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 Naturopathic Medicine: 6 Steps for Handling Stress  
Lauri Aesoph M. ND ©

Habitual alcohol use can lead to abuse and serious health problems like cirrhosis of the liver, brain damage, gastritis, pancreatitis, peripheral neuropathy and lowered resistance to disease. While it's true that moderate drinkers have a lower incidence of coronary heart disease, this doesn't eliminate other health risks. Chronic drinking can, however, cause other heart problems like alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

Malnutrition is a risk when alcohol is your soother. Because alcohol is a high calorie drink, you eat less. Long-term or heavy drinking may cause inflammation of the intestine, stomach or pancreas thus disrupting digestion and nutrient absorption. When the liver is affected, so is vitamin activation (Scientific American, 1976, March). Stress hikes your nutritional needs; alcohol reduces nutrient availability.

Step 5. Stressful Eating
Food isn't something you probably associate with stress. But what and how you eat has a direct impact on how you feel (and stress often affects the foods you choose).

Irritability, sleeping troubles, indigestion, fatigue--all these symptoms can be due to stress. Diet is also a factor. So if you adjust your eating habits, chances are you'll feel better and be set to make other stress-reducing changes.

Your body likes routine. Like sleep, plan meals and snacks at regular times throughout the day. It would great if we could all just eat when we're hungry, the healthiest way to go. But busy lives don't allow this. Instead, we tend to put off eating when chores or stress intervene, or we eat out of frustration or fatigue.

A regular meal schedule allows you to relax before eating which aids digestion. Carry this leisurely attitude to the dinner table. Enjoy your meal, each taste and the texture of your food and the people you're dining with. Notice when you're full and stop eating. Eating too fast or too much is stressful too.

Busy times require planning. Besides setting up regular mealtimes, map out a week's worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Include lots of fruits and vegetables (a minimum of five servings of both each day), lean toward whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread and pastas, and keep your protein at a good level with lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, beans and legumes, and even dairy.

Avoid sweet, fatty snacks during breaktime or late at night. Even though they taste good and seem to ease stress, too much sugar and fat do more harm than good. Although recent studies show that carbohydrates (of which sugar is one) calm most people down, long-term too many sweets add to your stress, not decrease it.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can mimic stress with irritability, shaking, and apprehension. For this reason refined sugar should also be avoided by anyone prone to anxiety or under a great deal of pressure.

Too much sugar or saturated fat increases your susceptibility to illness. Excess fat can lead to constipation, increase your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, not to mention add weight; on the other hand, make sure you're getting enough of those essential fats found in nuts, seeds, fish and healthful oils like olive and canola. Salty foods deplete potassium, a mineral necessary for proper nerve functioning, so should be eaten sparingly.

The more your body has to handle, the more it relies on what you feed it. Stress ups nutritional needs. So poor food choices not only fail to meet your daily requirements, but can compound the problem. Elect, instead, to nourish your body with wholesome food, loving people, exercise, rest and plenty of TLC.

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