Dr. Michael Wald (Board Certified Nutritionist), The Blood Detective
Director of Nutrition at Integrated Medicine of Mount Kisco, P.C.
914-242-8844 / www.intmedny.com /www.blooddetective.com
Purpose of stress: Stress is a term used to describe the body’s physical, mental/emotional and psychological reaction to real and perceived stressors in the world. Stress has three basic phases known as the alarm, adaptation and exhaustion phases. The alarm stage of stress is the first to occur when you are in the initial throws of reaction. It is characterized by an increase in heart rate; pulse and blood flow to the muscles, all meant to allow you to leave the scene of stress. The adaptation phase is that time during the stress response when the body has been forced to either deal with and maintain a certain sustained physical and/or mental response to stress or die. The exhaustion phase occurs if the body’s reaction to stress is unrelenting and chronic and the body can no longer adapt (adaptation phase); degeneration of the mind and body occurs and even death can result.
- Stress of infection exposure – Viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi, and other types of infection, create a type of physiological stress that is, in fact, necessary for one’s body to mount a resilient immune response. T-helper cells and immune mediators known as cytokines and leukotrienes are stimulated for the purpose of eradicating an infection. It is only when the infection overcomes the immune systems ability to sustain a strong immune response does the “stress of infection” cause infectious disease.
- Stress of exercise – Exercise is a stress upon the body. The stress of weight lifting causes improved circulation, growth, strength and endurance of the musculoskeletal system.
- Stress of physical effort – Causes a stress response in the muscles causing improved muscle tone and muscle growth; stress of aerobic work increases the efficiency and strength of the heart and the entirety of the cardiovascular system. Additionally, ligaments, tendons and bone thicken and become stronger.
- Stress and memory – Sharper memory and recall, increased neurotransmitter activity to the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain important for working memory, emotion and cognition, results from psychological stress. It is only when stress is prolonged and enters the exhaustion phase that chronic stress can cause the opposite effects.
- Stress and the adrenal glands and other hormones – The physical and psychological stress is in fact a total-body physiological response that involves many tissues in the body, but predominantly is directed by the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands, one located atop each kidney, respond to stress by increasing the so-called “stress-hormones” that include cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones cause dilation of blood vessels to the brain, and thus circulation, increasing cognition and reaction time. These hormones affect the neuro-musculo-skeletal system by improving the efficiency of the nervous and musculoskeletal system to respond to a stress quickly and efficiently. It is the adrenal glands that set the stage, first and foremost by the secretion of the stress hormones, for the body to improve circulation to the muscles, brain and other organs, for improved physical and mental function to combat stress. Without the adrenal gland stress response, no mammal could survive any stressor. Lack of a brisk stress response results in dis-ease, disease and death.