Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Sorry doc. I can't come see you today. I'm sick!"

I normally hear that statement from time to time, but this year it seems as though that phrase is thrown my way much more often. 2 thoughts immediately come to mind. First, why the heck are so many people getting sick this year compared to others? Second, how ironic is it that a patient says they can't come see the doctor because they or their kids are sick?

As I sat in my chair this morning, my mind began to wander. I began to think about the first question in particular. It seems like people are getting sick left and right at a much higher rate than usual. Now, I haven't done any formal research, that is strictly an observation. Why are people, in general, getting sicker and sicker? Why has this past year seem like the worst it's been in a long time? I have a theory with a very simple explanation.

Are you ready? My answer can be given in one word...............STRESS!

I know most of us blow off stress because everyone has it, but this is some really serious stuff. This past year has been filled with nothing but stress for all of us. The economy, the stock market, layoffs, etc. Pick your poison because there's plenty to go around. All this on top of our normal every day stuff we deal with. All of this stress adds up.

Our bodies are designed to cope with stress through the use of certain hormones. Back in the day when we were cruisin' through the forest looking for food and a tiger jumps out, our body should immediately pump out stress hormones that divert blood and oxygen away from your gut and out to your muscles so you can fight off or run away from it. Once you are removed from that situation then your body is supposed to stop producing them and all goes back to normal. Your body is only designed for short term exposure to these hormones.

Fast forward to today. Now we are working 50 to 60 hours a week, paying bills non-stop, helping the kids with homework, coordinating after school activities, maintaining relationships, maintaining our houses and cars, and dealing with all the new problems the bad economy has brought on each of us. Hopefully by now you are seeing how stressed out our bodies are.

So what does that have to do with our health? A LOT!

Our bodies are chronically producing the stress hormones just so we can make it through each day. This spells bad news for several systems in the body. There is definitely too much of a good thing here.

Recently, there was a bandwagon for cortisol with respect to weight loss. Cortisol is one of the main stress hormones in the body. Over exposure to it has a looooooooong list of side effects. It can cause high blood pressure, lead to type 2 diabetes from messing with your bodies ability to regulate blood sugar, cause hormone problems as it interferes with estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, cause trunkal obesity, and depresses the immune system. Those aren't all the side effects, just some of the major ones.

It's funny because that list actually describes the general population and the problems we are seeing more often. Oh yeah, high cholesterol is in there as well.

So let's bring it home. The collective "we" have greatly increased our stress level this past year and one of the first things that most people cut out are those things we do to improve our health. I'm talking about gym memberships, vitamins, and organic fruits and vegetables. So stress levels go up and healthy things go down. Even if we don't stop the normal healthy things we do, the scales are still tipped on the stress side because of all the new stuff.

The more stressed your body is, the easier it is to get sick. Getting sick now costs you more money because you have to take time off work and pay for doctor visits, and pay for medications. Now when the company looks over their list of employees they have to lay off, will they be more inclined to keep someone who uses all their sick days and then some plus all the insurance claims leading to a higher premium to the company, or will they keep the employee who rarely uses their sick time and never goes to the doctor? I'm just trying to be real and not rain on anyone's parade.

It is very important now, more than ever, that you keep your body healthy. You have to find ways to tip the scale back in favor of health to counter balance the stress and its affects.

A lot of my patients have told me that they missed the flu while the rest of their family passed it around. Some that did get sick have told me they only felt the affects for a day or so while others were down for a week or two. It's no accident that people under regular chiropractic care get sick less often. Your immune system is a direct extension of the nervous system and there is no point where one ends and the other begins.

The theme here is if you do not incorporate changes to your lifestyle to counterbalance the stress in your life, you will begin to experience a downward spiral of health. Be sure to drink at least 1 quart of water a day for every 50 pounds of body weight, eat your fruits and vegetables, do some type of exercise continuous for at least 20 minutes, and by all means get adjusted from time to time.

As always I look forward to your comments....

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