It's available from Amazon in both paper and ebook versions.

Processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates, sadly, will not solve your problems!
Berries are rich in vitamin C which helps fight increased levels of cortisol.  A handful of pistachios can lower your blood pressure, which means less of a spike when you get your next rush of adrenaline.

Excess alcohol will not help!  It may relax you initially, but you will not be able to sleep as well later.  Lack of sleep can aggravate stress and vice versa, so it's best to stay away from that vicious cycle.

Do drink tea - One study found that drinking black tea leads to lower post-stress cortisol levels and greater feelings of relaxation.

Adequate good quality sleep
Take a nap.  Napping has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, which aids in stress relief.

It may not be as easy when you're stressed, but do your best to get at least 7 hours of good quality sleep each night.  Being well-rested will help you keep a more positive perspective on your problems.

Nature's Sunshine provides a number of supplements that are very helpful in reducing stress.

Stress Pak /store/#!/~/product/category=5963008&id=25596019 is a 30-day program to provide the right nutrients which are depleted during times of physical and/or emotional stress.

  • Nutri-Calm provides generous amounts of vitamin C, and the B vitamins that are essential to proper nervous system function. Also contains calming herbs and adaptogens.
  • Stress-J provides nutrients required for proper functioning of the nervous system. It is a sedative and tranquilizing formula used to relieve the effects of everyday stresses.
  • Nerve Eight is an herbal combination designed to support the nervous and structural systems.
  • AdaptaMax is an exclusive combination that provides powerful adaptogens to help the body buffer the effects of stress and adapt to stressful situations.

Stress Formula  /store/#!/~/product/category=5963008&id=6402647  A vitamin B-complex formula in a base of calming herbs to nutritionally support the nervous system when under stress.

Ramila's Emotional Relief Pack /store/#!/~/product/category=5963009&id=25596040 is a combination of three Chinese herb blends that provide a balanced support of good emotional health.

  • HS-C - promotes the 'fire' element (aka the "blah" feeling)
  • KB-C - promotes drive (combats lack of motivation)
  • AD-C - counteracts the 'sagging spirit' (or the 'emotional emptiness' feeling)

The 3 herb blends can also be purchased individually.

RE-X /store/#!/~/product/id=6402650 is a sedative and tranquilizing formula high in calcium, manganese, selenium, zinc and niacin.

For additional information, please email ramila@ramilas.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment.  Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter.  Also on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, additional information about products, order products, and see information about our Clinic.

  1. How stress influences disease: study reveals inflammation as the culprit. Science Daily, Carnegie Mellon University 2012 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm  Accessed May 15, 2014.
  2. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proc Nat Acad Sci 2012;109(16):5995-5999.
  3. Aronson D. Cortisol - Its role in stress, inflammation, and indications for diet therapy. Today's Dietitian  2009;11(11):38. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
  4. Stress and Anxiety.  The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/symptoms/stress-and-anxiety/possible-complications.html  Accessed May 26, 2014.
  5. Quirk J et al. eds. How to Meditate. WikiHow. http://www.wikihow.com/Meditate  Accessed May 28, 2014.
  6. Moninger J. 10 relaxation techniques that zap stress fast. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/blissing-out-10-relaxation-techniques-reduce-stress-spot?page=1  Accessed May 15, 2014.
  7. Canfield J. The Success Principles. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.
  8. Morin K. 23 scientifically-backed ways to reduce stress right now. Huffington Post. March 17, 2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/17/reduce-stress-research_n_2884876.html Accessed May 15, 2014.
  9. Ortner N. The Tapping Solution - A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living. United States:  Hay House, Inc., 2013.
  10. Oz M. 7 ways to reduce stress. http://www.oprah.com/health/Dr-Oz-on-Stress-Reduction/7 Accessed May 15, 2014.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.


Ramila Padiachy
Ramila's Healing Arts Clinic