2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

How Stress Shortens Your Life (And What To Do About It)

Click here for the Health Tip link.

If you’ve ever been curious about how your body “feels” when challenged by relentless stress, consider this experiment. Obviously, I don’t recommend you try it. Like the car ads on TV say, “Do not attempt this. A professional is driving a closed course.” I’m asking you to think about it as a good example of what your body experiences during nonstop stress.

One day, instead of eating anything for breakfast, order Starbuck’s largest latte with three extra espresso shots. Have another as your midmorning snack and another for lunch, midafternoon snack, dinner, and nightcap. Limit your food intake to a bagful of Mrs. Field’s cookies. Feel your jaw clenching? Mind racing? Hands trembling?

This is your body under the yoke of chronic stress. The caffeine acts pretty much like your body’s stress hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine.

A different matter altogether is your body’s response to a single episode of stress, like being attacked by a mugger. You and your fellow mammals (such as a deer that hears a hunter) are designed to go into temporary overdrive when you’re in danger. Your brain, perceiving trouble, sends an instant message to your adrenal glands (two walnut-sized glands perched atop your kidneys) to release adrenalin, norepinephrine, and cortisol. You’ll feel the caffeine-like effect of the adrenalin and norepinephrine as your muscles tense and your heart races. The cortisol is more subtle, but it changes the way your body uses sugar and stores fat (think belly fat buildup).

This stress response–including your body’s reaction to these hormones–is designed for single use only. Once you’ve escaped the mugger you’re supposed to have some down time so the entire system can recover.

Our bodies are simply not designed to deal with one stressor after another, or one big stressor that doesn’t go away, what doctors and psychologists call chronic stress. Although you may cringe at the thought of the Starbuck’s experiment, until you learn how to deal with the useless worry of chronic stress by leaving your miserable job, walking out on a toxic relationship, or mastering the art of saying “no,” you’re facing the very real health risks of stress.

You experience stress in any situation where you’ve relinquished control of your life. Any time someone or something controls your life–and you don’t–you’ll experience stress. We accept some sources of stress (a new baby keeping you awake at night), while others (the job from hell) we must learn to get out of our lives.

Evolution hasn’t taught us much when it comes to dealing with stress. It would have been nice if the stress response included heightened self-awareness or opened some unused philosophical circuits in our brain. Instead, we eat too much, skip meals, drink, or smoke. We get angry, irritable, or weepy. We don’t sleep and then get tired–really, seriously tired.

All these stress-associated behaviors only serve to make us more stressed, and yes, things do tend to spin out of control. Up goes the blood pressure and risk for heart attack and stroke. Up goes your vulnerability to infection and probably even cancer. Down goes immunity. With chronic stress, we suffer a whole smorgasbord of conditions that aren’t really illnesses, though they’re often worse than actual illness and they definitely take their toll on our joie de vivre: depression, anxiety, muscle aches and pains, headaches, jaw grinding, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines.

Can this be stopped? Yes, definitely. But that’s for next week.

Hint: you’ll need a major attitude shift and three useful herbs.

Leave a Comment


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • Your First Step For Any (Any!) Chronic Symptoms

    Here’s an unfortunate trend: more and more young people (at my age, everyone under 50 is young) are troubled by chronic physical and emotional symptoms. Sometimes there’s a diagnosis: rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, fibromyalgia. But just as often there are plenty of symptoms and no diagnosis. I can’t count how many times patients have told me they went to multiple doctors who told them Read More

  • Surge Protection

    A confession: I’ve never done well with authority figures. Those who know me, the mildest and gentlest of souls, would never guess that years back I had issues with various medical associations and physician groups about such “controversial” notions as having conventional and alternative practitioners working together or actually treating (again, “controversial”) diagnoses like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic Lyme. Believe me, I’m no Read More

  • Brain-Boosting Supplements

    In our previous two Health Tips, we discussed the most common causes of brain fog. The first of these focused on stress. When there’s so much you’re anxious about, your logical thinking, mental clarity, and memory become overwhelmed to the extent that you’ve added yet another stressor. “Is this early dementia?” you may wonder. Well at least some of you seeing the election results might Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!