So, what triggers the threat response? We know the sight of a bear will not automatically trigger a stress response, for we can see bears in a zoo and not feel the least bit threatened. If we were out for a hike on a high bluff overlooking a river and saw bears fishing down below, we might feel thrilled to see the sight rather than scared out of our skins. Positive or affirming emotional responses to events in our environment do not incite the flight or fight cascade. On the other hand, we can be late for work and trigger the stress response for fear of losing our job, or even when asking someone out on a date. Athletes frequently start an important game out of synch, throwing balls too hard or making dumb mistakes, whereupon an announcer will comment the players have their adrenaline pumping and need to calm down and relax – they need to handle the stress so the stress doesn’t handle them.
It appears the hormonal response is triggered by our emotional response to events within our environment. Our physiological process apparently has no capacity to assess what type of stress we face; physical, mental or emotional; whether it is a real, overblown or imagined. It has no capacity to peer through our eyes. It cannot differentiate between an attractive person who intimidates us and a burglar crawling through our window. It is absolutely reliant on our determination, which is revealed in our emotional response. When our emotions signal we’re confronting an emergency, the body immediately responds by diverting all energy to quell the threat. It acts now, and never asks questions.
So what conditions cause us to conclude we’re in an emergency? There are true emergencies for which amplified muscle strength is beneficial, but there are many instances where increased muscle strength is of no benefit – and there are detrimental effects when so much energy is provided but not used. Why do we ignite this stream of events? Why can the boss yell at three of us simultaneously and yet only one of us develops a case of high anxiety and runs out of the room crying?. Each of us responds differently, or non-specifically to stimuli in the same way our bodies respond non-specifically to stress. There is a correlation that can be reasonably made by studying behavior, and that is our perception of events is influenced by our level of energy. People who have insufficient energy will issue a stress call in a given situation where others won’t.
With this overview of stress and stress response in place it becomes easier to explain how nutrition is the greatest defense against stress and how stress is the greatest threat to nutrition.
We do live in an age of prolific stressors. For most of us there are pernicious and persistent stressors in our environment, many of which simply do not go away and from which we cannot fight or flee. When we’re confronted by these one or more of these stressors and our energy is inadequate to the demand of the moment, we express the emotional trigger that ignites the hormonal response to stress and all that follows. Because these stressors are omnipresent, it is not unusual that we find ourselves eating while the digestive system has been shut down. Meals eaten under such conditions pass through us without some part being digested, assimilated or utilized. Failure to digest food leaves our body lacking sufficient energy to meet all its needs, and setting up the likelihood we’ll encounter another moment where we’ll be energy insufficient and ignite the stress response. This is where the cascade of degenerating health begins.
One day, the available energy supply will be so low the body will start destroying itself in a last ditch effort to save itself from the crisis you’ve reported. Back and forth it goes: lack of energy promotes the stress response which impedes the nutrition process which promotes the stress response which ultimately acts in ways which impair the digestive system and we may slowly but surely starve ourselves to death in a cornucopia, starving in our own non-specific way.
Just because we starve in our own unique way doesn’t lead to the conclusion that there is a random or haphazard process at work. We each have genetic strengths and weaknesses. In times of stress, the sites of our weaknesses will be the first to succumb to damage. In addition we each have a unique diet, and if our diet is deficient in an area, that deficiency will either contribute to the damage or prevent repair of it. It is the combination of such factors that determines if we are coping with headaches, muscle pain, high blood pressure, or gall bladder pain.
The sciences of physiology and biochemistry have advanced to the point the cascade of physical events leading from health to the specific ailment of high blood pressure, indigestion, and many others can be described. It is through knowing the pathway to degeneration beginning with the digestion of food or lack thereof that we can use enzyme nutrition to restore the path to regeneration and health. Degeneration starts with stress and regeneration starts with providing adequate energy to the body through nutrition to enable the body to meet the energy demands of daily living and simultaneously provide energy for maintenance and healing so it need not resort to the stress response.
If you find you find yourself frequently frustrated, quick to anger, impatient, fearing everything’s going to collapse – your career, elevators, markets, relationships - there is a high likelihood that you have insufficient energy to meet the demands you or circumstances impose on you, and you’re utilizing the stress response to get by. How much damage has been done depends on many factors, including how long you’ve been in this life-is-an-emergency rhythm.