Coping With Stress – Do You Have What It Takes Nutritionally Speaking.
Stresses can be emotional, such as fear, sadness, anger, or even great joy and excitement. Stresses can be caused by competition – mental or physical. They can be environmental, such as heat, cold, forced immobility, imprisonment, flashing bright lights, and loud noise, whether continuous or sudden. There are also physical stresses, such as extreme exercise, hunger, pain, illness, injury, medical operations, and invasive medical tests. Although stresses differ markedly, our bodies respond similarly, with a literal cascade of responses at the molecular, cellular, tissue, organ, and organ-system levels. Such responses are stimulated by increased secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline and adrenal cortisone, which are often called the fright, flight, or fight hormones because they help animals and people to survive during threatening situations.
Stress hormones cause a sudden rise in magnesium-dependent reactions. Energy production, nerve-impulse transmission, increased muscle function, and responses of heart and blood vessels all require magnesium. There is an immediate increase in the use of magnesium, so our need for magnesium soars as we respond to stress. Thus, our reactions to acute stress really put our magnesium status to the test. During stress, magnesium is mobilized from available sources (stores) that are not life-maintaining – for example, as part of bone-surface minerals. The mobilized magnesium enters the blood, which carries it to the heart, where it helps provide the energy needed by the heart to pump more rapidly and strongly. It also supplies the increased magnesium our voluntary muscles require, for a short time, during times of stress. However, these temporarily elevated blood magnesium levels signal the kidneys that there is too much magnesium in the body. In response, they decrease reabsorption of the magnesium from the blood as it circulates through the kidneys, with the result that more magnesium is eliminated in the urine and less is restored to the circulating blood. This reduces the amount of magnesium in the entire body. If magnesium nutrition has been adequate, the body magnesium stores are sufficient to meet this sudden, usually short-lived, increased need. But if the body’s magnesium stores are too low, and the stress persists, the stress hormones begin to mobilize magnesium from even vital tissues, such as the heart, and the response to acute stress can become dangerous.
With prolonged stress-inducing conditions, the need for magnesium remains abnormally high during the body’s response to the sustained stress. Suboptimal magnesium stores can be exhausted. Even with seemingly adequate magnesium nutrition, there can be decreased resistance to chronic stress. It is possible to adapt to a condition of chronic stress, and once you achieve this, everything seems just fine for a while, sometimes for a long while. Such periods of adaptation to a stressful way of life can go on for years, and can delude a person into believing that living an extremely demanding and/or exciting life need not endanger his or her health or even survival. But the ability to adapt to stress can diminish, and if it does, irreversible damage can ensue.
Article By Mildred S. Seelig, MD., MPH and Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D.