Author Julie Casper, L. Ac., is a hTMA clinician and educator, she works with patients across the U.S. and internationally. In addition, she supports health professionals who are interested in adding clinical hTMA to their practice. Contact: healthelite.org
Update: 25 June 2017
Author: Julie Casper, L. Ac.
Learn how stress affects your health (e.g., eustress is actually beneficial), and how to avoid or mitigate the damaging consequences of distress.
Wei-ji is the Chinese character for crisis.
It represents both danger and opportunity.
Sometimes stress can be expressed as an emotional crisis. In the 1930s, endocrinologist Hans Selye (the father of stress research) coined the term "stress." Initially stress was the terminology researchers used to identify the physiological responses to stressors as observed in lab animals. In Selye's description, stress refers to the reaction and adaptation of any organism to a perceived threat. At the cellular-level, stress is fundamental to life because it motivates action and behavior.
Selye also recognized that not all stress is necessarily ‘bad.’ He described this distinction as "eustress" verses "distress." Some types of stress can be motivating and positive. Distress, however, is destructive to health. Prolonged distress results in psychological dysfunction and physical deterioration.
Effective stress management requires a multi-level approach. This may include nutritional support, physical exercise, psychological approaches, and behavior modification. Replacing fear with hope, choosing positive thoughts over negative thoughts, and having meaningful work are important also. But without supplying your body with the proper nutrition needed to support the biological stress response, it can be very difficult to implement these strategies.
The basic principles of the stress response at the cellular level also apply on a macro level to the behavior of an individual, and even to society at large.
All life forms have a triphasic (3-phase) response to chronic stress;
The exhaustion phase of stress is like being out in the cold for too long, or holding a heavy weight for too long, or living with someone who is abusive, or, in the case of a society, living in a dictatorship or a culture where only a few at the top can thrive.
The persistent demands of modern 24/7 culture can lead to exhaustion also. Everyday complexity is a constant challenge. We have to deal with our electronic devices, perhaps the legal system, the tax code, financial issues, etc. Managing daily life is stressful itself. In spite of our excessive material wealth, we are encouraged to acquire more. Modern culture is asking too much of us, more than is humanely possible. Too many burdens (possessions) too many buttons, too many technically complex experiences. And, despite all of the promises of technological progress and possessions — we are not happier.
Because we are all unique individuals, there are many different kinds of symptoms and diseases, or "specific" reactions that might be expressed when exposed to various stressors. What is interesting, is that our biochemical adaptive reactions to different types of stressors are actually quite similar (non-specific). In other words, no matter what type of stressor demand, physiologically we respond in only one of two ways;
However, you cannot run away from toxins that have entered the body, and you cannot fight ever-present EMF/RF exposure. So, our biology has only two options;
People under extreme stress often do poorly with decision-making that involves complexity or reasoning. When the body's nervous system is in a sympathetic state (fight of flight), physiology adjusts accordingly to address the immediate threat. For example, the digestion system redirects its energy to other physical systems that are managing the threat, so digestion is compromised. Neurologically we respond with simple and quick reactionary functioning, which can override or otherwise compromise more complex higher-level reasoning.
A typical neuron forms many neural connections.
A neuron damaged by toxic stress, has far fewer connections.
To understand how to manage stress, it is important to understand how your cells respond to stress. Stress is a common term which refers to the consequences of the failure of a human or animal body to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats to the organism, whether actual or imagined. Subjective stress, or perceived stress, can have a profound effect on our response to it, and thus a profound effect on our immune system (Thornton, 2006). Biological stress, as defined by Selye, includes a state of alarm and adrenaline production which transforms into the resistance stage as a coping mechanism. What should follow the resistance stage of stress is the stage of recovery.
If one is unable to recover due to constant exposure to stressors, or due to inadequate cellular response, one adapts to a stage of stress that may result in chronic disease conditions of all kinds. This is referred to at the general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S.). This means that your body has, at least temporarily, ‘learned to live with it.’ At some point on this path, one moves into the exhaustion stage of stress. This refers to the inability of a human or animal body to respond. If you cannot recover from the exhaustion stage, the result is death.
Excerpt, Spontaneous Evolution (p.260-261) by Bruce H. Lipton Ph. D., Steve Bhaermann
An organism's life-sustaining functions can be conveniently divided into those that support growth, which include reproduction, and those that provide protection. From a study of individual cells in a culture dish, we can observe a physiologic conflict between growth and protection behaviors.
