Doctor James on Health and Wellness

Common sense answers to your most burning health questions

Why Stress Ruins Your Health and Packs on the Pounds!

Posted by doctorjames on February 26, 2008

When we are born, we encounter stress with our first big breath. It is stress on our body for oxygen that actually makes us take a breath and open up those lungs for the first time. It is an amazing and beautiful moment as we here those first wonderful cries.Some stress is required for us in order to live. We need the stress of oxygen to make us breathe. We need the stress in the form of exercise to make our bodies stay healthy. The problem comes into play when we are exposed to stress day in and day out with no ability to relax.

Stress can present itself in many ways like physical, chemical, and emotional stress. First, lets talk about a more common type of physical stress.

Repeated physical stress causes microtraumas to the area most stressed. Let’s take the back for example. When we have repeated stress to our back we become prone to a back problem such as a disc bulge or herniaton due to microtears in the structure of the disc over time. When an individual develops a disc bulge or herniation, it is not an overnight thing. It is the result of repeated microtraumas. Microtraumas cause degeneration of the disc material causing it to bulge or herniate. Bulges and herniations occur with trivial traumas. For example, a person bends over to pick up a pen or a piece of paper, and know they cannot stand back up due to tremendous pain. The individual did not lifting anything heavy, he simply bent over! This is typical of a disc problem and is what is known as a trivial trauma. It was the last straw that broke the camels back per se. It was going to happen any day, it just chose that Monday morning as the day for it to occur.

Chemical stress comes in all kinds of forms including food, medications, vaccinations, tap water, pools, air pollution, hair dyes, shampoos, dry cleaning, make-ups, etc. Chemical stress stresses out our bodies by making organs and glands overwork to try to get rid of the toxins. Case in point, if you don’t have enough magnesium in an area of your brain, aluminum will compete for that spot. The aluminum attaches instead of the magnesium, which changes cell to cell communication. With food, we are bombarded by the stress of trans fats, nitrates, msg, dyes, and other additives and preservatives. Trans fats make the cell wall more rigid causing a break down in cell to cell communication. Nitrates turn into nitrites and nitrosamines which are cancer causing. MSG has been linked to changes in brainchemistry, and food dyes have been linked to perpetuating ADD and ADHD.

Emotional stress comes from many forms. Financial, marital, job, and relationship stress all produce emotional stress. Basically, most parts of our life stress us out at one time or another. We worry about this or that, even though we can’t control this or that, to the point that it begins to take over our body and our mind.

The problem with emotional stress is that it usually causes us to be hungry! The reason it causes us to be hungry is because of the release of a steroidal hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released from a gland on top of our kidneys called an adrenal gland. In the days of the saber tooth tiger, cortisol was released to put sugar into our blood as a survival mechanism in times of increased stress from fear or famine. It is an ancient survival mechanism that goes against us in times of plenty that we have today.

Here is how it works, you get stressed so you grab your bag of doritos and some dip. You begin eating the chips one by one, and pretty soon without knowing it half the bag is gone! Just like that, in a measly half hour period of time, tons of calories, chemicals, carbohydrates, fat, and minimal protein hit the stomach and small intestine. Since we don’t have room for all this excess, the body takes all of it and converts it to be stored as belly fat! We start to see our belly increasing in size and hop on the scale only to see that week to week we put on a few pounds. Our clothes begin not to fit as well, our face begins to show a second chin. I think we all know the rest of the story.

The reason we do this is because when we can’t use the sugar immediately from any type of food, it is converted to fat. The body converts sugar to fat because this is stored energy for later. Instead of just getting rid of it, our body holds on to it in case a tragedy hits us and we are faced with a limited food supply. Not likely to happen today in our world, but did happen 1000’s of years ago.

When we store our fat in our belly, we begin to create insulin resistance. Cells actually do not respond to insulin like it used to. Insulin is supposed to shuttle sugar into a cell from the bloodstream. Since the cells already have enough sugar, they turn off their receptors, and the sugar stays in the blood stream. So, the pancreas begins to think maybe it just hasn’t secreted enough insulin. More insulin gets secreted, and the sugar still stays in the blood stream causing high blood sugar. The pancreas keeps working harder and harder because it thinks if it secretes more somehow the sugar will go into the muscle cells. After a period of time, the pancreas wears out because of the cells being less sensitive to it. Now, at this point you are TYPE 2 Diabetic! Not a good thing at all, and something that was preventable through a simple lifestyle change.

Type 2 diabetes puts us at an increased rate of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and obesity. Obesity puts us at risk for increased cancer, sleep apnea, gastric reflux disease, osteoarthritis in the knees, hip, and back, various gastrointestinal issues, infertility, and impotence…just to name a few! Type 2 diabletes makes us age one and a half times as much compared to someone without the problem. Instead of aging 20 years, we age 30 in that same time limit! Not something any one wants to have happen to them in the age of beauty and glamourous looks.

As if increased blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides were not enough, our arteries become inflamed from tears and nicks in the lining of the artery. These little damages take place to the arterial wall ultimately leading to areas of scarring called plaques. These plaques lead to a “scarring” or the arterial wall. The scarring creates a bump due to inflammation of the arterial wall, which causes a narrowing of the artery.

When the artery narrows enough due to plaque formation it is called atherosclerosis or ateriosclerosis depending on the location. When this happens, blood can no longer flow through and it becomes blocked with a clot. When the artery becomes blocked, the tissue fed by that artery starts to die because of lack of oxygen. If this happens in your heart, it is called a heart attack, if it happens in your brain it is called a stroke.

The moral of the story is simple stress can end up creating a ton of health expenses and decreased quality of life. We need stress reduction techniques now more than ever. Take five minutes for yourself everyday to meditate or sit in a quiet room without worrying about anything! I know it is tough to do, but it can go a long ways to improve your health. Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Yoga, and Pilates are very good stress reducing techniques. Also, progressive relaxation can help you adapt to stress better so your body does not “tighten” up so much.

Now you know how emotional stress can lead to bad eating habits and fat deposition ultimately leading to blood sugar problems and the impending doom of stroke or heart attack. Is it worth it to you to spend a few dollars on yourself every year in the name of organic food, a healthy diet, good water, exercise, stress reduction, and health education?

I will let you decide your very own future, but don’t ever let me tell you I told you so! If you need help because you are suffering with anything that I mentioned above, we can help you. Please feel free to email me at with any questions. We can help you with your dieting, supplementing, and exercising needs.

Your health and wellness advocate,

Dr. James R. Haakenson

P.S. Remember that what you eat your children do too! We are in a childhood obesity epidemic. Please think about your children’s health and not if they will like this or that. Introduce fruits in vegetables by making it fun through the presentation…shapes, designs, etc. It will go a long way to improve their health!


2 Responses to “Why Stress Ruins Your Health and Packs on the Pounds!”

  1. Darrell said

    Very informative, good stuff. It is true that when you are overstressed all kinds of things get out of whack. Great suggestions for stress relief. I have found meditation and yoga great. I think anytime you get your mind and body in sync, it helps.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Deangeloqu said

    omg.. good work, guy

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