Integrative Health Blog

What Stress Can Do

Posted by Autumn Frandsen ND on Mon, Aug 19, 2013

stress_management_integrative medicine

When a new patient comes into my office for their initial visit, I ask them everything under the sun so I can get a good handle on how their lifestyle impacts their health.

One of the most important questions I ask is, “What is your stress level”?

Most of the patients either say that they have a stressful job, a stressful relationship, or no more stress than usual. The latter generally sends up a red flag for me. If a patient is so used to dealing with stress that they refuse to acknowledge a tough situation, chances are their body is constantly in sympathetic overdrive. While it is often considered a valuable skill to be able to multitask and “keep your cool”, it can often lead to health problems down the road.

Emotional stress, mental stress, and physical stress all negatively impact the body’s ability to function properly and to heal. Physical stresses include poor diet, structural misalignment, inactivity, over activity, alcohol and drug use, pollution, and many other things. Emotional stressors can be both present and past events, interactions, and abuse. Mental stress is generally easier to pinpoint, whether it is job related, family related or traffic related, etc.

Any type of stress can lead to physical problems and preexisting physical stress can cause an avalanche of other physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Below are some examples of what can occur, which is the reason I want to look at the "whole person" for a thorough assessment.

Physical Problems Related to Stress

  • Increase in stomach acid leading to gastrointestinal upset and ulcers.

  • Adrenal fatigue/exhaustion leading to dizziness, inability to think clearly, insulin resistance, and disruption of the hormone cascade.

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Headaches

  • High Blood Pressure

  • Muscle pain, joint pain, arthritis

  • Autoimmune conditions stemming from allergic stressors such as food and chemicals.

  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Depression, due to the body’s desire to decompress

  • Crohn’s disease: many of the patients I see with this condition have some underlying mental or emotional trigger that the body deals with as a physical reaction.

  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Electromagnetic Sensitivity due to an up-regulation of the sympathetic nervous response.

  • According to Chinese philosophy, repressed anger can lead to liver issues manifesting as itchy skin, toxic build-up, headaches and insomnia.

Finding ways to reduce the body’s stress is imperative but can often be difficult due to our poor coping mechanisms and lack of awareness of what is bad for us. Foods that we eat everyday may not make themselves apparent as allergens and can be causing immune reactions every time we eat them. Emotions we don’t take time to acknowledge can express themselves through our physical bodies and that one extra task that we force ourselves to handle may just be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Don't Forget to Breathe

If I could give just one word of advice it would be:  BREATHE.

In that breath we take the time to replenish our cells, contemplate an emotion, and take a much needed break. All in the five seconds it takes to inhale and exhale deeply. That is the one treatment a person can try at home, at the grocery store, at work, in the car, medically unsupervised, without worrying about whether that is what their body needs.


Dr.FrandsenAutumn Frandsen N.D. is a Naturopathic Physician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Her philosophy is to use the least invasive and effective method to bring balance back to the body and restore health, while educating the patient on how to maintain it. Her areas of focus include Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities, Anti-Aging, Cancer Co-Management, Dermatology, Heavy Metal Detoxification, Hepatic Dysfunction, Immune Dysfunction, Insomnia and Men’s Health.

Topics: depression, stress