By Dr. Jenna Dye, Naturopathic Physician
How high is your stress level? How well do you feel you manage your stress? These are two of the most important questions that I ask my patients. Stress affects us in so many ways and, when poorly managed, it can negatively impact our health, causing and aggravating chronic health conditions.
Not all stress is bad and in certain situations it is a survival mechanism that increases our awareness and circulation to flee from potential danger. However, long term stress can deplete our body, increase inflammation, and lead to chronic health conditions. Although removing all potential stress triggers in life may not be attainable, we can manage it with naturopathic support and lifestyle changes to ensure optimal health. Here are some helpful tips.
Sleep is crucial for stress management, but it is often the first thing sacrificed in stressful situations. In addition, chronic stress can disrupt sleep so it can feel like a never-ending cycle. Good sleep hygiene such as eliminating electronics a minimum of 30 minutes before bed, meditating or adding in relaxing yoga are just a few ideas to ensure restful sleep.
Anti-inflammatory diets can be very helpful for managing stress. If we eat foods that naturally decrease inflammation, we will have less physical stress on our body. This helps prevent chronic health conditions, ensure proper digestion, and support our body for better stress management. Foods such as sugar, wheat, and dairy as well as any other food sensitivities can potentially increase inflammation and should be avoided.
Physical activity will release endorphins, which are chemicals that help decrease inflammation, support restful sleep and decrease stress. Daily exercise/movement plays an important role in stress management in addition to many other health benefits.
Your adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol in response to stress. These levels can rise initially with stress, however, from long term or chronic stress they become exhausted and may be lowered. Levels can be checked by your healthcare provider and proper support tailored to your individual needs can be implemented. Anything that you do to decrease stress levels will help support the adrenal glands. Naturopathic physicians can use treatments with herbal remedies, supplements and diet to also ensure proper adrenal health.
Treating the root cause is one of the main principles of naturopathic medicine. When it comes to stress management this is also true. We must identify potential stressors and eliminate what we can. In addition, support such as counseling or therapy for stress management can be beneficial. We may find it helpful to make priorities and goals, set healthy boundaries, not take on too much, and say “no” if needed. We want to focus on positivity in our lives and surround ourselves with healthy, nurturing relationships.
Underlying Health Conditions
Stress can cause underlying health conditions and underlying health conditions can cause stress. These conditions may include autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and hormone imbalances. A naturopathic physician can help you identify those underlying health conditions and give you proper integrative support to decrease inflammation and restore optimal health.
Dr. Jenna Dye is a licensed naturopathic physician. Her role is to support the body’s foundation to restore and maintain optimal health. Together with her patients, this is achieved by identifying and removing barriers that may be impacting health while creating a healing environment. For more information, visit drjennadye.com.