The three most common things I see in my Naturopathic practice are digestive concerns, hormonal imbalance, and insomnia. Whether my patients are aware of it or not, the most likely cause of these three conditions is chronic, unmanaged stress. Stress has a massive impact on the nervous system, and therefore almost all aspects of everyday living.
What is the nervous system?
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the branch of the nervous system that deals with the things outside of our conscious control like heart rate and blood pressure. I like to call it the automatic system because it happens automatically without us having to think about it.
How does stress effect our nervous system?
Our bodies were not designed to operate in today’s busy world. Our ancestors lived a mostly low stress lifestyle, with brief periods of high stress. These high stress events involved running from predators and engaging in physical fights. This is the exact reason why we named one of the two states of the autonomic nervous system “fight or flight”. When in fight or flight mode, blood pressure, heart rate, and digestion increases, and blood is pumped to the limbs for quick action. Sleep, digestion and reproduction get put on the back burner and the only priority at the time is survival.
Because most of us are living with constant stress, we are spending too much time in fight or flight mode and not enough time on what we like to call rest and digest.
Rest and digest is the state where heart rate and blood pressure decrease, blood flow goes to our organs of digestion, and we feel generally at ease. In this state, digestion, sleep and reproduction become our body’s priority because our lives are not on the line.
So what can you do to spend more time in rest and digest?
Work on adding activities to your lifestyle that calm the nervous system. A few examples of this include yoga, meditation, acupuncture, Thai Qi, massage and breath work. These activities work on calming your mind and body, increasing circulation, releasing tension, and bringing you back to a state of overall peace. Taking just 10 minutes a day to slow down and focus on you, can radically reduce the level of stress in your life.
If you are looking for more guidance in managing your stress, come in for an initial visit at the IV Health Centre. Our Naturopathic Doctors offer full health assessments, physical exams and can discuss laboratory work that can help find the root of your concerns. We look forward to supporting you on your path to optimal health.
– Dr. Nicola Bennett, ND
To book an initial visit with Dr. Bennett, please visit our website at theiv.ca or call us at (604) 974-8999.