LOLI gets some insight from Nada Milosavljevic, M.D., J.D. on stress-busters. Besides being
and an anti-aging
expert, she is
a skate-boarding, Psychiatrist & Integrative Medicine Physician.
Q: How does stress manifest in the body and mind?
A: Stress can manifest in a number of ways. Physically, we see it internally and externally. Internally, our major stress hormone, cortisol, kicks in. That’s the hormone primarily responsible for our “flight or fight” response. It causes a cascade of physiologic changes that include: elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate and respiration, as well as slowed peristalsis (intestinal movement in your gut to aid digestion), glucose is released into the bloodstream so your muscles can access it and speed your ability to physically react.
Externally, you will see a change in pupil size (they dilate), blood is shunted to the muscles and vital organs and away from the skin surface so you might appear pale. You may also experience sweating, dry mouth, and motor agitation.
In the brain, many changes occur as well. The “stress response” activates a number of hormones that cause downstream effects on the body. As we’ve already discussed, cortisol is increased but so is epinephrine. When under stress, a brain structure called the amygdala “hijacks” other areas of the brain involved in rational thinking, judgment, decision-making and initiates the stress response cascade.
there are many reasons why we need to engage in stress reduction practices to maintain good health
stress goes unchecked and becomes a chronic condition it can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, metabolic disturbance, obesity, diabetes, insomnia, anxiety
Q: What remedies for stress – in the mainstream ingestible and topical-care realm today – do you consider the least helpful? In other words, what are people doing that isn’t helping tham at all – and may be even harmful?
A: Unfortunately, many consumers who desire stress-reduction products find it difficult to discern a quality product from one that offers less benefit. Focusing on only one or two items and ignoring all the others on a product ingredient list is not the most effective way to choose. There can be a host of preservatives, additives, colorants, flavorings, and fillers that or not the healthiest choices.
Even if a product mentions a certain herb, some examples include: green tea, chamomile, passionflower, or valerian to name but a few, it is important to read through the entire list of ingredients. “Caveat emptor” or “let the buyer beware” is a good rule to follow. The more questions you ask, research you do into a certain product, and careful decision-making will help you choose the most appropriate product.
Q: From you acupuncture and integrative practices, how do you diagnose stress in the look of a patient’s skin, face and body?
A: In addition to a careful and detailed discussion of their symptoms I also look to physical signs that include: heart rate increase, elevated blood pressure, shortness of breath, stomach upset, headache, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating. On the skin and face: pallor (due to decreased blood flow to that area of the body), sweating, constricted pupils, cold/clammy skin, jittery/nervousness. Some individuals experience an increase in skin eruptions/breakouts when stressed so that can be another indicator.
Q: Does that pretty much old for everyone? Or is there a genetic component, i.e., that someone who has a Celtic heritage might “flare”
more under stress?
A: Those persons who are prone to Rosacea, which can be triggered by stress, may experience a more prominent skin response. There have been studies looking into a genetic component and there does appear to be a higher incidence in persons of northern European descent.
When Rosacea becomes active it may appear as a redness on the nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. Over time, it may manifest as blood vessels become more visible and in some, pimples and bumps may appear.
Q: What traditional herbal and floral remedies do you consider effective for combating stress? How do you suggest these be used? Just internally, or do you believe topical herbal poultices or baths are also effective?
A: Internal and external treatments for stress can be effective. The goal is to diminish the overactive or chronic stress response. Remember, stress does perform an important function in the body to help us mount a rapid response and take action in some way. Whether it be averting a potential danger, responding to a potential threat, or meeting a deadline, at work. Stress comes in many forms. The key is for us to mount that response and have it return to baseline, a calm state, after the event.
Each of us interprets external stimuli (stressors) differently. In the same way, there are many remedies for stress that we each respond to differently. The therapeutic approach becomes individualized and can be tailored to what leads to the greatest “stress-busting” effect for that particular person.
The goal is to attenuate, or diminish, the stress response. For some, certain herbal remedies are most effective. Others respond more readily to physical manipulation such as yoga, massage, aromatherapy baths, etc.
Q: In addition to tea, what are some of the other integrative steps you recommend to your patients who are experiencing major stress? (i.e., Mantra work, Sound Therapy, etc.)
A: There are a growing number of therapeutic tools to combat stress. Further, the research to support their use also continues to mount. In addition to teas and herbs, I also recommend acupuncture, yoga, sound therapy, exercise/physical activity,
and massage therapy.
Q: How do you help your patients strike a healthy balance between obsessing over harmful ingredients and just giving up “because everything
gives you cancer”?
A: As always, moderation and reasonable goals. The initial steps to incorporating an integrative program should not be an overwhelming and exhaustive list. One great motivator is to attain a goal, experience that sense of accomplishment, and then move forward to the next step or level. When you have a sense of mastery of the subject matter and then build on that foundation it increases the likelihood of continued success.
Q: Should we set small goals for ourselves, such as using our current chemicalized beauty products until they run out, and then swapping-in “clean” items (and DIY recipes!) one by one? Can we prioritize certain self-care activities -ie., Meditation – so we don’t feel so overwhelmed about “doing everything at once”?
A: Yes. And yes. One thing at a time, where you have a sense of control over the process and the changes being made is the least stressful way the start the process or transition. Again, any feelings of being overwhelmed are a sure fire way to minimize the chance of meeting goals and ensure long-term success.
Q: Besides triggering loss, what does stress do to our hair? Does it affect the texture at all?
A: It can contribute to hair loss but other changes as well. Over time, if stress becomes chronic and stress hormones remain elevated other physiological dysregulations occur. These physiologic disturbances can contribute to other vitamin, mineral, and metabolic deficiencies that may negatively impact hair. This can lead to continued hair loss, change in texture, loss of vitality (less shine, body). It’s important to keep in mind that the things we do to our bodies don’t occur in a vacuum. There is an interconnectedness metabolically and physiologically between body systems. So certain negative stimuli we expose ourselves to in the environment can have downstream effects
on our overall health.