Stress is a specific response of the organism to the demands of the environment. In simple words, stress is a reaction of body and mind to excessive and continuous claims to which we subject it. The response of our body to an illness, as well as the fear and worry thoughts that may arise before an examination or interview, can be considered stressful.
In recent decades the word stress has become part of the common vocabulary, and indicates a psychophysical problem that is studied by various areas of medicine and psychology. It is good to remember that stress is a natural, normal phenomenon, and that our bodies benefit from some stressful moments.
However, stress is able to influence health and, if chronic, can cause serious problems and affect the development of even very serious diseases, both physical and mental.
Stress can occur in each of us, on many occasions. A stressful episode happens to anyone, and is normally well tolerated by both the body and the mind. Everything depends, in this case, also on the intensity of stress. A traffic accident or a traumatic episode can result in a very serious health problem.
But the stress we are daily talking about in relation to health is chronic. Chronic stress is continuous, and when the source of stress persists, body and mind are subjected to excessive pressure and can lead to more or less serious health problems.
Stress always presents itself with a physical and a mental component. It makes no sense to practice a distinction between body and mind regarding stress. Being stressed, however, can depend on different causes, and based on these we can apply a first distinction:
• Stress can depend on a trauma, a dangerous event or a shock, like a violence, an accident, a war. In these cases, it is possible to develop a real mental disorder, called post-traumatic stress disorder.
• A negative event, a sudden change or an illness can cause stress. Let's think about the loss of a job or a divorce.
• Continued pressure on one's habits, such as intense rhythms of life and work, but also an excessively rational and rigid mental approach can lead to great stress.
What are the symptoms of stress? It is complex to answer, because stress can be presented in a thousand different ways. Stress is a very personal response to events that put pressure on the body. However, we can list some of the most common stress symptoms:
• Stress and flu fever
• Belly ache and digestive symptoms
• Diarrhea, constipation and intestinal symptoms
• Insomnia and bruxism (grinding teeth)
• Anxiety and nervousness
• Panic attacks
• Stress eczema, hives and skin problems
• Stress alopecia, hair loss
• Lowering of immune defences
• Confusion and difficulty in concentration
• Backache, muscle tension
• Excessive sweating
• Nutrition problems
Stress symptoms are not always easy to spot and are often underestimated. Stress symptoms often lead people to consume alcohol, smoke and take drugs. The risk behaviours related to stress are very many and include different types of eating disorders, from binges to restrictive diets.
Stress can have devastating health effects, as hundreds of scientific research confirm. Among the risk factors of many diseases, in fact, we can almost always find stress and behaviours linked to it, such as bad eating habits and alcohol consumption, the abuse of drugs or medicines. The continuous pressure on the organism can cause:
• Cardiovascular problems, until heart attack
• Anxiety and depression
• Muscle and joint problems such as back pain
• Migraine, headache
• Chronic inflammation and cancer
Does stress cause cancer? The correlation is not direct and it’s not easy to talk about it, but stress seems to play a role in the development of tumours, as well as in autoimmune diseases.
The best way to cancel the negative effects of stress is to try to prevent it by eliminating all its possible causes. In some cases, however, this is not possible. At this point it is useful to manage stress in an effective and healthy way. Here are some tips:
• Talk with friends, relatives or a professional
• Reserve time for rest and for a holiday
• Practice regular exercise: yoga and meditation are two of the best disciplines to manage stress
• Do regular breathing and relaxation exercises
• Eat well, making sure you properly nourish your body and mind
What are the best natural anti-stress remedies and what to eat in case of stress?
• Herbal teas: warm water relaxes the internal muscles and some herbs have a particular calming effect. Try with lavender, lemon balm, chamomile or hawthorn.
• Light meals: heavy digestion is in itself a stress for our body. Eating healthy helps to endure stress.
• Eat slowly: chewing well is 70% of digestion. Eating calmly helps to digest well and absorb the necessary nutrients.
• Seasonal fruit and vegetables: take advantage of the gifts of nature and consume abundant portions of vegetables to assimilate minerals, vitamins and fibre!
• Superfood: stress often depends on some food deficiencies, but it is also able to provoke them. Superfoods can help you manage and combat stress.
In the event of stress, it is important to provide your body with a good supply of:
• Antioxidants, to combat oxidative stress in cells
• Magnesium, the mineral that relaxes muscles and tension
• Vitamins B and E, regulate the nervous system
• Omega-3, fight cell degeneration
Acai: the Amazon berry is famous for containing a huge amount of antioxidants, excellent for fighting stress, free radicals and improving circulation.
Matcha: this Japanese green tea is rich in antioxidants and is famous for stimulating concentration and inner calm.
Cocoa: all our cocoa-based products, such as Cocoa powder, Raw Cocoa Nibs and Cocoa Butter, derive from the highest quality Fairtrade cocoa. Rich in serotonin and antioxidants, but also magnesium, cocoa is an excellent anti-stress.
Buddha’s Awakening and Sprouted Oats: All Iswari breakfast products contain activated whole grains, such as buckwheat and oats, unsurpassed sources of magnesium and fibre. But there are also dried fruit, flaxseeds and chia seeds, sources of Omega-3 and vitamins B and E