Stress: These coping strategies may surprise you

We’ve all heard that stress is a killer and that we should learn how to manage our stress levels in order to stay healthy. But how do we do that?

Author, doctor, and one of the world’s leading researchers of neuroendocrine immunology and behavior, Esther Sternberg, commented in a recent interview with ACE that one-third of Americans are living with extraordinary stress and that 90% of us live with continual stress that over time can make us ill. Since some stress is unavoidable in life, it is important to implement some strategies for helping us cope.  Before delving into these strategies, let’s take a closer look at the different parts of stress.

The four parts of stress

  1. The event: The “thing” that happens in our lives.
  2. Perception: Our interpretation of “the event” as stressful or not. If we don’t perceive the event as stressful, our body won’t have a stress response!
  3. Brain’s physiological response to stress: A cascade of chemical events ending with adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals cause the feelings of stress and anxiety such as pounding heart and sweating.
  4. Adaptation to chronic stress: Immune system wear down. Cortisol, among many other things, is a potent anti-inflammatory, “mutes” white blood cells, and wears down our gut lining where a potent player of our immune system, secretory IgA is made.

Strategies for coping with chronic stress

  • Perception modification through exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi. Train your mind to not immediately react with a fight-or-flight response. Remember, the body listens to what our mind tells it. Calm your mind and the body will follow.
  • Sounds in your environment that calm you or lift your mood help reduce stress. Examples are sounds of moving water, nature sounds (birds or other animals), favorite music, audio books, hypnotherapy or meditation recordings, affirmations, and laughter.
  • Visual reminders of pleasing images at home and at work such as artwork, funny comic strips or quotes, screen savers of vacation/happy memory/relaxing image help shift you away from feeling stressed.
  • As we age the ends of our chromosomes shorten and this is exacerbated by chronic stress. Dr. Sternberg shares that a number of unpublished medical studies show that walking 30 minutes a day 3 times per week (along with proper diet and mindfulness meditation) can help to increase an enzyme that repairs the ends of our chromosomes to bolster immune system and reduce aging.
  • Colors and lighting that reduce stress are blues and greens and full-spectrum lighting or sunlight.
  • Smells that remind you to relax can range greatly from person to person since it is dependent on your association. For some, lavender is relaxing because they associate it with getting a massage. For others, the smell of a certain flower may remind them of their gardening hobby.
  • Breathing in and out of your mouth deeply from your belly strengthens the calming parasympathetic branch of your nervous system. Taking a few deep breaths like this in a moment of stress can give you that moment of clarity to stop and re-evaluate things and possibly change your perception.
  • Stress management help in the Bay Area

    There are a number of options right here in the Bay Area from stress management workshops, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, therapy, guided meditation, yoga, Tai Chi… and let’s not forget all the beautiful parks and nature we are blessed to have surround us.

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    New York Cheesecake with Stevia

    This cheesecake is incredible and there is no sugar!!

    Ingredients

    Crust: 8 ounces pecans, chopped or ground

    1 1/2 T melted butter (optional, add 1 T flour)

    Filling: 3 (8 ounce) packages organic cream cheese

    1 cup organic sour cream

    2 eggs

    3-4 T vanilla, can also add 2 scraped vanilla beans

    35-50 drops liquid vanilla stevia (taste after mixed and add more if you like)

    2 T corn starch

    Optional: 3/4 cup frozen or fresh organic blueberries

    Directions

    1. Place chopped or ground pecans into the bottom of a round glass baking pan and drizzle melted butter over them.
    2. In a large bowl, mix all other ingredients thoroughly and taste for sweetness (only if you use high quality eggs).
    3. Pour in baking pan over crust and bake for 45-60 minutes at 300 degrees until firm in center and then refrigerate till cooled, preferably overnight.

    *Optional, if you use organic, pastured eggs, this dessert is DELICIOUS raw! Put a small amount of crust into individual dessert bowls or glasses and pour custardy mixture over the top and enjoy immediately.

    *Other options are to use another nut, like almonds or walnuts for the crust or add blueberries or chocolate into the mix

    Topping: melt 6 ounces of organic bakers chocolate in a pot on low heat until melted, add stevia or Truvia until preferred sweetness is achieved (10-15 drops or 4-6 packages Truvia) and then add fresh or frozen blueberries. Spoon onto top of cheesecake right before serving. Oh my goodness, so good!

