SANTO R. SAMPINO
DC, MS, Senior Medical Director, Triad Healthcare, Inc.
How to mitigate the effects of Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Stress is a normal reaction by the body in response to a stimulus. The stimulus can be physical, chemical or emotional. Stress can create anxiety which is a state of worry, uneasiness or apprehension.
Stress is an unavoidable aspect of life and in small, controlled amounts can be good for you. Examples of this are:
- Stress caused by controlled physical stimuli/activity as in exercise or
- Stress caused by the emotional stimuli of a project deadline at work resulting in motivation and creativity
When the stimuli that causes stress is of a large magnitude, and is recurring, the effects on the body can be very damaging resulting in severe illness. Stress caused by a traumatic physical, chemical or emotional event in which there is the threat of injury or death such as rape, physical abuse, or war can lead to an illness called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This disorder can have catastrophic effects on the body. Some common illnesses and disorders associated with unrecognized or uncontrolled stress are:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Immune System depression
- Skin disorders
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Hormonal disorders
Look for signs or symptoms such as irritability, fatigue, weight loss or gain, insomnia, headaches, memory loss or inability to concentrate.
The body's response is complex and characterized by a series of physiological changes. These changes result in the secretion of hormones that increase blood pressure, slow digestion, depress the immune system (ability to fight infection), and accelerate the breakdown of lean body mass, among other effects.
Early recognition and self intervention can reduce the risks associated with uncontrolled, prolonged or recurrent stress by preventing the progressive breakdown of the body's equilibrium.
It is imperative to be mindful of how often you eat since your body is in a state of break down and you may not have a normal appetite (stress may increase or decrease appetite). Eat smaller but adequate meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) with between meal snacks. The use of fruit, raw vegetables or nuts (if there is no food allergy or sensitivity) are excellent choices for between meal snacks. They contain vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are essential for normal body processes and are often depleted in the body's metabolic response to stress. Make a habit of snacking on fruits and vegetables between meals. This will replace lost vitamins, minerals and enzymes and reduce the tendency to overeat at meals. For example if you eat breakfast at 8 am have one of the above mentioned snacks at 10am, lunch at 12pm, another snack at 2 pm, another snack at 4pm and dinner at 6pm. The introduction of fruits and vegetables as snacks will increase the likelihood of consuming your recommended daily allowance that is crucial for good health. To learn more visit the Centers for Disease Control's website at FruitsandVeggiesMatter.gov
To replenish lean body mass (LBM) you need to consume adequate protein. Sources of protein are beef, pork, poultry fish, dairy and legumes. Choose low fat proteins such as fish, skinned poultry, low fat dairy, legumes and lean cuts of beef or pork (tenderloin). Minimum daily protein requirement are related to your weight. To calculate your minimum requirement multiply you weight by 0.45. Multiply the sum by 0.8. This will give you the minimum amount of protein to consume daily. For example if you weigh 120 pounds; 120 x .45 = 54 x .8 = 43.2 g of protein/day. Remember this is a minimum; your actual consumption will need to be higher as your body is in a state of LBM breakdown. It is recommended that you consume a "rainbow diet" This means that you should eat a variety of foods without limiting anything specific. Adequate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins fats and fiber. To learn more visit the American Dietetic Association's website at www.eatright.org
Limit your consumption of caffeinated products, alcohol and tobacco as even moderate consumption can lead to further disruption of the body's equilibrium. Maintain proper hydration by drinking water and avoid eating late at night. If the signs persist or should you require assistance seek the professional counsel of a physician, dietitian or nutritionist.
The benefits of 30 minutes of exercise most if not all of the days of the week has been well established by science. Benefits include stress reduction, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, decrease in bad cholesterol (LDL), increase in good cholesterol (HDL), reduction of blood pressure and many more. To learn more visit
Daily meditation is exercise for your mind. 10 to 15 minutes a day can be very helpful to reduce stress improve your outlook and facilitate positive thought. To learn more visit www.freemeditations.com/
Deep breathing is an excellent stress reducer. In a seated posture with both of your feet flat on the ground with your back supported and hands resting on your thighs palms up and chin relaxed on your chest. Take a slow deep breath while lifting your chin off your chest and extending your head upon maximum inspiration. Hold your breath in this posture for a couple of seconds and then forcefully expire while returning your chin to your chest upon maximum expiration. Repeat 10 times. Remember to perform the exercise very slow to prevent hyperventilation. If you become light headed or dizzy discontinue the exercise.
Remember self intervention is not a replacement for professional assistance. If your symptoms are severe or if symptoms remain despite your intervention do not hesitate to seek the advice of a Physician.