The Health Index
As humans, we have evolved with the perfect physical response to external stressors. Stress hormones – triggered when our senses perceive a threat – trigger a cascade of processes that provide our body with everything it needs to enable “fight-or-flight”. If faced with a lion out to get us, we will need to run away or club it over the head. That requires energy, which the body will provide via the stress response.
The stress response, triggered by stress hormones, causes the release of glucose from the liver so that we can run away or fight. It makes us breathe faster to take in more oxygen and speeds up our heartbeat to get glucose and oxygen to our muscles where they are needed. The blood thickens to reduce bleeding in case of injury. All of this is perfect when we are in a physically dangerous situation, not when we are getting upset while we are stuck in traffic and late for an important meeting.
Most modern stressors do not constitute an immediate threat to our lives and are not resolved by running or fighting. As a result, we are stuck with elevated blood glucose and oxygen levels, a rapid heartbeat and thickened blood. In the long-term, the frequent secretion of stress hormones can cause serious harm to the body. In our modern world, typical stressors are not usually life-threatening, but they are relentless.
Our stress never stops, and consequently, digestion, reproduction, repair, and maintenance can become significantly impaired. While your nutrition practitioner may not be able to remove every single stressor from your life, they can show you how diet and lifestyle modifications can increase your resilience.
What are the causes?
Modern life provides a myriad of stressors. Experts distinguish between acute (temporary) and chronic (long-term) stress, as well as physical (e.g. injury, illness, surgery, medication) and psychological stress (e.g. divorce, illness or loss of a loved one, high workload, financial worries etc.).
How can a nutrition practitioner help?
Your nutrition practitioner may not be able to take away your stressors, but they can help you cope better. They will support you in implementing a nutritious diet that provides the nutrients your nervous system needs to provide the necessary fuel, hormones, neurotransmitters and co-factors for resilience. Your nutrition practitioner can also help you identify and implement or abandon respective lifestyle habits that help or hinder.
A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing to assess your hormone status. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.