If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know I often write about the detrimental effects of chronic stress. Every day in my practice I see people who eat right and exercise, only to have their health ruined by chronic stress. I’ve come to realize that it’s much easier to make dietary changes or start an exercise program than it is to manage stress.

Studies suggest up to 90 percent of illnesses are linked to stress. Chronic stress triggers insulin resistance, increases belly fat, causes fatty liver, impairs your body’s ability to burn fat, and causes appetite dysregulation, which makes you hungry all the time and crave sugar. Chronic stress also weakens the adrenal glands and disrupts the entire hormonal system, which can ultimately cause disease.

Stress can be in the form of busy schedules, difficult relationships, negative emotions, illness, exposure to environmental toxins and poor dietary habits. That’s right, a common but lesser-known cause of chronic stress that can also affect the adrenals glands includes poor diet. Too much sugar, irregular mealtimes, digestive problems, and food allergies are stressors to the body.

Most high achievers and natural health experts agree that meditation is a game changer for overall physical and emotional health. If you’re like me (busy schedule, type A personality, children to care for, etc.), meditation can be challenging. I started by reading the book Buddha in Blue Jeans every evening (it’s a short read and a great introduction to sitting). The next step was investing in a meditation class taught by a seasoned instructor. It was well worth the time and money!

Full disclosure: I’m still working on developing a regular meditation practice. Some days I lack the focus or mindset to sit. Luckily I found an excellent substitute called HeartMath. It’s a real-time biofeedback device that works on your iPhone. The goal of HeartMath is to re-pattern your breathing so that you can quickly switch your nervous system from fight or flight (sympathetic) to rest and digest (parasympathetic). It’s a great device for those of us who have trouble quieting our minds using meditation.

In addition to meditation and HeartMath, you can de-stress with yoga, exercise, deep breathing, guided imagery, and warm Epsom salt baths. Find what works for you and stick with it! The dangers of chronic stress cannot be overstated.

Until next time, make every bite count!