Dr. Jodi Nishida
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
April is Stress Awareness Month and a great opportunity to talk about the different types of stress in today’s world. Stress has potent effects on blood pressure, heart health, blood sugar and body fat. Stress changes the hormones that our bodies secrete. I always tell people that diet and stress are the two biggest factors in overall health because they directly affect the “environment” that you exist and basically marinate in.
Let’s pretend that our bloodstream and everything in it (red blood cells, white blood cells, immune cells, hormones, inflammatory mediators, etc.) is our sauce. By choosing the right foods and effectively managing stress, you can create a healing, positive sauce that your body thrives in. Conversely, by eating badly and existing in constant negativity and stress, your sauce becomes toxic and unhealthy. Yes, you can influence your sauce and it’s important to have awareness around what affects it.
Many articles have been written on stress. All you have to do is Google the word “stress” and hundreds come up. Mental stress is the first type that most of us think of. Mental stress encompasses work, school, parenting, juggling responsibilities, busy schedules, demands on our time and finances.
Emotional stress involves negative emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt, shame, fear, worry, relationships and strong responses triggered by memories of things that happened in the past.
Physical stress includes acute pain, chronic pain, intense physical labor, sleep deprivation, injury, surgery, illness and infection.
There is a fourth type of stress that’s becoming alarmingly prevalent: nutritional stress. This one is a doozy because it contributes directly to the development of medical conditions over time. Nutritional stress is a direct byproduct of today’s food industry and all the misinformation that crosses our paths. It can be described as an onslaught of toxins in the human body in the presence of malnutrition. Most of us look at each other, shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m not malnourished.” Yet most of us are. Being overweight or obese is actually a sign of toxicity and malnourishment. We are long past the 1980’s image of malnutrition where famished Ethiopian children would flash on our TV screens. A lot has happened with food since then.
I am a huge proponent of giving our bodies what they need to function properly. In last month’s article, I focused on amino acids, vitamins and minerals. We need these things to perform the seven processes of life – movement, respiration, digestion, excretion, growth, reproduction and sensation. Most people don’t know that 90% of the world is protein deficient. That is a staggering statistic. And because so many of us eat poorly, the supplement industry has exploded.
The other day I was trying to pinpoint the exact decade in which we became so dependent on over-the-counter supplements. It’s eye-opening to step back and look at how unhealthy most of America eats and then try to “fix” by taking vitamin and mineral supplements. As proof, all one needs to do is open the Costco coupon book and Costco magazine. Almost 50% of their content is supplement sales and ads. If only nutrition was that easy. There is no magic pill.
The second component of nutritional stress is toxicity. Toxicity happens when we eat or drink convenient foods, packaged foods, fast food, snacks, sweets, baked goods, frozen meals, desserts, alcohol, nicotine or illicit drugs. When you eat and live this way, your body becomes overloaded with sugar, chemicals, preservatives and inflammatory oils leading to digestive issues, weight gain, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, organ damage, food intolerances, low energy and numerous other symptoms from head to toe. Our body can only filter out so many toxins in a day. Everything over that threshold becomes stored in our organs, tissues and body fat.
Let’s get back to our sauce and how we can change it from unhealthy to healthy, toxic to life-sustaining and diseased to nourishing. In terms of diet, simply start by reducing foods that turn into sugar: rice, breads, pasta, potatoes, baked goods, snacks, desserts, beverages like juice, soda, sweetened coffee drinks, etc. Cut all of it in half. Reduce the number of times that you go through a drive-thru or order a plate lunch by half. Reduce your alcohol consumption and tobacco or drug usage. Eat like our ancestors did – proteins and vegetables. Learn how to cook so that you’re not reliant on fast food, frozen food and takeout.
With inventions like the Air Fryer, everyone can cook! All you have to do is push a button. Improving what you consume will greatly reduce the amount of toxins circulating in your bloodstream. Ahhh … the sauce is already getting better.
Now that we’ve started to create an awareness of food, let’s create awareness around mental and emotional stress. Ask yourself this question: In my life, what upsets me the most right now? Sit there for one to two minutes and think of some of the details. Now focus on your breathing. Has it changed? How about your heart rate? Do you feel it increasing? Notice if any parts of your body are tensing up. It might be your brows, your mouth, the muscles behind your neck or a slight clenching of your hands. Write down how your body just responded to stress. As soon as you take note of what’s happening, take two to five minutes to breathe deeply, relax, and get centered again. You might need to get up and walk around, look outside, listen to music or a calming app on your phone. Now write down what worked effectively to relax you. This is an exercise in mindfulness and awareness.
The human body has immediate, noticeable responses to stress. It’s extremely valuable to understand how your body responds. Left unchecked, acute stress turns into chronic stress and can result in a sauce filled with anxiety, panic attacks, depression, pain, headaches, GI distress and other things. Reducing stress is a daily practice that gets easier over time and is completely worth it.
I hope this article helps you to think of stress and your health in a different way. What you “marinate” in every day all day long can be the difference between health and illness. Work a little every day to make the positive changes that’ll give you the secret sauce.
Dr. Jodi is a Doctor of Pharmacy and accredited Metabolic Healthcare Practitioner who’s been in healthcare for over 25 years. After experiencing the ketogenic lifestyle’s effect on her own autoimmune condition, she decided to build a keto-based medical practice so others could benefit from it too. Over the last few years, she’s helped almost 1000 patients realize the benefits of clean, medically-guided keto.
With certifications in ketogenic nutrition, cardiovascular disease management, pharmacogenomics, and medication management, she works closely with each and every patient to tailor keto to their medications, medical conditions, lifestyle and socioeconomic situation. Dr. Nishida is also in training for processed food addiction recovery. To learn more, or to contact Dr. Nishida, visit her website at theketoprescription.com.
The content of this column is not meant to be medical advice. Please consult your doctor before starting any diet or lifestyle change and understand that there is no blanket approach to keto. Keto should be tailored to each individual through the guidance of a trained professional.