When nutrients are placed in front of a cell, the cell will move toward the nutrients, open and ready to assimilate them. When toxins are placed in front of a cell, however, the cell will close down and move away from the threatening stimulus. Growth behaviors, expressed as openness and forward movement, are completely opposite of closed, retreating protection responses. Therefore, being open and closed or moving forward and backward at the same time are mutually exclusive, impossible behaviors. Simply, a cell cannot be in a state of growth and protection at the same time.
The first organisms to appear on Earth were free to abound in the absence of threatening predators. Consequently, the primary physiologic processes to evolve were those designed to support growth. Later, the advent of species that lived off of other organisms necessitated the development of effective protection behaviors, which were primarily designed for emergency situations.
Ideally, energy is expended for growth and reproduction with as little as possible spent on defense. This simple differential in energy allocations is due to the fact that energy used for growth nets more energy for the system while energy used for protection offers no return on investment.
That is why Nature designed protection systems with the hope that they would never be used or, at worst, used sporadically to help organisms escape the occasional clutches of life-threatening predators. Certainly, the body's defense mechanisms were never intended nor designed to be used 24/7, as is too often the case with great numbers of humanity today.
Therefore, if an organism's need for protection is out of balance and plagued by chronic ongoing fears and threats, the excessive energy resources required for protection directly compromise energy reserves needed to sustain health.
Based on functional responsibilities, cells that comprise the body can be divided into two populations:
The viscera are the fundamental organs related to bodily growth and maintenance, such as the digestive, respiratory, nervous, and reproductive systems. The somatic system, represented by the arms, legs, and outer wall of the body, provide protection, support, and mobility.
When the body is in growth, the system primarily sends its energy to the visceral organs while the somatic system plays a secondary role. In contrast, when faced with external threats, the body sends more blood to the somatic system to energize fight-or-flight responses while the visceral organs take a backseat to the action.
When the body's central intelligence identifies threatening signals from the external environment, it activates a specialized system called the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. Regulatory signals released by the HPA axis primarily include stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemical signals constrict the blood vessels in the viscera, which preferentially redirects blood flow to the somatic system. There, the extra blood provides the energy, in the form of nourishment, to the muscles and bones used to protect the body from those external threats. When the HPA axis is activated, the suppression of visceral blood effectively reduces energy supplies that would normally be used for growth.
In severe situations, an organism will fight or flee until all of its accessible energy reserves are depleted and it falls victim to the predator. In the best-case scenario, the intended prey escapes and is later able to shut down its protective HPA functions. The consequent cessation of stress hormone secretion then allows an ample amount of blood to, once again, flow through the visceral veins, nourish the body's growth mechanisms, and replenish expended energy.
It's not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it. Hans Selye
Hans Selye called stress "the spice of life," and defined it as the "nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it." These demands can be caused by pleasure, challenge or fulfillment as well as frustration, anger or resentment. The body's response to stress has multiple stages (Watts, 1990). When stress is prolonged or the body is unable to recover, one can move into pathological stages of stress (see stages 4 and 5 below).
The first stage of stress is the alarm reaction. This is the body's defense mechanism. To overcome the stressor, the body requires an increase in energy output. This is generated by increasing the activity of the thyroid and adrenal glands. A sympathetic neuroendocrine response occurs that produces an increase in the production of the adrenal mineral-corticoid aldosterone and antidiuretic hormone (ADH). This produces an increase in sodium and water retention. This is indicative of an inflammatory process, and when prolonged can result in gastritis, diverticulitis, colitis, sinusitis, arthritis, etc. Extended cellular stress response at this stage can result in any of these inflammatory illnesses.
During the alarm stage there is an increase in; stress hormones, heart rate, blood vessel narrowing, blood pressure, blood sugar levels blood lipid (fat) levels, cholesterol levels (LDL), clotting factors, bone loss, protein breakdown of muscle and connective tissue, insulin resistance, feelings of stress, fear, anxiety and depression. The alarm stage also includes a DECREASE in; short term memory, ability to concentrate and learn new material, serotonin levels, cellular immunity and body building growth hormones. The alarm reaction increases the cellular demand for vitamins C, D, E, B1, B6 and B12, and for the minerals calcium, copper, cobalt, sodium, selenium and zinc. These responses can become pathological if the person does not have the nutrients needed for managing the response or if they cannot progress beyond the alarm stage.
The positive side of the alarm stage is it increases reflexes and mental focus and sends blood to the extremities. This provides the needed response mechanism to react to stressors, good or bad.
