“Means of Life” is an inter-disciplinary approach to how everything is connected and to pin-point the difference between what we need and what we want.
We said previously that food and eating stand for nourishment, safety and filling a void and this makes it so enticing to use food as compensation to avoid feelings of lack and insecurity. In industrialised nations, food is generally available in abundance, cheap and well marketed, so that it is easy to come up with a conditioned reaction to a perceived lack or a frustration. Often times we think we “deserve” a good meal to compensate us for the disappointments of the day. Food and snacks are often times positioned as a treat and this is how we learn to override the instincts of our body in terms of being more selective of what we eat.
At this point in time it seems to be appropriate to speak about the impact of chronic stress on health and in particular the relationship of digestion and metabolism, as well as the disturbances caused by the imbalance of a stress reaction.
The most important truth in dealing with chronic stress and it’s impact on health is that there is not only one reason for disturbances and that the true causes are often deeply hidden within our personality structure.
Chronic stress is a lasting full-body response, that leads to an imbalance of the normal energy distribution. More energy is used for the purpose of defense – like heart and circulation, muscles and the brain. Other bodily functions, like digestion, the immune system and procreation are reduced. This is a normal distribution during a stress reaction, but under normal circumstances this is over with in a few moments and the balance is being re-achieved.
Chronic stress usually has many contributing factors – like lifestyle. lack of exercise, the wrong food, alcohol, nicotine, not enough sleep . but most importantly the biggest reason behind all of it is an inner conflict – a resistance to a reality we just want to avoid.
Resistance is the hallmark of stress. This is what stress-hormones do – they raise the resistance and it shows in an increased heart rate, tense muscles and a focused mind. Stress consumes a lot of additional energy and what happens is that the metabolism will be changed from storing energy to using it right away. The power-plant of the organism is the liver – this is the place where all the molecules that originate from food we are eating, are being split into their smallest particles as well as energy. Both, energy and particles are being used to create new energy and building-blocks for further use by the body.
But what happens during chronic stress is that the digestive system cannot properly break down food and so only inadequate quantities of nutrients will be transported to the liver. As the liver is also being provided for insufficiently, the power-plant will generate less energy than needed and it will shift the priority to extract quick energy by breaking down easily degradable foods, like sugar or fatty acids. Functions of storage or use of stored energy from carbohydrates and fat are being reduced, in favour of the use of the quickly available energy sources from the above sources.
This is the reason why people under chronic stress may actually gain weight and have a hard time losing it. The reason is not that they are not disciplined enough, the reason is that their metabolism is imbalanced and it shows in high levels of blood sugar (and associated cravings for sweets when it is dropping), as well as high levels of fat metabolism, in particular lipids and cholesterol.
There is a syndrome in medicine called ” Syndrom X” or “Metabolic Syndrome” and the aforementioned pathway is exactly what happens there. It is an imbalance of the metabolism due to chronic stresses and the clinical picture is marked by obesity, high blood glucose, high lipids and high blood pressure. The metabolic syndrome is one of the biggest risk factors developing a cardiac disease and the prevalence is estimated to be up to 25% of the population and it is a major cost-factor for the health system.
There are many factors that may favor a metabolic syndrome: genetics, environment, constitution, life-style are just a few. But more and more I understand that the metabolic syndrome is a manifestation of a life lived in resistance. It is the manifestation of a life lived in a chronic stress reaction with all the appropriate signs, like a screwed up metabolism, high blood pressure and the effects of a low energy balance, leading to symptoms of depression, disturbed sleep pattern and eventually to the affection of other organs or functions. The metabolic syndrome is a telltale sign of a life lived by the mandate of the ego, as opposed to flowing freely and joyfully in the stream of life.
To address a metabolic syndrome holistically is a very workable approach, provided the person who is showing the symptoms is open and ready for change. Often this is not the case and this is the reason why this syndrome is still making the life of so many people miserable. However, once a person is ready to face change, it does not take much to make them feel much better, energetic and relaxed. Often a simple routine of physical exercise, right type and quality of food, as well as relaxation techniques can lead to an enormous improvement on all levels. Eventually one has also to address the conflicts that often are at the bottom of such a massive disturbance of health and well-being, but this is something the individual has to decide for themselves.
The metabolic syndrom is an expression of a life lived “un-healthy” – in the sense of “un-holy”, not being in the flow of things and unaware of what we do to our body in order to please our mind, that whispers in our ears to make us believe we can control our life, if clearly – we cannot.
And in this conflict, chronic stress emerges and leads to the manifestation of diseases. No wonder, it seems so futile, to fight these chronic conditions with the help of drugs – which may be a great additional help, but of course can neither cure the disease, nor lead to a lasting improvement.