What is stress?

"Don't ask me to relax, my stress holds me together"


What's flowing into our bloodstream and how we feel physically and emotionally has an undeniable connection

I don't think there is such a definitive accepted definition of stress. But it certainly seems to have a very strong influence on our body and mind. A study showed that an estimated 40 million working days were lost each year in the UK as a result of stress. And more than six to ten visits to the doctors surgeries were also accounted for (1).
Stress is a natural mechanism that our body uses for survival, a healthy and much needed response to danger, and other events exposing us to risk. In order to understand stress, one needs to be aware of its mechanism in the first place. Then only can one recognise when the body is under stress, and address it in a more helpful way, to regain a balanced state again.

1- O'Hanlon, B., 1998. Stress- The common sense approach. Newleaf, New-York

The first system involved in a moment of stress is the central nervous system (our brain). There is an amazing mechanism put into place, allowing a set of hormones to be sent from our brain to our adrenal glands, as to release a warning signal to potential danger or fright. Our adrenal glands, are the two tiny organs lodged on the top of our kidneys (which if you want to know, are situated in your lower back region). I very often come across clients who complain of lower back pain, as they are going through a period of high stress (this is often related to overuse adrenals, pushing them to exhaustion).

So, the brain commands our adrenals to supply our "stress hormones" such as adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. Then the blood becomes a "high-speed boat service" to bring these hormones around the body so we can deal with the fright. We have very specific types of stress hormones which get released into our blood, so they can wake up the necessary organs that will make us react quick! They are simply the messengers to the body organs needed in order to react quickly to a threat.

These hormones are extremely powerful chemicals and once released into our bloodstream, they are on a mission! They must increase our heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory functions and the rest of the necessary resources needed toward fighting, running, exercising or some form of physical activity. Some of them are acting as a short term response (the adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones) while another one (cortisol) is here to stay.

This is the one I call trouble! Cortisol.... We need cortisol for survival, but too much of it for too long and it's bad news. Cortisol has the most powerful influence on us for survival, and it will do anything it can to keep your body going, even while you are asleep!
It will break down your muscle tissue and convert the proteins from the tissue into energy if it has to, but leaving some fat for you to use later, just in case you have no more fuel to run on. Yes, our body is that clever.

And your blood will be completely flooded with cortisol as long as your body is under that stressed signal mechanism.
These stressful-related events can be anything from:

  • Exposure to cold
  • Bleeding
  • Surgery
  • Infections
  • Injuries
  • Pain
  • Excessive amount of exercise
  • Emotional and mental stress

What's flowing in our bloodstream, and how we feel physically and emotionally has an undeniable connection. That is why I got into Live Blood Analysis as it gave me the visual tool I needed to connect the two, the food ingested and the stressful state I stayed in for too long, changing my blood's behaviour. Our white blood cells can overflow in our bloodstream if stress becomes chronic, sabotaging our health.

This situation brings our body into inbalance, and creates a domino effect as to simplify it, forming an acidic and inflammed environment, jeopardizing our food absorption and digestion for a start. It could even go further from an inflammed state, bringing you into a state of depression. Studies are now showing the relationship between chronic inflammation (pain) and depression (2).

2- Neuroscience Bulletin February 2015, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 61-74 Avaialbe at: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12264-014-1486-4

Once we recognise the nature of our stress, it is crucial to look at our lifestyle, and make the necessary adjustments to regain balance or else, this is a list of what we might be experiencing at some point in our life from cortisol's intoxication:

  • Ulcers
  • High Blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Muscle loss
  • Aging of the skin
  • Increased risk of bone fractures
  • Insomnia
  • Weak immune system
  • Prone to more viral infections
  • Daytime "brain fog"

The autonomic nervous system explained

The Autonomic nervous system has two mechanisms which are in constant motion throughout the day:

The sympathetic stimulus (“fight or flight”) prepares the body to deal with exciting and stressful situations, such as various emotions, physical effort, fear, embarrassment or rage.

Imagine walking in a park on a sunny day when suddenly an angry dog appears in your path. Do you stay and deal with the situation or do you turn and run away? It’s time for your sympathetic nervous system to take action and to use energy. Your blood pressure and heartbeats rise up and digestion slows down. This is when a lot of your oxygen supply is diverted to these systems away from your digestive system (who needs to have a digestive system in working motion while running).

The parasympathetic stimulus (“rest and digest”) slows down many body mechanisms but the digestive system, as this stimulus speeds up digestion and absorption of food. Therefore, the "rest and digest" stimulus, enhances the digestive process by allowing energy-supplying food to be digested and absorbed. Imagine being on your day off and walking in a park on a sunny day. You decide to relax and lie down on one of your comfortable blanket that you brought along. You are now switched onto the “rest and digest” mode and about to save energy. Your blood pressure and pulse rate decrease and digestion can start.

These two stimuli are needed in a balanced ratio in order to keep equilibrium on the body’s demand throughout life. Digestion will only take place properly if you are dominantly switched onto the “rest and digest” mode.


Short term stress will be harmless as the body will return to a balanced state pretty rapidly. But let it become an ongoing stress, it changes the body's way of coping with life. This might bring an array of issues on a physical and psychological level.

Chronic stress is one of the biggest toxic components of them all! It poisons our body and makes it malfunction. It sabotages everything we try to achieve. It makes life sometimes impossible, amplifying our emotions so we become overwhelmed and unproductive. It causes us to eat the wrong food and drink too much of the wrong type of beverages. It pushes us to a roller-coaster that is hard to snap out of. A vicious circle!

Chronic stress is distractive to the point that it stops us from finding the motivation of detoxifying! We need to keep our detoxifying mechanism into shape throughout life or else, our body gets extremely overwhelmed from it and becomes more toxic. Therefore, living in an environment such as London, requires one to take action and engage into a Detoxification protocol a few times a year or as often as our body requires it.

Each individual will need to tailor a Detox program relevant to their lifestyle.

Ideally, escaping London’s stressful environment with its fumes, gases and a diversity of temptations in every way, and enjoying a “back to nature” type of Detox retreat in a purer air, calmer, warmer and sunnier environment, would be the fastest and most rewarding way for a Detox to take effect to its maximum. But being part of the rat-race, one has to plan around such a way of living, not always being able to get away from it all.

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If you need anymore information, please, email or call me on 0207 247 7742 within the hours of 9.30am to 8pm Monday to Saturday,
I will be happy to answer any enquiries you might have.

Your therapist at 4 Balance and health, Edwige Cabanetos

Therapies offered at 4 Balance and Health are not substitutes for traditional medical care by your GP, they are complementary therapies that may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine. Should you be aware of any reasons why these therapies are contra-indicated to you or you have a serious health problem, please consult your GP prior to their use.