The second stage of stress, resistance, consists of continued sympathetic stimulation. The body is attempting to maintain homeostasis in the presence of the stressor which initiated the alarm reaction. Anti-inflammatory hormones (cortisol), are secreted in order to control the inflammation. Because cortisol produces tissue breakdown (catabolism) and raises blood sugar, it is therefore referred to as a glucocorticoid hormone. If a person cannot progress through the resistance stage, then catabolism becomes dominant, resulting in chronic debilitating diseases (shock, ulcers, immune dysfunction, fluctuating energy levels, etc.).
The resistance reaction increases the cellular demand for vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6, and for the minerals potassium, zinc, manganese, iron and magnesium.
As the stress is brought under control, increased stimulation of the sympathetic neuroendocrine system abates, tissue repair takes place, and normal function returns (recovery stage). In this neuroendocrine state, digestion, metabolism and cellular repair functions return. Rest, growth, calm mental activity and learning returns to their normal healthy levels.
For recovery to ensue metabolically, there is a nutritional need for adequate amounts of vitamins C, D, E, B1, B6, B12 and folic acid and for the minerals calcium, magnesium, copper, cobalt and selenium. At this time, mineral levels and ratios, specifically the sodium/potassium ratio, return to a normal healthy balance.
The biological interactions of the nutrients discussed above in the three normal stages of the stress response are critically important for achieving a healthy stress recovery response. This is further explained in the article: Nutrient Interrelationships, Minerals—Vitamins—Endocrines
If the body does not proceed through to the recovery stage, the distress becomes chronic. This results in chronic deterioration and debilitating diseases, what Seyle termed the "diseases of adaptation." In this stage the body does not recover or exhaust, but adapts to a stage of stress that may result in chronic disease conditions.
Signs of chronic distress include:
In the exhaustion stage of stress, because adrenal and thyroid activity is diminished, there is a constant seeking out of external energy sources (alcohol, sugar, coffee, nicotine and other chemical stimulants including pharmaceutical and ‘street’ drugs, exciting activities, extreme emotional responses, etc.). Cholesterol levels often rise, toxic metals accumulate in the body, and many chronic diseases manifest such as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, constipation, allergies and asthma, fatigue and hypoglycemia. Any kind of stressor will set our stress response mechanism in motion, though it will largely depend upon the biochemical status of the individual whether the heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, brain or other organ will suffer. In the body, as in a chain, the weakest link breaks down under chronic stress, although all parts are equally exposed to it.
Illustration above: The Human Function Curve, Nixon 1982 (Yerkes-Dodson Curve 1908)
The Human Function Curve (Nixon, 1982) illustrates that increased stress results in increased performance — up to a point, after which things go rapidly downhill. However, that point or peak differs for each of us, so you need to be sensitive to the early warning symptoms and signs that suggest a stress overload is starting to push you over the hump. Such signals differ for each of us and can be so subtle that they are often ignored until it is too late. Not infrequently, the people closest to you may be aware that you are headed for trouble, even before you are aware of it.
As an analogy, let's look at the stress response from a global financial system perspective. We can all agree the world's financial system is in crisis (the alarm stage of stress). The stressors that are causing this crisis are the result of an imbalance. Most of the wealth is owned by a very few, disrupting homeostasis in our world financial systems. This imbalance causes resistance (the resistance stage of stress). If the system does not recover quick enough, there is adaptation (adaptation stage of stress), where people temporarily adapt to living with the inequalities. If inequality continues, eventually those without adequate finances will end up with too little to survive. The result for them is financial collapse (exhaustion stage of stress).
This correlation can easily be applied to the imbalances and toxic burdens being placed on Earth's natural ecosystems. Without homeostasis there is distress. Without recovery there is collapse. This is a somber illustration of the nonspecific stress response. It applies at all levels, from the cellular to the universal. It is Nature's law of balance.
Understand that stress is a fundamental component of life. Positive stressors can make us faster, better and stronger and lead us to higher accomplishments. The emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology is clarifying the relationship between stress and its physiological effects on the body. So the question is, how can we manage the stressors in life to minimize distress?
