The stress effect and reduction techniques

 Seventy-five to 90 percent of all doctors’ office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the Department of Health.

Seventy-five to 90 percent of all doctors’ office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the Department of Health.

Your body is designed to experience stress and react appropriately. Stress will put you in fight-or-flight mode, alert and ready to avoid danger. The body also experiences physiologic responses, such as increased heart and respiratory rates, to enable immediate action. However, increased incidences of illness can develop if these physiologic changes are not restored to baseline levels of function after the stressor has passed.

The normal hustle and bustle of everyday modern living exposes your body to more stress than humans have evolved to manage. Consequently, you spend more time in fight-or-flight mode and less time at a baseline level.

Symptoms from prolonged stress can include headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, sleep disturbances, increased acute illnesses, depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, stomach ulcers, anxiety and obesity. Not being able to return the body to a relaxed state after a stressor has passed may also worsen symptoms of existing medical conditions.

Seventy-five to 90 percent of all doctors’ office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints, according to the Department of Health.

Although removing all stressors from life is not realistic, you can support your body in becoming more capable of handling the stressors that do exist. This can be done by supporting the physiologic stress response, identifying the sources of stress, changing your response to stress, restructuring priorities to complement your lifestyle and learning stress-reduction techniques, thus reversing the physiologic effects of stress.

That is a very daunting list and you certainly do not need to be stressed out about reducing stress levels. For now, let us focus on supporting and reversing the physiologic effects of stress.

First, to support the stress response you must focus on supporting the adrenal glands, which are our stress glands. The adrenal glands produce cortisol in response to stress, which affects, through a cascade of hormones, energy production and storage, immune function, heart rate, muscle tone and other processes that trigger the fight-or-flight mechanism.

During prolonged exposures to stress, over-production of cortisol can develop, causing excessive amounts of all adrenal and other stress hormones.

A number of herbs and a large variety of available supplements will help support the adrenal glands and the stress response. An adrenal support supplement should include the following herbs:

  • Panax quinquefolius (American Ginseng) — This herb normalizes the body’s stress response, calms the nervous system and strengthens the adrenal glands.
  • Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) — This herb helps restore the body’s baseline level of functions, resist stress and balance cortisol levels.
  • Ocimum sanctum (Holy Basil) — This herb balances the physiological stress response and increases energy.
  • Schisandra chinensis (Schizandra Berry) — This herb restores adrenal function and improves energy and stamina.

Second, focus on exercises or activities that will get your body out of fight-or-flight mode. There are countless websites and books that list stress-reduction techniques in an attempt to guide you through the process.

Most of the lists contain techniques including yoga, meditation, massage, exercise, biofeedback, tai chi, progressive muscle relaxation, hypnotherapy, breath work, journaling, aromatherapy, laughter, guided imagery and listening to music.

All of these techniques are excellent ways to relieve stress. However, for most who read this list, a common response occurs: “What? I have never heard of such a thing,” or “What? How could that possibly help me relax and reduce stress?” You will never know unless you try.

I encourage everyone to try all the stress-reduction techniques on this list. It may take several failed attempts in order to find what works for you. In the long run, however, you will have had many new experiences.

Start by rearranging the above list. Put the items in order by the most familiar to least familiar. Try the first two items on your list for two weeks. Remember that you have to do something at least three times before you can determine whether or not it works for you. If one or both of those techniques worked for you — great. If not, move on to the next two until you have made it through the entire list.

Good luck on your journey to reversing the physiologic effects of stress. You will be well on your way to living a long, healthy and productive life.


Dr. Denise Grobe is a naturopathic physician for the Center for True Harmony Wellness & Medicine in Mesa, Aziz. She specializes in women’s medicine, gut/digestive health, stress and fatigue. 480-539-6646 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 3, June/July 2013.

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