Christmas and New Year are said to be one of the most stressful times of the year and with it being National Stress Awareness Day today, a leading medical herbalist is warning that reaching for the medicine cabinet for stress busting pills may not be the answer to beating the stress factor for good.
With reports suggesting that stress and chronic ill health in the workplace costs £100bn a year, there is an increasing body of scientific evidence suggesting that the impact of long term stress can affect the body on many levels from the nervous system to hormones and physical illness.
In cases of long-term stress, the adrenal and thyroid glands are involved resulting in a decreased production of thyroid hormones and a weakening of adrenal function. This can cause depression and anxiety. In addition to the direct effects on the adrenal and thyroid glands, other hormones can be affected, including the ovaries and testes, which can result in reproductive disorders and lowering of libido; and the pancreas, which can lead to problems with blood glucose levels.
“Stress-related thyroid and adrenal dysfunction often have other wide ranging effects that impact on the immune, cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Compromised immune function, impaired blood glucose regulation, frequent pain and headaches further add to the feeling of constant fatigue and being run down. Normal sleep patterns may also be affected, further compromising the individual's health. Stress-related thyroid dysfunction can also cause weight gain in some patients,” explains Deborah Grant, a leading medical herbalist from the world-renowned Hale Clinic in London.
A person who regularly suffers from allergies, infections, constant fatigue or lethargy may be suffering from, or have an increased risk of suffering from, adrenal and thyroid insufficiency. But reaching for the latest prescription medicine may not be the best solution, warns Grant.
“Prescription and over the counter medicines for stress are often designed to treat symptoms of stress but do very little to tackle the underlying cause of that stress. They may provide a brief spell of symptomatic relief and you may feel less anxious or lighter for a while, but ultimately if the underlying issues are not dealt with, the symptoms will only return,” says Grant.
Herbal Medicine can help tackle the underlying cause of stress by restoring adrenal function, maintaining normal thyroid function, regulating blood glucose levels and modulating the immune system. Normal digestive function is restored and patients report an increase in energy and better mood.
Patients usually start to feel better after taking their herbal medicine for 10-14 days. When the aims of the treatment plan have been met, it can be beneficial to take just a maintenance dose, if necessary, to help maintain health.
“Everyone is different and therefore each person responds differently to stress which is why it is better to see a qualified herbal specialist who can tailor the prescription to your unique needs rather than trying to ‘self-treat’ as things such as diet and lifestyle can also be factors. This is a more effective way of treating stress than by simply giving a 'standard' prescription,” says Grant.
By Deborah Grant BSc (Hons)
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