Controlling stress through Functional Medicine

DEBORAH WHEELER 654-8443 | @WaltonSunDeb dwheeler@waltonsun.com
Dr. Kyle Chavers talks to a lunchtime crowd about stress and how functional medicine can help.

Stress is a part of most people's daily lives and many just accept it.

Stress can be a good thing, said Dr. Kyle Chavers, or it can make you sick, depending on how you deal with it.

"Everybody is stressed and it's a huge problem," he said.

What is it? What causes it?

Chavers said stress is the brain's response to any perceived threat or change and it causes a stress response. It can be short term, such as when taking a test, or it can be long term, as when we hate our boss or job.

"Stress is the body's way of reacting to challenge and without a stress response we wouldn't survive. It is essential for life," he said. "Stress accentuates our fight or flight response. Like running from a bear. It's a normal response to keep us alive to get us through stressful situations."

Stress can be beneficial in increasing our concentration, enabling us to give better performance.

It can increase immunity, increase clotting, strength, and endurance.

The problem lies when stress is recurrent and we don't recover, said Chavers. When that happens, it can lead to adrenal fatigue, deplete our reserves, and we end up crashing, which can lead to health problems.

Stress is linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome, weight gain, headaches, insomnia, alcohol abuse, and causes auto-immune disorder if not managed.

Diet is important in helping to manage stress and its negative effect on our bodies, said Chavers, and he gave some examples.

Sugar in our diet can actually cause anxiety, as can caffeine.

Some people use alcohol to self medicate, which leads to problems, with many depending on caffeine and then wine to get through each day.

Chocolate is also comforting, but it leads to weight gain.

Drug abuse is common in people who are stressed, as well as risk taking, he said.

Some people throw themselves into overworking and over exercising, which ends in oversleeping. And some just sit down and become a couch potato.

Our response to stress is all we have complete control over, said Chavers.

Most stressors are out of our control, but we can change how we respond to them.

Chavers talked to a Thursday lunch group about healthy ways to relax, such as breathing techniques, and getting outdoors into the sunshine and into nature.

"Find something you enjoy doing and do it for five minutes per day every day," he said. "Practice relaxing mind and body."

Most important in that strategy is sleep. He advised to regulate sleep schedules, getting seven to nine hours sleep per night.

That begins with establishing a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.

First, dim the lights one hour prior to bedtime.

Sip warm tea and create a sleep-inducing environment with no light from screens, which slows down sleep.

Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.

Finish eating two or three hours before bedtime, and avoid exercise three hours before bed.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, which interrupts deep sleep.

Keep a sleep diary, control light exposure, learn breathing techniques. Take deep breaths as stress leads to shallow breaths. Deep breathing decreases heart rate.

Have a regular exercise routine that starts slowly at 70 percent where you are able to speak in four-or-five-word sentences.

Get out in nature, which is proven to decrease our pulse rate.

Meditation and yoga are good relaxation responses also.

Meditation reduces blood pressure and is as effective as Xanax, said Chavers.

Relaxation and sleep gets your melatonin up.

Ask yourself are there any stressors we can get rid of?

Chavers is a practicing physician in the realm of functional medicine at Foundations Medical Center on Mack Bayou Road in Santa Rosa Beach.

In the practice of functional medicine he strives to discover and address the root cause of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.

Chavers believes testing is important and he does prescribe medication when tests show it's necessary.

"What we're taking effects everything else. It's a process in prescribing meds and herbal meds," he said. "But we try to find out what the problem is so you're not on meds forever. Functional medicine at its core gets to the root cause of problems."

Personal trainer Colleen Riddle attended Chavers's talk last week and said she agrees and believes we need to look at people's problems in more depth to find the root cause of issues and not just treating the symptoms.

"I like that the practice of functional medicine focuses on nutrition and exercise," she said. "I believe that so many issues can be fixed with good solid nutrition, elite supplementation, and exercise."

Foundations Medical Center offers Lunch & Learn talks monthly. The next session will be Sept. 17 on the topic of weight, how it affects health, what you can do to avoid the tailgate party calories and still enjoy yourself. Dr. Chavers will also talk about losing weight and keeping it off for a healthier you.

For more information call 660-6701 or visit www.foundationsmedicalcenter.com.