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Women and Stress: How To Deal

In Women And Stress: What Stress Looks Like, I discussed four of the most common ways that high stress affects a woman’s body. In this article, you’ll learn about three more ways you may be stressing your body without even knowing it, and exactly what you can do about it.

The rise in your heart rate from reading that is a great example of the mental/emotional stress you typically think of. You stress about deadlines. You worry about your kids, friends, and loved ones. You quarrel with your significant other. You flip out when you’re running late and end up stuck in traffic—or behind the slowest person in the world at Starbucks. And you sometimes get worked into a cold sweat as you lie in bed, wondering how in the world you’ll get it all done tomorrow.

But the stresses that you probably aren’t even aware of are just as damaging. Here are the three most common ones:

1. Food Sensitivities

Think a little gas or bloating from pizza is nothing more than your jeans feeling a little snug around the waist? Uh-uh. When you eat foods you’re sensitive to, you create a wave of inflammation that not only does damage to your system on the first round, but inflammation combined with stress creates a vicious cycle that just keeps going and going (thanks to a little cytokine called Nf-kappaB).

The most common food sensitivities are: gluten, dairy (casein and whey), and soy. Other culprits include egg, the non-gluten grains (rice, corn, quinoa, etc.), and nightshades (tomato, potato, peppers, eggplant, etc.). But honestly, you can be allergic to anything. These may be the most common, but you could be sensitive to nearly anything — particularly foods you eat frequently. Chicken breast, anyone?

Don't let these common food allergens wreak havoc on you!

Don’t let these common food allergens wreak havoc on you!

Food sensitivities can be a bit tricky to track down. You can do an elimination diet like the Whole 30, or work with someone like me to help you sort through it. You can also get tested for food sensitivities.

I’ll be honest though…food sensitivity testing isn’t as good as it could be. If you have a wonky immune system like someone with Hashimoto’s has (and 1 in 8 women do), then most testing is not accurate for you as it requires you to have a normal immune response, which you don’t.

In my opinion, the best testing is through Cyrex because it tests both IgG and IgA, so you’ll get the most thorough assessment. What I’ve seen with other common testing (like Alcat) is that most people with digestive issues come up positive to loads of stuff, which really indicates gut hyperpermeability and not true sensitivities.

2. Over-Training

Over-training is an example of too much of a good thing. Too much exercise or not enough recovery (days off, foam rolling, sleep, etc.) can be very stressful.

If you find yourself not recovered from workouts after 24 hours, lacking motivation for another session, feel achy or looking puffy, starting to see more digestive symptoms (gas/bloating), breakouts, menstrual cycle changes or sleep trouble you could be over-training.

Even if your training isn't super intense, if you're not recovering properly, it could lead to "over-training."

Even if your training isn’t super intense, if you’re not recovering properly, it could lead to “over-training.”

How much is too much? You can’t look at what your fave fitness expert does or even what your girlfriend does and assume that’s what’s best for you, too. Listen to your body and be sure you’re doing enough restorative activities: walking, foam rolling, yoga—and of course, sleep!

3. Blood Sugar Swings

When your blood sugar swings up and down, it can create major problems within your body. Both situations create stress in your body as cortisol or insulin try to regulate your blood sugar levels.

Your blood sugar is meant to be in a tighter, more controlled range, and not swinging from high (i.e. after a sugary treat) to low (crashing after the high from the sugary treat). This can happen from eating a junk food diet, but it can also happen just by eating too many carbs or too few for your particular metabolism. You have to find what’s best for you.

The sugar swing, as I call it, can also simply happen when you have adrenal issues and you have a whole lot of trouble keeping your blood sugar up between meals. It can also happen when you’re insulin resistant and you have a tough time lowering it back down after eating.

I’m sorry there isn’t a perfect formula I can give you, but meal frequency and carb amount are totally unique to each of us. You have to find what works for you. Blood sugar swings, much like food sensitivities, cause a vicious cycle of inflammation and more cravings. As you try to normalize a low blood sugar with carbs, you’ll stress yourself in about an hour when your blood sugar tanks, and on and on it goes as you reach for the carbs again.

OK, OK… I know I said three ways, but I can think of at least three more!

4. Lack Of Sleep

I talked about this in my previous post about stress. In short: you need enough sleep! It may be nine hours for some of you, seven for others. However much it is that you need, you should wake feeling rested. If you don’t, your body is stressed.

5. Too Much Alcohol

Booze is a big stressor on your blood sugar and your hormones (particularly your estrogen/testosterone balance.

Many people use booze to cope with stress, when in fact, drinking too much can stress the body further.

Many people use booze to cope with stress, when in fact, drinking too much can stress the body further.

6. Nutrient Deficiencies

Your body is a complex chemistry lab, and for good hormone balance you need this chemistry to be humming along. The most common nutrient deficiencies are: protein (either from inadequate intake or poor digestion), zinc (30mg per day), magnesium (dose is highly individual, but try 400mg, three times daily), selenium (200mcg daily) and essential fatty acids (aim for at least 4 grams of fish oil per day).

There you have it! Six (not three!) ways you might be stressing your body out, and how to start fixing each of them. And please, please, please, do not let this list stress you out even more. Do what you can with the information you have. As I always say, “Between perfect and giving up, there’s BETTER.”

 

About The Author: Dr. Brooke Kalanick

Dr. Brooke Kalanick earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Known as “The Hormone Whisperer,” Brooke's balanced approach to health, using both conventional and alternative therapies, allows her to successfully treat patients with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and PCOS as well as other female hormone imbalances. Learn more about Dr. Brooke on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.