Can Stress Sabotage Your Health?

There are a lot of theories attributed to the cause of common health problems we deal with in today’s busy world. Health freaks blame a fast-food obsessed nation. Environmentalists site global warming and increased pollution from industrialized countries as contributing factors to the growing number of health-related woes. Vegetarian-fanatics think the answer is to eliminate red meat from your diet. To be fair, all of these beliefs may have some degree of merit. Yet, a major contributor to many health problems is stress.

Lack of Sleep

Fatigue basically equates to a loss of energy resulting in a feeling of being tired or drained. A lack of sleep can also make life’s stressful moments difficult to deal with on a regular basis. Stress is a part of life, there is not much you can do about it. Not getting enough sleep makes the impact of daily stress seem greater than it really needs to be. According to the American Sleep Association, an adult needs about 6-8 hours of productive sleep each night. A child needs about 8 to 12 hours of sleep per night, depending on age. In order to have productive sleep, the issues causing stress in your life need to be dealt with. This may include medication, therapy or just finding healthy ways to relieve stress.

Eating on the Go

One in four Americans visits a fast food restaurant at least once a day. Many of us skip the traditional home cooked meal and pick something up on the way to or from work, school or some other activity. This results in some unhealthy eating choices, leading to anything but a balanced diet. Aside from the usual health-related problems this can cause, grabbing a bite here and there makes it harder to deal with stress. Recent results made public from the on-going Oregon Brain Aging Study show a connection between healthy eating and the functioning abilities of the brain, including how we process and handle stress. Stress can also cause you to make unhealthy eating choices, resulting in an ongoing cycle.

Emotional Factors

Some people complain of persistent headaches that have no apparent medical bases. A further look at your emotional state may provide an answer. According to the American Psychological Association, some people get stuck in a cycle of worry and anxiety that results in a lack of sleep and improper eating habits. A side effect of stress can be headaches. A University of Michigan study involving 241 patients found that depression and other emotional factors were a contributing factor to many medical conditions such as recurring headaches and aches and pains that have no apparent physical source. There is something to be said for finding time to relax and unwind.

Digestive Disorders

Stress sometimes results in an overproduction of acids in the digestive track. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, stress can be a contributing factor to digestive disorders such as gastro esophageal reflux disease, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, gastroenteritis, abdominal abscess, ulcerative colitis, hiatal hernia and irritable bowel syndrome or IBS. There is no cure for IBS. However, certain medications, dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes such as reducing stress may help to reduce symptoms.

Learning to relax can be as simple as taking 30 minutes a day just for yourself with no interruptions or distractions. Activities such as yoga or meditation can ease your stress level immensely. Experiment and find what helps you relax and incorporate that into your everyday routine. You may be surprised by how much it helps.

Donna Savage is a nutritional counselor with a family history of digestive problems. For IBS Help check this site for treatments and special foods that help reduce or eliminate this annoying condition.