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The Effects of Stress

"The emotional response to an extremely negative event." The Psychological Association

In-the-moment responses to such events are a normal part of our nervous system, which triggers what’s typically recognised as the ‘Fight/Flight’ response, activating the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) which is the primary system involved in the chemical changes that occur during Fight/Flight. The SNS kicks in, and as soon as the trauma has passed, the body normally settles and goes back to homeostasis within about an hour.

However, the situation can be compounded when the effects are such that they linger long after the trauma. When emotional trauma goes unhealed, the nervous system is in a constant state of heightened stress where the SNS is turned on virtually all the time. In this state, adrenaline and noradrenaline-stimulating mechanisms within it will not only alter genetic code, but damage gut function as well.

Heightened stress causes blood to rush away from the digestive tract and head to the vital organs to provide fuel for fighting or fleeing. The digestive response is not needed if there's a tiger on the tail, so it literally shuts down, while also being a major instruction to empty the bowel. Long term stress means a long term reduction of blood supply to the digestive tract and also a lack of gastric secretions, seriously leading to poor gut health.

Numerous studies have connected stress with lower immune function and higher incidences of disease in general, with the genetic alteration leading to a number of processes:

  • activation of inflammatory responses
  • inhibiting of immune responses
  • reduction in the cytotoxic function of natural killer cells
  • inhibiting DNA repair

With so much potentially going on, a weakened immune system can get overrun and worn out. When that happens it becomes deficient (immunodeficient) – it won’t respond well enough or stand up to the incoming threats. With all this in mind, we need to help the immune system in as many ways as possible – it's not about just ramping up the killer cells, it’s all got to work in harmony like clockwork. There’s that balance word again.

The immune system needs fuel, and orderly instructions to operate properly, to work as an efficient balanced system. This covers everything from hormone balancing to liver detoxing, from making sure the lymphatic system is draining and the eliminatory organs are operating, not to mention maximising cellular respiration to create a healthy environment for those essential killer-army white cells to stay energised and do their job.

Our role is to help keep the whole immune system strong enough to adapt to all situations. So how do we do this? Simple - it's the 3-stage Alleviate/Detox/Fortify programme again. Alleviate the symptoms, Detox the toxins and acid out, Fortify with nutrients. And for this we need Micronutrients.

See our Stress page in Equine Herbal Nutrition by Category for the full story on Stress.