Fundamentals of Health

Stress vs. Relaxation (Emotional Stress)

The classic example of stress is going for a hike and encountering a bear.  Your body goes into survival mode, gearing up to run or fight to save your life.  If you are being eaten by a bear, there is no reason for your body to put any energy into detoxification, digestion, reproduction or into your immune system.  Instead, it shunts that energy into your heart, lungs, eyes, and muscles to best equip you to save your life. This is all good if you are being eaten by a bear.

Typically, our day to day stress does not require us to run our fight for our lives, however, we exist in an environment that causes the same physiological changes.  We use HRV to monitor the overall stress on the nervous.  HRV has been typically used by cardiologists to monitor a person who has had a heart attack to see if they are likely to have another.  Cardiologists know that stress is bad for the heart because it makes it beat harder and faster.  It is a sign the nervous system is running on overdrive rather than resting.

Natural Stress Response

  • Danger appears in the environment.
  • We are enabled to run or fight to save our lives.
  • We run and/or fight to survive.
  • Then we sleep well and recover from the day’s activities.

Typical Stress Response

  • Danger appears in the environment.
  • We are enabled to run or fight to save our lives.
  • We sit at the computer for longer hours.
  • Then we have sleeping problems and do not recover, and get a little bit unhealthier each day.

The difference between the two is exercise.  When you are stressed, your body gears you up for exercise.  This resets the stress response.  It was what the body expects.  The body will encounter stress and it is therefore our response to stress that matters most.  We need to move (covered below).  But, we also need to rest.

In an ideal world, we would all be in tune with the sun and we would be active when it is light, and rest when it is dark.   Getting an adequate amount of sleep is the best way to recover and rebuild health each day, day in and day out.  Try to go to bed early enough that you do not require an alarm clock. This ensures you will have sufficient REM sleep.

We also need to rest during the day.  We need to rest our postural muscles.  Our body was not designed to sit.  Sitting is not adequate rest because postural muscles are still engaged.  This leads to chronic muscle tension, which often leads to headaches, neck, shoulder, and back pain.   Try and make time to lay down during the day, and possibly doze off, even if just for a few minutes.


Fitness vs Injury  (Physical Stress)

Your body was built to be in motion.  When it is not, it breaks down.  The basic design of your body is that you should be out walking around, pushing, pulling, and carrying items like food, water, and shelter. You need to walk, stand, and lay down more.  You need to sit less.  Many systems of your body require motion to remain healthy.  Become engaged in an active hobby that is fun.  Use technology or journaling to quantify how much you are moving.

Besides walking, you need to work.  You need to push, pull and carry.  Since we don’t hunt and gather food, we need to lift weights.  And, if you sit at a computer or day, or do repetitive motions, you should lift weights in a way that counterbalances how your body may be negatively adapting to these environments.  A typical computer worker needs to focus less on biceps and chest muscles, and switch to triceps, upper back and core.

Additionally, your body is built for explosive movements needed to catch food or save your life in times of stress. So, occasionally, you need to do more than walk or rest.  You need to sprint as if your life depended on it.  This is one of the reasons I am a big fan of team sports.  I have played ultimate Frisbee since 1992.  Many team sports require moments of total physical exertion, followed by adequate rest.  To the victor goes the spoils! The body rewards itself for surviving physical exertion by releasing growth hormone during REM sleep.  This is our own internal fountain of youth.

You need to avoid trauma.  Don’t get hurt.  Wear helmets and seat belts for example.  Don’t take risks that involve physical danger.

Nutrients vs Toxins (Chemical Stress)

Oxygen is the most vital nutrient to the body, followed by water.  Make sure you breathe clean air.  Don’t smoke. Make sure you are drinking plenty of clean water.  The #1 cause of daytime fatigue and headaches is dehydration.  You have to do the basics right.

You should consider food as your body’s fuel.  Your body runs most efficiently when you give it the fuel it expects. We recommend focusing on vegetables, fruits, tubers, eggs and grass fed meat and fish. Seek out foods high in fat like fish, nuts seeds, and avocados.  Choose a wide variety of animals and plants for protein fat and carb and vitamins minerals antioxidants fiber and water. Eat many small meals per day as if foraging or eating food that doesn’t spoil in room temperature.  Avoid foods that come in a box, bag, can, or wrapper.  If it has an ingredient list, it probably is not as healthy as whole foods.

Also, it is very natural to overeat, occasionally.  Just as it is normal to fast, occasionally.  Before supermarkets and restaurants, food availability was random.  Some days there was plenty, others days, it was scarce.  Additionally, food was seasonal.  So, vary your diet.  Try and eat locally grown food.  .  Have a “mardi gras day” a few times per month.  Consider skipping dinner once in a while.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that many people are deficient in.  Vitamin is manufactured when our skin is in sunlight. Vitamin D is protective for many types of cancer.  We avoid sunlight for fear of cancer.  It is a good idea to get sunlight every day, just don’t get burned.  Even though we get a ton of sun here in Colorado, Vitamin D must be supplemented due to our geographical location.

It is pretty obvious that you should not ingest poison.  But, many times, it is hard to decide what a poison is.  For example, trans-fats are used to preserve foods.  Trans-fats have been shown by research to lower your good cholesterol and raise your bad.  Dr. Moyer recently represented the American Heart Association, providing medical testimony to remove trans-fats from Colorado public schools.  (Senate Bill 68 went into effect Fall 2013)

Our body’s are amazing machines that can protect us from poison.  We have built in detoxification systems.  However, pollutants in the air, water, and food we drink overwhelm these systems.  And, these systems require energy.  So, if we are constantly detoxifying, there is less energy for repairing, rebuilding, and maintaining health.