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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stress Management

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When you're in stressful situations, be they physical, mental, or emotional, your adrenal glands secrete special hormones to help you through the stress. These hormones include epinephrine (also called adrenaline), norepinephrine, and cortisol. They prepare your body to handle stress by speeding up the heart to increase cardiac output, constricting blood vessels to the gut while enlarging those to the muscles, and dilating pupils dilate to give us a better look at whatever we're confronting. They stimulate the liver to release its glucose stores for quick energy. Fat depots are induced to liberate free fatty acids for fuel. Stress hormone release produces a heightened state of awareness which helps us think more clearly and quickly.
The good thing about these hormones is the way they prepare the body to run away from danger. The potential bad effect is that many normal body functions are subverted in order to meet the demands of flight. Under stress, the body requires extra energy in order to meet these demands. Amino acids that are supposed to be used for tissue growth and repair can be burned as one source of energy.
If the stress is emotional rather as well as physical, you have a medical time bomb. With constant stress, there is a constant perversion or re-routing of amino acids. Instead of supplying fresh material to grow hair, make antibodies, and rebuild heart muscle, amino acids are removed from tissues, travel to the liver, then go to muscles to be burned up as flight fuel.
A heart attack in someone under constant stress is more likely to be lethal. Invading bacteria from a cut are less likely to be mopped up by the white blood cells. The immune system is less hardy. Muscle wasting is more likely. People, training hard for athletics, are more likely to tip over into the overtraining syndrome.
What we need is a drug that will encourage our adrenal glands to make more stress hormone when we really need them, but none for the routine occurrences that we perceive as stressful. You will be pleased to know that such a drug is available although it has not been sanctioned by the American Medical Association, released by the Food and Drug Administration, or approved by the surgeon general. The drug is called exercise and you don't need anyone's permission to use it.
Nothing is more effective at reducing stress than a good hard workout today. Often times I will go into the gym roaring like a lion on the inside. Only to be purring like a kitten on my way out.
-Nate

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