Stress Disorder

What is Stress Disorder?

You've heard of it, probably suffered from it, but do you understand what it is? Let's look. In medicine, we say that stress occurs when events of life overwhelm our capacity to deal with them. The stressful event can be a good one (a promotion, a new job, a move to a new home, a marriage) or a bad one (loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, a threat to financial security or health), but either kind of event can require emotional adjustments that may overwhelm us.

Stress DisorderThroughout our lives, each of us will face one or more of these emotional challenges; some we may handle with unruffled aplomb and others may stagger us beneath their weight. Our reaction to stress does not necessarily equate with the magnitude of the event, but rather with our own perception of its importance—that is, for a small child, the loss of a favorite toy will elicit sorrowful wails or a teenager may rage and rail over hair that won't cooperate but may accept the death of a loved one with outward calm. Typical reactions to stress include: anxiety, depression, escape (running away, withdrawing into ourselves, drinking alcohol, engaging in extramarital affairs), rage, and fear. Under stress, we may become restless, irritable, tired, or tense. We may want to sleep all the time or be unable to sleep much at all. We may eat voraciously and gain weight or find food unappealing and lose pounds. And we may even develop physical complaints, such as headache, joint and muscle aches, vision problems, skin rashes, gastritis, ulcers, or other gastrointestinal disturbances.

Whether the stress is good or bad, emotional, physical, or both, the toll it exacts on your body is much the same. One critical area that especially takes a beating under stress is your immune system. In the dozen or so years, we can think back to more than one bride with strep throat on the eve of her wedding, countless patients falling ill before a big trip, singers and actors developing bad colds under the hectic schedule of a performance. We even had a patient who developed a bladder infection every time her mother-in-law came to town. People under stress fall victim more easily to infections because the body's production of immune fighters falls off measurably during periods of physical or emotional stress. Although you may not be able to change the stressful event (and if it's a good one, may not even want to), you can withstand the stress better with good nutrition. The role of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in helping you combat stress rests primarily on bolstering your immune system and replacing those nutrients that your body uses in greater amounts during stress. Let's take a look at what nutrition can offer in Stress Disorder diet.

What makes Stress Disorder worse?

•  Sugar and other refined starches create an even bigger drain on your body's levels of vitamin C and the B vitamins.

Recommendation: Eliminate or sharply restrict your intake of these food substances, especially under stressful circumstances.

• Processed foods create stress on the system. Recommendation: Avoid or sharply curtail your consumption of processed foods and others that create a stressful internal environment: carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, pork, red meat, white flour products, heavy spices, junk/snack foods.

• See also Immune System Health.

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Stress Disorder
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