Not what we have, but what we enjoy,
constitutes our abundance. Epicurus
While not everyone can agree on a clinical definition of stress, experimental and clinical research confirms that the sense of having little or no control is always distressful. UK researchers analyzed 13 existing European studies covering nearly 200,000 people and found "job strain" was linked to a 23% increased risk of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. (Kivmaki, 2012)
‘You just can't overlook the incredible stress and emphasis on achievement that we have in our [American] culture. Stress by itself can raise cholesterol levels. For example, accountants near tax time have higher cholesterol levels. It isn't their diet. It is that cholesterol is needed to produce anti-stress hormones. For example, the Japanese have very little hypertension. Yet, when they come to America and adopt our ways, they develop hypertension. Everyone assumes it is the American diet that causes such a high incidence of high blood pressure. They overlook our highly stressful, competitive lifestyle. In my view, this lifestyle - by itself - can cause almost any disease.’ Dr. Paul Eck
To ensure meeting the needs of the entire individual, holistic nurses promote the concept of the ‘mind-body’ connection. Mind-body therapies such as meditation, imagery, therapeutic touch, humor and relaxation techniques are all methods of coping with stress. These therapies help to promote self-control and positive well-being (Lorentz 2006). Counseling to help people examine what provides fulfillment and to implement lifestyle changes that help provide a sense of control are also helpful. A Mayo Clinic study showed that having a positive outlook increases life span, lowers stress and allows individuals to cope better during times of hardship. In other words, a positive, low-stress lifestyle can work miracles.
Worry and stress affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects heart action. Charles W. Mayo
However, mind-body therapies will only provide temporary relief when underlying mineral patterns keep you in a state of alarm or a state of exhaustion at the biochemical level (despite your best efforts to "think positive"). Distress results when there is an absence of homeostasis, or balance (Wisneski, 2005). If your biochemistry is out of balance, you can meditate all you want, but you will still be out of balance biochemically, and thus, in distress. Additionally, heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury are found everywhere in our environment, we are all exposed. Excessive heavy metal body burdens have been well proven to cause adverse emotional changes and neurological impairment (Watts, 1990).
Of course living a life filled with successful, fulfilling efforts goes a long way in helping you to experience the stress of life without distress. Unfortunately, this is not enough. Even successful apparently happy people can have biological stress-response activity at the cellular level. If you have mineral pattern imbalances due to nutrient deficiencies or toxic body-burden, biochemically, distress response activity will result — whether or not you feel unstressed at the surface.
The following excerpt is from Electromagnetic Fields by B. Blake Levitt (p.128-130). It describes how subliminal stress affects animals (including humans) even when they are unaware that they are stressed.
Another important aspect of EMFs in relation to the endocrine system involves a more general physiological response. There is ample evidence in test animals that EMFs increase the levels of adrenaline, the fight-or-flight hormone released from the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys. Stress is primarily mediated through the adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid glands, and plasma cortisol is a substance produced by the adrenal glands during stress conditions. Test animals continuously exposed to high-frequency microwaves of 2.45 gigahertz at about 0. '> milliwatts per square centimeter (0.5mW/cm2), approximately twenty times lower than what is considered a safe thermal exposure, were found to have a fourfold increase in cancers of the above-mentioned glands and increased levels of plasma cortisol. Benign tumors of the adrenal glands called pheochromocytomas, which can cause the chronic increase of blood pressure to a dangerous level, also showed a significant increase in test animals.
Similar studies investigating EMFs and stress present several interesting paradoxes. Test animals appear not to know they are stressed, yet blood tests show high levels of cortisone, a substance released in the body under conditions of long-term disease, as opposed to adrenaline, which is released in a fight-or-flight response. Monkeys exposed to a 200-gauss magnetic field for four hours a day showed a generalized stress response for six days, which then declined, suggesting that the animals had adapted to the exposure. Researchers who stop experiments at that point can reasonably conclude that there has been no long-term damage. However, in subsequent experiments, it has been found that when the exposure continues, hormone and immune levels will fall far below normal and remain there. The immune system becomes exhausted and unable to rebound, opening the body to infectious diseases and an inability to fight malignancies.
Russian studies in the 1970s found that rats exposed very briefly to even small amounts of microwaves released stress hormones; the same results have been found at the 50-hertz frequency. Other studies found an exhaustion of the adrenal cortex with exposures to 130-gauss magnetic fields at the 50-hertz frequency. One thorough Russian biophysicist, N. A. Udintsev, found not only the slow stress response but also an adrenaline release in test animals exposed for just one day. Hormone levels did not return to normal for nearly two weeks. He also found a rise in blood-sugar levels and an insulin insufficiency at the same frequencies. Russian research has repeatedly reported high blood pressure and cardiac irregularities in humans exposed to microwave frequencies.
