Last week I gave a brand new presentation on Stress at the Central West Women’s Health Centre. There were lots of questions at the end and surprise at the connections between stress and our bodies.
Did you know gut bugs, both friendly and unfriendly, respond to changes in stress hormones? Our immune system is intimately connected with our gut microbes, and is also affected by stress hormones.
In acute stress (running away from a predator), our immune system is UP-regulated in anticipation of infection.
In chronic stress (lasting longer than 6 weeks), our immune system is DOWN-regulated meaning we are more vulnerable to infections.
The microbial balance in the gut changes which can affect neurotransmitter production.
Stress also affects our genes. In pregnant women, chronic stress can change the microbial community in the birth canal which can impact the bugs a baby is first in contact with.
Stress also affects DNA repair (telomerase activity) and women with highest levels of perceived stress compared with low stress have shorter telomeres. This has the average equivalent of at least one decade of additional ageing.
So what can you do about this?
Meditation may slow genetic ageing and enhance genetic repair by promoting telomere maintenance
Box breathing is easy to do and can be done anywhere!
Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4. Repeat for 4 to 6 rounds.
Lie down with your legs up the wall or calves resting on a chair, thighs vertical for 2-10 minutes for a gentle inversion.
And maybe consider this saying “Not my circus, not my monkeys” – the downfalls of trying to control what is not ours to control.
Maybe someone is trying to give you their problem to sort out/take on board.
As we get into the deep mid winter here in Orange, what can you do to reduce the chance of catching a cold, or shorten the duration of a cold?
I have 3 young kids at home and sniffles and sneezes are pretty common at this time of the year. As a starter I often swap dairy intake for a non-dairy source. Dairy proteins are known inflammatory triggers in the gut, and can contribute to mucousy symptoms in the nose, sinuses and throat. I would recommend avoiding all dairy for 30 days to allow gut repair to happen. Most of our immune system is in our gut so it’s a great place to start.
Other triggers may include dust including house dust mite waste products. So what can you do to reduce the circulation of these microparticles?
Air your house often, yes even in winter, a fresh breeze can do wonders for cleaning up the air in your home.
Wash doonas regularly, change pillows annually, use a mattress protector.
Take your shoes off when you walk in to reduce dirt and toxins picked up from outside.
Some people regularly use essential oils to freshen the air, and these natural oils have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
How good is your nutrition? If you are deficient in certain nutrients it may take longer to get over a common cold. For example zinc is essential for good immune function. Zinc is naturally found in red meat, oysters and pulses. It is important to discuss this with your doctor if you are supplementing with zinc tablets as high levels can be dangerous.
Vitamin D has a multitude of good functions in the body including immune health. Ideally we can get this through sun exposure, however over the winter months a supplement may be of benefit as the strength of the sun is less over winter and it’s cold so we don’t get our skin out so much!
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can be found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables. Did you know that we are one of the few mammals on earth who cannot make vitamin C? So we are dependent on nourishing foods to supply enough vitamin C for our system.
And finally, I would include in any patient consultation or when looking at the health of my kids, that they are having enough sleep on a regular basis. Our bodies need enough sleep to regenerate, detoxify and maintain a healthy immune system. So for an adult aim to get eight hours of good restorative sleep most nights and your body will be able to work on any pesky bugs who may be responsible for a common cold.
If you are getting coughs and colds more often than usual, it may be wise to visit your health care provider to ensure your body, including your immune system, is working well.
So you may have heard of Restless Legs Syndrome….a neurological condition where someone has compulsion to move their limbs in order to feel relief. It most often happens in the evening or at night and can contribute to insomnia or poor sleep (sometimes without the individual realising this). Sometimes it is the bed partner who is most acutely aware of the restless legs!
Research over the past 20 years has suggested some of the causative factors at play include a lack of iron specifically in the brain, excess neurotransmitter activity during the day (dopamine in particular), and genetics.
When considering why someone may have a deficiency (lack) of iron in their brain, we would look into the following areas:
- What is their iron intake (food diary)?
- How well are they digesting their food?
- How well are they absorbing the iron in their food? Is there any competition for iron absorption in the gut….think microbes who often take iron before the human cells get access to it.
Restless Legs Syndrome can also be confused with leg cramps at night which can be due to common causes such as dehydration, lack of magnesium or potassium.
Finally ensuring an individual has a strong and balanced immune system is key (remember 70% of the immune system is in the gut) and stress management is very important to address in this area. Raised cortisol (from the adrenal glands), due to stress can suppress the immune system.
Please share this article if you know someone with restless legs. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/neurology_neurosurgery/centers_clinics/restless-legs-syndrome/what-is-rls/causes.html