How to deal with stress and adversity

I am writing this while on “holiday” this week, holiday when you have small children is a relative term.

Last week we talked about sustained inflammatory responses to bacterial infections. Ideally bacterial infections should be short and sweet, once we muster an immune response.

But the effect of inflammation even when its dropping down can still be present and have quite an effect on mood and behaviour.

Just ask my son.

“I want to go to the park…..”

“I hate the park…..”

“But I love you Daddy….”

“I don’t like you Daddy…”

“I don’t like anything….”


The last one is me.

The ability of small kids to perform to gain advantage is quite breathtaking.

His attempted manipulation of his parents and sister for his own gain are remarkable and without guilt.

His ability to turn on the waterworks at the drop of a hat are without parallel. Daniel Day-Lewis and his method acting can kiss Floyd’s posterior.

As my wife said, it’s probably too late for adoption, though we are considering a swap offer on a french bulldog next door (Eric is very loving, and has fabulous ears).

Anyway, Floyd isn’t normally the unreasonable twonk from hell, he is still a bit rundown, tired and inflamed.

You see, being inflamed is a great way to reduce your ability to cope with stress and adversity (in this context, “adversity” could range from his Father offering him a glass of water, buttering him a rice cake or putting on the wrong episode of ‘Paw Patrol’).

It’s part of a massive amount of research that all points to inflammation being a key driver of depression and anxiety.

In the Core Concepts in Chiropractic nutrition course we prefer the term mood and behaviour, because it doesn’t come with baggage of being purely a psychological issue, or an immediate need for a prescription.

It describes what is actually happening. Patients also tend to “become” their “disease”, it becomes part of their identify.

Something (often more than one thing) is creating mood and behaviour issues that are not ideal in the context of modern life.

“Have you been stressed recently” is one of GP’s favourite lines.

That’s a get out of jail card isn’t it ?

There is actually a 100% reliable test for recent stress that patients can do at home.

Take two fingers, lightly press them to the neck next to the throat, close to the jawline and if you can feel a regular throbbing (maybe 60-80 times a minute) then you will have experienced stress recently.

You simply can’t avoid it, but why do some people cope with stress while others completely collapse and fail?

Well, it depends on the source of stress and if its ongoing or not. However, from my clinical experience and research, my opinion is that it’s a combination of missing vital nutrients needed for the system to run efficiently and the most common “bad” stuff damaging the system which prevents normal system responses.

The most common “bad” stuff can be distilled into the FITS.

  • Foods
  • Infections
  • Toxins
  • Sleep

In other words, you will be in a state of sustained inflammatory response and less able to cope with the sympathetic response your body is trying to muster in response to adversity/stress if any of the following are regularly occurring:

You are eating a crap diet full of premade/processed food which contain toxins and lack vital nutrients.

You are harbouring a collection of unwelcome guests in your intestines and lack any of the good guys thus rendering you low in vital B vitamins.

You are loaded with toxins from non-organic food, mercury from tuna and tap water full of chemicals meaning you will have less vital nutrients.

If you go to bed late, find it hard to get to sleep and wake repeatedly, you will be tired (anyone who has had kids knows this is true – it only takes a few nights without good sleep and you are like a zombie on the edge of a nervous breakdown)

FYI sleep is one of the first things I look at on the ACN health questionnaire and look to fix if it’s an issue. It never ceases to amaze me how much better people feel, look, behave and respond to care when they are getting enough quality sleep.

Sleep Tip #1: The hours before 12 are worth double, so sleeping from 10-6 will be far more restorative than sleeping 12-8.

Those 5 magic words = “Go to bed before midnight!”

Sleep Tip #2: Tell patients when they come in from work to turn the mobile phone off and leave it charging in a room or area where they will not see it again till the morning and to buy an alarm clock.

Action to take today: Next time your patients are struggling to cope, the best solution is to get them to avoid/modify the stress. Failing that, where else in their life can they make changes to help make themselves more robust and more resilient to adversity.

For example, good quality fat, protein and vegetables can go a long way for some and help stop the hypo-glycemic drops in energy between meals. Or maybe they need vitamin D? Low vitamin D levels makes you inflamed and depressed.

And as always, don’t waste those valuable adjustments…

Speak soon


P.S. A great way to help patients view stress is to get them to watch and consider the content of this Ted Talk:

Kelly McGonigal does a good job of reminding us that stress is your body’s way of preparing us for action with a sympathetic response.

You don’t want it on all day long but if you are getting ready to do something important, you need to be ready and your body does a great job of priming you.

It’s well worth a watch, and right at the end @ 13.33 the host asks an interesting question and her response is excellent:

“Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort…”

“…go after what gives you meaning in life and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”