Although a little stress is good for all of us, there’s no doubt that chronic stress alters body chemistry and is the cause of many serious diseases.
Physiologically, stress is characterized by a marked rise in the basal metabolic rate. Recent research clearly shows that acute stressors (final examinations, divorce, bereavement, unrelieved dread of recurrent domestic violence, sleep deprivation and Alzheimer care giving) alter immune response,1 and prolonged exposure can eventually result in a state of relative immunosuppression.2Stress can increase your risk of contracting a wide assortment of infective illnesses,3 including tonsillitis, tuberculosis, herpes and dental caries,2 as well as many respiratory viruses.4
These problems can be mitigated through some of the following alternative approaches, but ultimately a commitment to significant lifestyle changes may be required in order to prevent further problems.
Yoga, shiatzu, meditation, hypnotherapy, Pilates or other regular physical exercise, biofeedback and visualization are all helpful. Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation can release musculoskeletal tensions; naturopathic neuromuscular technique and hydrotherapy will restore function and invigorate tissues.
In herbal medicine, four remedies stimulate the body’s natural defence mechanisms.
1) Berberis vulgaris (barberry) tincture has wide ranging antibiotic effects (without harming the body’s own helpful intestinal microbial flora) and will enhance immune system function by increasing the blood supply to the spleen and causing the release of immune potentiating compounds.5
2) Phytolacca decandra (poke root), taken under professional care, will stimulate T and B cell production and stimulate many immune functions,6 while also having a virus destroying effect.7 Long term use of this particular herbal medicine, however, is not recommended because this plant is mildly toxic.
3) Echinacea angustifolia (purple coneflower) tincture will break down circulating immune complexes, enhance white blood cell function, activate the natural killer cells (the body’s best anti cancer defenders), and increase the available amount of properidin (a natural bactericide) in circulation. Echinacea also promotes healthy mucous membranes, bolstering this major barrier to infection.8
4) Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) works on the adrenal glands and has been shown to protect against the effects of both physical and mental stress.9
Individually chosen, homeopathic remedies can give constitutional support. Alongside these, a Bach Flower Remedy, like hornbeam, oak or olive, can provide additional support.
L.72 drops a combination of (Ferula) Sumbul, Gaultheria procumbens, Cicuta virosa, (Narthex) Asafoeida, Corydalis formosa, Ignatia amara, Valeriana officinale, (Delphinium) Staphysagria, Avena sativa and Hyoscyamus niger are also very effective.
Their efficacy, compared with diazepam, was proven recently in a randomized controlled trial.10 Results showed that L.72 drops did as well as the diazepam in all measures. In addition, L.72 users slept significantly better and had a much lower pulse rate.
The growth of tumours has also been shown to be enhanced by exposure to stress;1, 11 cell damage, cataract and coronary heart disease, among others, have been linked to the effects of the free radicals released by stress.12 The antioxidant vitamins C, E and beta carotene can protect against these.13, 14
Of equal importance are vitamins A and B6.15, 16 Alcohol consumption and certain prescription drugs can also deplete the body of B6.16 Supplementation will correct this deficiency in both cases.17 Dietary sources of vitamin B6 are meat, poultry, fish, bananas, broccoli, melons and spinach. Foods high in potassium and low in sodium should be made part of the diet,18 since stress induced exhaustion is often due to loss of potassium ions.
Taking supplements with larger than currently recommended doses of selenium, zinc and copper has also been shown to have a significant beneficial effect.19