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Stress – How Does It Affect Our Health?

Stress is something we are all confronted with every day of our lives. Stress as a specific medical term was first defined by the endocrinologist Hans Selye in 1936 as the physiological adaptive responses to perceived (psychological) or real (physical) threats (“stressors”) to an organism.1,2 There are different types of stress such as psychological stress, physical stress and oxidative stress. All three of these are connected physiologically and how we handle stress may be determined by previous experiences and by our biochemical make-up. It has been shown that there are 50 common signs and symptoms that occur when we experience stress, and these involve several systems of our body, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, nervous, immune, etc.

The HPA Axis is a physiological pathway that is highly associated with stress and this pathway is affected by hormones, medications and an individual’s nutritional status. There is an old saying which comes first the chicken or the egg. This is also true when we are considering nutritional status and how it may affect our ability to deal with stress. For example, if you have a zinc deficiency you are more likely not to handle stress well due to the fact that zinc is related to serotonin production and this neurotransmitter helps us relax.3 On the other hand, when we encounter a stressful situation a group of hormones known as stress hormones (cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine) become elevated and they can cause our blood glucose levels to rise as a result of their effect on our insulin receptors. As we experience elevated blood glucose levels our magnesium status may be affected in the sense of increased urinary loss and then we experience magnesium deficiency related signs and symptoms such as headache, irritable bowel syndrome, facial twitching and insomnia.

Every one of us has a unique biochemical makeup and this is one reason why we don’t respond to stress in the same manner. Roger J. Williams was an American biochemist who spent his academic career at the University of Texas at Austin. He is known for isolating and naming folic acid and for his roles in discovering pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, lipoic acid, and avidin. Dr. Roger Williams a renowned scientist wrote a book titled “Biochemical Individuality”, which described how different each of us are. This is why none of us respond the same way physiologically when we encounter a stressful situation.

It is important that we utilize specific diagnostic methods available today to determine our individual nutritional status. Obtaining objective nutritional information is essential and it is vital to making sure nutritional deficiencies are treated properly, so other nutritional inadequacies do not occur. For example, if you started taking zinc because you were experiencing some stress and you did not consume copper with it, you could develop a copper deficiency which could result in nerve damage, anemia or skin changes. Our body tries to maintain a state of homeostasis and must have an adequate nutritional status to achieve this.

Join Dr. Grabowski and 16 other expert presenters at the Medical Fitness Tour!
February 8-10, 2019 in Irvine, CA. Learn more »

Dr. Ron Grabowski is a practicing Doctor of Chiropractic in Houston, Texas. He has presented over 500 seminars and lectures on nutrition throughout the United States and in Europe, publishing several articles and a textbook on clinical nutrition. His research interests include nutritional support of the athlete and the use of supplements in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gastrointestinal disorders. Visit his website, hsrnc.net


  1. J Physiol Pharmacol 2011; 62:591-599.
  2. Exp Neurol 2012; 233: 49-67).
  3. Sandstead, H.H.; Frederickson, C.J.; Penland, J.G. History of zinc as related to brain function. Nutr. 2000, 130, 496S–502S. [PubMed]

MFN Contributing Author