Few would argue that our modern lifestyle has made life more stressful for the majority of people in recent years. Stress is very important both in its own right and as a contributory factor to many chronic medical conditions e.g. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Asthma. Adrenalin is the hormone commonly associated with stress and if this is permanently elevated with resulting increased arousal of the nervous system our health will eventually suffer.
Q. What Lifestyle Changes can I do to affect Stress?
A. The changes required will vary with individuals but would include:
1. More regular exercise – this can release Endorphins which have a relaxing affect on the body and can also help with sleep.
2. Normal blood sugar control is essential in stress management as a rapidly changing blood sugar level will lead to increased symptoms of anxiety, stress and feelings of panic. When a person’s blood sugar drops Adrenalin tries to correct this and the last thing an already stressed person needs is more Adrenalin.
3. Caffeine (in tea, coffee, chocolate, Coca Cola) has long been recognised as a nervous system stimulant. The majority of people can cope with a maximum of 2-3 cups per day without ill effects, but a minority of patients are extremely sensitive to all caffeine and must stop it completely.
4. Relaxation techniques – these would be discussed further at the Clinic.
5. Proper breathing techniques e.g. Buteyko Method are also important components of a Stress Management Programme.
Q. Can Food Allergy / Food Intolerance contribute to my Stress Levels/Psychological Symptoms?
A. Yes, most definitely. A full systems review is essential in proper management of stressful conditions. Apparently unrelated symptoms, e.g. digestion, skin, joint pain, sinus and other signs of allergic conditions can indicate that allergy is important in a particular individual. I often find that correction of the allergy not alone helps the physical problems but brings a greater sense of well-being and lower anxiety levels. If psychological symptoms are particularly prominent, e.g. severe anxiety / depression, it is likely that psychological factors are predominant. However, correction of food intolerances and vitamin/mineral supplementation can still significantly reduce the level of psychological symptoms.
As always, proper allergy management involves a comprehensive questionnaire, allergy testing and review of treatment response.
Q. How important are Hormonal factors?
A. After 20 years of dealing with these problems, it is obvious that some women are very sensitive to hormonal change, whether it is puberty, menopause, premenstrual or post natal. Many women have a manageable level of increased irritability / depression / anxiety one to two days before the period. However, in many others, these symptoms predominate for as long as two weeks (i.e. from ovulation onwards) and there is a very significant difference in their psychological symptoms between the first and second half of the cycle. Depending on their particular symptoms, this condition generally responds very well to a combination of diet and appropriate supplements, e.g. Omega 3 and Omega 6, Chromium, Magnesium, B Vitamins, and also Acupuncture.
Q. I get recurrent Thrush and my Moods are definitely affected by Blood Sugar changes. Can Yeast/Sugar Sensitivity (Candida Syndrome) cause Psychological Symptoms?
A. After many years experience, I have no doubt that many women in particular have mood problems that are considerably worse with Candida Syndrome. In my experience, symptoms such as Stress, Anxiety, Depression and rapid Mood changes often respond very well to a Candida treatment programme.
Q. Have Homeopathy / Herbal Medicines a role to play?
A. A variety of Homeopathy and Herbal Medicines have been used for hundreds of years for a variety of both Psychological symptoms and sleep disturbance. These are individually selected but commonly used preparations include Valerian, Passiflora, Coffea and Zincum Med.
Q. What Vitamins and Minerals can help with Anxiety symptoms?
A. There is no one ‘magic bullet’ in terms of supplements and preparations, and they are normally used in conjunction with other techniques outlined above. They are individually selected and it is important that proper quality supplements be used at the right dose for an appropriate period of time. It is important to emphasize that the safety record of these is extremely good, but they can interact with conventional medications and should be used with caution in certain medical conditions. Commonly used supplements would include; Magnesium, Chromium (to regulate the blood sugar), B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Omega 3, Omega 6
IN SUMMARY - Complementary Medicine has a considerable role to play in treating a variety of Psychological and Stress Disorders, with either one or a combination of the above treatment. However, as a Medical Doctor, it is important to emphasize that conventional treatments should not be stopped without medical guidance and that conventional medication may be required in addition to the above.
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