    How food intolerances can make you fat and sick

    We’ve all heard that one man’s medicine is another man’s poison, but did you know that one person’s health food is another person’s junk food?

    Millions of Americans suffer from at least one food intolerance/sensitivity. Anyone can be intolerant to any food: apples, lettuce, chicken, and even olive oil. Besides making it impossible to lose weight, food and food chemical intolerance has been found to play a role in many chronic health conditions including:

    • Celiac Disease
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Autism Spectrum Disorders
    • ADD/ADHD
    • Bloating
    • Gas
    • Headaches & migraines
    • Fatigue
    • Weight imbalances
    • Cravings
    • Skin conditions such as eczema
    • Heartburn/GERD
    • Rheumatoid Arthritis
    • Joint and muscle pain
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Chronic diarrhea

    Food intolerance is also considered a major stressor to the adrenal glands. Unhealthy adrenals can wreak havoc on gut health, immune system, detoxification capabilities, hormones, fertility and muscle and fat gain and loss.

    What is food intolerance?

    Food intolerance is a negative reaction to food that happens when your body is hypersensitive to a food and launches an attack with mediators such as eosinophils, basophils, neutrophils macrophages, T-cells and NK cells). Every time the trigger food is consumed, systemic disruption takes place and can cause chronic inflammation in the body resulting in a variety of symptoms (see above).

    Food intolerance is different than food allergies in a couple of ways. One is the way that the body responds and the other is the speed in which the body responds.

    With an allergy, the body’s immune system (mast cells) reacts to the offending food very soon after exposure. Food allergies occur in 2-4% of the population. The body releases histamine, prostaglandins and other proinflammatory mediators. If a person has a strong enough allergic reaction, exposure to the allergic food can result in life-threatening anaphylaxis. Because the reaction occurs so quickly after exposure to the allergic food, most people who have food allergies are well aware of what they are allergic to. Food intolerance or sensitivity can be much trickier since the reaction is delayed.

    Food intolerance pathways

    There are many, many ways that the body can react to an intolerance because there are multiple hypersensitivity pathways. The four main categories of hypersensitivity are: Type I, II, III and IV. Types III and IV are much more common in people than Type I reactions; 15-25% of population compared to 2-4%.

    • Type I hypersensitivity categorizes true food allergies as given in the above example. It is also called an IgE reaction.
    • Type II hypersensitivity has not been found to be linked to adverse reactions to food.
    • Type III hypersensitivity includes IgG reactions (commonly tested for by most food intolerance tests). Type III reactions usually take place 3-8 hours after exposure.
    • Type IV hypersensitivity is the most common pathway for adverse food reactions and yet many tests do not test for Type IV reactions. In Type IV reactions, the T-cells react with offensive foods and symptoms occur anywhere from 4-72 hours after exposure. Herein lies the challenge with identifying delayed food intolerances. How many people are going to make the connection between not feeling well with what they ate 72 hours earlier?

    Finding out if you have a food intolerance

    There are several methods for food intolerance testing.

    • Finger prick IgG can be done easily at home and mailed to a lab if ordered by your doctor or nutritionist. Many doctors and nutritionists in the Bay Area can facilitate this method of testing.
    • Serum IgG involves a blood draw and must be done at a medical clinic. This testing is more commonly done with naturopathic doctors, but if you do not have an ND, can be requested by any doctor.
    • Serum IgG and Type IV tests offer the broadest spectrum of pinning down food intolerance trigger foods. Signet Labs offers a test called the MRT (Mediator Release Test), which is currently considered one of the best, most accurate food intolerance tests (also tests for food chemicals). This test is offered locally through nutritionists with special certification in Functional Diagnostic Nutritionand Metabolic Typing(such professionals are available in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Jose, Cupertino, Mountain View, Oakland, Redwood City, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Click here for contact info). You can also check with nutritionists and allergy specialists at a Bay Area medical center closest to you.

    Successful elimination of trigger foods is essential to any treatment plan. Once allowed to heal (minimum of 3 months without exposure to trigger foods), re-introduction of trigger foods will allow one to see if they are still reactive to those foods and need to continue avoidance.

    However, just eliminating trigger foods is not the whole picture. Healing the gut is an essential component and that journey looks a little bit different for each person depending on their diet, lifestyle and what contributed to the imbalance in the first place.

    If you’d like to explore how you can discover where your best health has been hiding, email me at rebecca@choosinghealthnow.com.

    Until then, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!

    ~Rebecca