Discover how stress affects you, ways to deal with it.

Posted by Heather Campbell on

FLORENCE, S.C. — Even in a society where almost anything is available at the push of a button, there is one thing that people cannot get away from: stress.

Stress can have an affect on your body and your mind. Whether from work and family, or physical ailments and money problems, most people will experience stress as some point in their life.

Dr. Jaideep Debsikdar, a cardiologist at Advanced Cardiology Consultants in Florence, said stress is a far-reaching issue.


“Any time you have stress in the body, whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you have stress hormones, very centralized hormones affecting everything, heart rate, breathing, digestion and metabolism,” Debsikdar said. “It really boils down to the central hormones cortisol and TSH, but mostly cortisol. It rearranges how your body reacts.”

Body chemistry

Though we have come a long way from living in caves, Debsikdar said, chemistry in our bodies has not changed as much as we might think.

“We still go back to the sort-of Neanderthal type of reaction,” Debsikdar said. “We are still kind of hard-wired to millions of years ago. As far advanced as we have come as a society, we have actually worked against the way our bodies are made. We have made things so convenient, so now, instead of running away from something that is chasing you, your stress is a quiz or a deadline.”

Debsikdar said that once our hormones start pumping, our body goes into preservation mode.

“Cortisol starts changing how your lipids and adrenalin are managed, how your organs respond to insulin,” Debsikdar said. “When cortisol increases, your body tries to store more energy because it is worried. Adrenaline surges and your digestive system stops because now everything is getting pumped to your heart and your muscles. When it does that it rebounds with a high insulin surge, so now you’re reserving everything.”

Fast-paced but sedentary living doesn’t use the hormone rush the way that humans used to.

“It goes back to that Paleolithic kind of hardwiring, which is ‘I’m running away from danger’ or ‘I don’t know where my next meal is coming from, so I’m saving everything’,” Debsikdar. “That is where stress comes from, but we don’t have those day to day problems anymore. Today, it is often a mental thing, not a physical exertion, so we don’t expound that energy.”

Debsikdar said stress has been linked to several physical diseases, though there is not always a direct “this causes this, causes this” correlation.

“Stress has been shown to worsen diabetes, worsen high blood pressure and cholesterol,” Debsikdar said. “It has also been shown to increase heart attacks and increased strokes; it just makes everything difficult.”



One way to combat stress is through exercise, more specifically the practice of yoga. Nancy Mikolon, owner of New Beginnings Yoga and Fitness, said yoga has many benefits.

“The benefits of yoga change depending on where you are in your life,” Mikolon said. When you are young, there are a lot of physical benefits, the strength building. The more you do it, and the older you get, it is flexibility issues and the range of motions in your joints. Then of course, there is the balancing and the mindfulness, living in the moment, not letting things get to you. It really has helped me in that aspect more than anything.”

Mikolon said the mental aspects of yoga are what make many people interested in it.

“The balancing and the meditative issues of it are probably the best thing,” Mikolon said. “Not only do the stretching and the physical workout help you, physical exercise always brings out your endorphins which helps to relax you, but there is also a type of yoga called Yin that is more restorative, bringing you back to a calm state.”

Another feature of yoga is learning to meter your breathing.

“The meditating and breathing techniques used in yoga really help with stress,” Mikolon said. “If you learn how to control your breathe, that helps to calm you. When you get excited or angry, you tend to pant; you tend to breathe really shallowly and don’t fill your lungs. As you get calmer, you breathe more equally.”


Having a healthy, balanced diet also helps and keeps people from relying heavily on medication to control conditions such as high cholesterol.

“Stress affects our eating habits, maybe more for women then men,” said Anita Longan, a registered dietician. “When a person is under a lot of stress, that increases cortisol, which can increase appetite. It also increases motivation, which sounds good, but it can also increase your motivation to eat more.”

Eating to help deal with stress may help temporarily, but Longan said often it doesn’t last.

“Often times when people are stress eaters, they go for foods that are high in fat and sugar because that makes they feel better,” Longan said. “What I ask people is once you have eaten a food to make yourself feel better, do you actually feel better once you finish. The answer is typically no.”

Longan said there are foods that can help combat stress.

“We know that vitamin C seems to help reduce stress hormone levels and blood pressure,” Longan said. “So eat foods that are rich in vitamin C like tomatoes, strawberries and peppers, especially now that we are coming into the growing season; this is a great time to get those things.”

Fresh, local ingredients often have many health benefits.

“Omega 3 fats are very important for mental health,” Longan said. “As far as stress goes, they also seem to reduce stress hormone surges and have been found to help with PMS symptoms and depression. Salmon and trout are really great sources and so are grass-fed beefs. Bryan Tayara with Our Local Catch and Ovis Hill Farms are great places to get these locally.”

There are also foods that work against our bodies when dealing with stress.

“Avoid processed foods, especially processed foods like carbohydrates and sugar,” Longan said. “Those cause us to have mood swings because our blood sugar goes up and down quickly. It is better to eat whole grains, like whole grain pasta and bread, and stay away from junk foods and sugary foods. Having a regular meal schedule, without going too long between meals, helps with mood swings.”

Teas help distress with the many vitamins and nutrients found in them, specifically green, black and chamomile varieties, though Longan stresses that adding lots of sugar takes away from the benefits. She suggests using lemon, mint or Stevia, the later two of which can be grown at home.

Herbs and spices such as turmeric and ginger are great for seasoning food but also have anti-inflammatory properties to them which help with many different diseases.

“Having an overall healthy, balanced diet is going to give us a healthy immune system,” Longan said. “That is going to help us be more resilient when it comes to stress.”

 Source: SCNews - Click here for the full article...

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