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HEALTH CONCERN? BioHealth Health Concerns

Your Internal Space

Contributing Author: Riendeau, Claire N.M.D.

Claire RiendeauDr. Claire Riendeau is a naturopathic doctor specializing in nutrition and functional medicine, with many complex cases involving long-term chronic infections and environmental toxicity. Claire has earned two doctorate degrees, Doctor of Naturopathy and Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, is certified in Metabolic Nutrition and holds a Diploma of Homeopathic Medicine. She is a member of the American Naturopathic Medical Association and the International Foundation for Nutrition and Health. She is a widely sought out lecturer and provider for environmental illnesses such as Lyme disease.

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Moodiness, depression, fatigue and poor health are epidemics in America. Millions of American men, women and children suffer. What drives most, if not all health problems? Day-to-day stress is a precipitating factor.

Although there are many sources of stress such as chronic pain and infections, this article will focus on mental/emotional stress, the most basic stressor in our day.

Mental/emotional stress affects every one of us. It includes everything from past trauma, lack of fulfillment in job or marriage, raising children, living in fear or with anxiety or worry, meeting deadlines and commitments or simply fighting the traffic on your way to work. Stress surrounds us.

You may think, “no big deal.” We all live with stress to some degree. However, being common does not make stress normal. Physiologically, our bodies are not designed to cope with this onslaught every day.

Chronic stress develops with the inability to remove yourself from the mental/emotional stressor, and the inability to deal with it upon internalization of the event. Additionally, you open yourself to reduced immune function. The cascade of physiological events may occur in this way. You experience a stressful moment that you internalize, producing a fight or flight response that activates your adrenal glands to produce extra cortisol. The body is pushed into a sympathetically charged state, changing the electrical charge. This affects the heart and nervous systems and ultimately affects the immune and hormonal systems, resulting in abnormal physiology.

Time magazine recently said that these changes create a state of allergy and inflammation and, in turn, are linked to heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease and degenerative disease. The longer you are in a state of internalized stress, the more compromised your health becomes. Many people live in this state, and when their “get up and go” has “got up and gone” they have another Starbucks. The catabolic cascade starts over again.

Few health practitioners address this very important aspect of health. To attain and maintain good health, you must address the stress we encounter every day. One of the simplest things you can do for yourself is deep breathing exercises. This simple technique involves breathing deeply, fully and slowly. Breathe through your right nostril while blocking your left (by pushing the left nostril closed with your finger). Breathe out through the left nostril then breathe in through the left nostril and out through the right. This is one cycle, then repeat. Do this breathing technique for 10 minutes, twice a day and the results will be evident.

If you feel sluggish and are attending an important event, the deep breathing technique will ensure the flooding of new oxygen to your brain and a revived state. Also, it will switch the sympathetically charged system back toward a parasympathetic state, conducive to rest, relaxation, repair, rebuilding and healing.

Another stress reducing technique is meditation. Take 10 minutes upon awakening, sit up in bed, close your eyes and let your mind/body/spirit connect. The tranquility can carry through your day. Relaxation tapes and CDs, yoga, Tai Chi, and prayer are other options. The possibilities are numerous.

Restoring a sense of well-being and relaxation is necessary for optimum health and for the process of self-healing. Oftentimes, there is no escape from all of the significant sources of stress in our lives; however, we can control the way we respond to them. The next time you encounter stress, remember to become empowered by these tools. Be the author of your “internal space” and keep stress in check.