How stress affects the body
Life is stressful, and stress is almost unavoidable in the fast-paced, demanding lifestyle of today. The body naturally responds to stressful situations through releasing the hormone cortisol, and initiating the ‘fight or flight’ response, which helps us to make decisions in these situations. However, when stress occurs for long periods of time, and our bodies are constantly in this state of ‘fight or flight’, this can develop in to other conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, headaches, digestive issues, anxiety and depression.
In Chinese Medicine
In Chinese Medicine, stress slows and disrupts the circulation of substances through the body, namely Qi and Blood*. The Liver* is responsible for maintaining the smooth flow of Qi, which is why Liver Qi Stagnation is one of the most common diagnoses we make when we see patients with stress. Common physical symptoms we will see for Liver Qi Stagnation include muscular tension (especially of the neck and shoulders), headaches, discomfort in the sides of the ribs and chest tightness. Other symptoms occur as a result of secondary damage to other body systems, which all become affected when our Qi is not circulating as it should. Digestive symptoms such as loose or hard bowel motions, as well as sleep problems, a lack of energy, depression, anxiety and feelings of heat may also occur with excessive stress.
The relationship between stress and these other symptoms is through the organ-channel relationships and interconnectedness of the body’s systems that is seen throughout Chinese Medical theory. This ancient, holistic view of the body only makes more sense as stress and mood disorders become more prevalent in modern society. Many are beginning to opt for natural relief alternatives such as acupuncture and herbs to relieve symptoms of stress and relax the body and mind.
How can Chinese Medicine help?
Scientific research has been performed to investigate the calming effect that many people experience with acupuncture. It has been suggested that acupuncture stimulates the release of and alters the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which assists in emotional regulation. A study performed in 2015 by Bosch et al. found that acupuncture is effective for improving quality of life, sleep and mood in people suffering from depression. In my treatments, I work with my patients using a combination of acupuncture, herbs, auricular acupressure and lifestyle advice to help them through the hard times and back on their feet.
*Note- Organs and substances mentioned in this report relate to the Chinese Medicine understanding of Blood or organ-channel system function, not the Western biomedical concepts. As such, unless there is a Western Medical problem, the organs mentioned in this report are unlikely to show up in blood tests or ultra sounds showing dysfunction.
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The mind is just as important as the body in health.