So many of our health issues relate directly to one thing. Stress. If you look at the risk factors for heart disease, cancer, diabetes in people, you will see that diet is an issue, levels of exercise, and above everything else, stress. It’s not an easy one to measure so the research doesn’t detail much about it, but if we get real ourselves, don’t we all know that it’s a biggy?
Wild animals don’t have these issues, nor would we humans likely in the wild. Taking cancer as an example, our body would sort cancer out no problems. We have two main nervous system responses – a warm, fuzzy, cuddly one that allows all our maintenance processes to run optimally, and a scared or excited response that kicks in if we get chased by a tiger. The Parasympathetic, or the rest, digest and repair system is our maintenance programme, in which state our cells are growing and repairing, our food is digesting well, and our immune system is operating optimally. By contrast our Sympathetic, or fight, flight or hide system, response is designed to kick in when we need fast rapid action, eg in times of crisis, or when we are in danger of becoming dinner. In this state everything is prioritised to move – our immune system shuts down, we are not digesting food, and our cells are not growing or repairing – if we get caught by that tiger then it doesn’t matter much if we digested our last meal or whether we are brewing a cold. Our blood is all directed to our brain and major organs, especially our heart and limbs for running.
So it would not be ideal for us to by running in the Sympathetic nervous response most of the time, especially as there is no predator chasing us. And yet, that is exactly where most of us exist, most of the time – we use stimulants, such as caffeine, to get us going in the morning, which also gets our sympathetic system going. We then often launch into high stress lifestyles at work, eat nice calorie laden meals, and then watch thrillers on the TV and have fast, high friction sex, solo, or with a partner, ending in contracted, peak orgasm as the only way to be able to sleep at the end of a day spent almost totally on the Sympathetic nervous response.
Alongside this, our bodies are continually creating mutations in our genetic material, many of which do nothing, and then some that create DNA sequences and genes that lead to switching on of genes that control cell growth and division – unrestricted cell division leads to growths, some of which are benign, and others malignant, ie cancers. In a healthy system, where a person is operating in their maintenance state of the Parasympathetic, for all the times they are not in life-threatening situations, then their bodies will take care of these changes in genetic sequences – there are very effective systems that go along checking for mismatches and repairing anything that is not as it should be. Even if something gets past this system then other parts of the immune system are very effective at dealing with any growths that do develop. This is what happens when all is in balance. For someone who has not slept well, because they have been stressing about work (pumping out adrenalin), who starts their day with cigarettes and coffee (more adrenalin), who goes to work, struggling through rush hour and then spends a day feeling pressured at work (more stress, more adrenalin), comes home and eats rich foods (lots of dopamine, also stimulating sympathetic) and goes to bed, has a peak orgasm or two (more dopamine), gets a poor night sleep, and then starts the whole cycle again. All this time all the body’s maintenance programmes are being shut down and the body feels as if it is always under threat….
This is a fairly simplified explanation of what actually is happening in most people’s bodies most of the time, but it gives you a fair overview of what goes on. There are other hormones that are important in these processes than adrenalin and dopamine but the whole mix becomes a bit complicated and these are the main processes and why it doesn’t serve us at all to be stimulating our flight, fight or hide response most of the time….
The good news is that we can’t be in both fight or flight and also maintenance at the same time, so if we can bring ourselves into our parasympathetic response then we also bring ourselves out of our sympathetic response. One hormone, oxytocin, also known as the ‘love hormone’ or ‘hug hormone’ is released in our parasympathetic. How does it feel when you are angry and someone gives you just the right kind of hug – can you stay angry? And stroking will also induce oxytocin release. So those times when you are running on overdrive just try gently stroking your arm, or better still, get someone you love to stroke your back, and see how it feels. And maybe ease upon the caffeine, and sugar?