In 1976, J. J. Noval, at the Naval Air Development Center in Johnsville, Pennsylvania, solved the puzzle of how high-stress chemicals could be present in animals who did not appear to be feeling stressed. Noval found the same slow stress response that others had observed at very weak electric fields of around 5 thousandths of a volt per centimeter, but he determined that when this vibrated in the ELF ranges, the level of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine increased in the brain stem. This occurred in a way that sent a subliminal stress signal throughout the body without the animal's being aware of it.
The implications of EMFs in relation to subliminal stress are important for several reasons. Stress is often thought of as a purely emotional state, but it is also a chemical one and creates a whole cascade of chemical responses in the body. Prolonged chronic stress is detrimental to every anatomical system, including the reproductive one. Subliminal stress may affect fertility and elevate blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and strokes, as well as suppress immune function. People may be unaware of these chemical alterations. Even short EMF exposures, like the use of a cordless phone on and off throughout the day, could cause spikes in such hormone levels. More tests need to be done on a 24-hour basis that truly represent the way we interact with the various fields we are constantly exposed to. In addition, female test animals showed hormonal stress responses (such as fur discoloration) to magnetic fields, which male animals did not show. It is known that women react differently to stress than men do. What are the implications of this for infertility and reproductive problems in female office workers, for example?
You can accurately analyze how well your biochemistry is responding to stress with hTMA. hTMA has a long history of use as a scientific tool in zoological and anthropological research, evolutionary biology and paleontology. hTMA also is the preferred by biomonitoring agencies around the world for heavy-metal toxicity testing and monitoring. A practitioner with clinical hTMA experience can assess a patient's metabolic status and toxic burden by analyzing tissue mineral levels and ratios. An accurate model of an individual's neuroendocrine function and their ability to respond to stress can be then be formulated.
The autonomic endocrine system controls or influences every chemical process in the body, including assimilation and utilization of nutrients. Dr. Melvin Page (1894-1983)
Computer generated lab results are based on standardized algorithms an often require professional interpretation. Each person is unique, so lab recommendations sometimes need modification, based on an individual patient's medical history. Proper interpretation of a hTMA report is complex. It requires clinical hTMA experience and involves understanding the patterns, levels, and ratios between pairs of minerals. From a psychological perspective, there is a correlation between the the stress response and the hTMA data. For example, a high sodium/potassium ratio indicates a chronic alarm state of the stress response, or a sympathetic dominant state. This usually is associated with intense or chronic distress, fear, anger, inflammation, water retention, and weight gain.
The mineral patterns identified through hTMA indicate the effects of stressors also. This information can be useful for clinicians who can prescribe a combination of targeted nutritional supplements and dietary recommendations. Providing the body with proper nutritional support is beneficial, particularly for increasing the resiliency needed for managing stress.
In biology, there are clearly identified metabolic relationships and communications between cells, tissues, organs and other systems within the body. Adequate and proper interaction between these systems is affected by the health and functional ability of the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system. This balance not only affects individual nutritional status, but also impacts the communication efficiency between these important interdependent systems.
There is no longer any real controversy over whether nutrients can affect behavior. Richard J. Wurtman
Proper interpretation of hTMA mineral patterns provides clinicians with useful information about the metabolic communication between the cells, tissues, organs and various systems. A person's sympathetic-parasympathetic relationship provides information about current health status and insight about health trends (predictive medicine). Equipped with this knowledge, preemptive steps can be taken to prevent negative consequences (instead of treating symptomatically as they arise). When the body's integrated systems perform at their ideal levels, human biology responds with robust immunity, stamina and resilience.
Successful stress management requires a multi-level approach that should include;
Biochemically, stress is a complex balancing-act between the autonomic nervous system's parasympathetic and sympathetic activities. Generally speaking, healing requires you to be in a parasympathetic dominant state, while any "fight or flight" like behavior depends on sympathetic dominance.
Decades of hTMA research has led to significant advancements in the understanding of mineral interrelationships and their biological effects. We know that nutritional deficiencies diminish functional capacity of many different cell types. In fact, both under-nutrition and over-nutrition can alter immune responsiveness (Chandra, 1977). Clinical hTMA can be used to assess both absolute deficiencies (mineral levels below ideal) and relative deficiencies (imbalanced mineral ratios of synergistic elements).
Your ability to cope with stress and even benefit from it, is determined by how well your body manages stress. Healthy function of the body's endrocrine system is an important aspect to stress management. When biochemical balance is correct and your metabolic demands are met, you can respond to stress in a healthy way. Eustress is what drives us to pursue activities that are rewarding and fulfilling, meaningful endeavors that energize you naturally. Having the physical and mental capacity to manage stress successfully is transformational.
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