March 15, 2017
Less is More; Spring Cleaning
for Improved Health

Chronic psychological stress has been associated with most diseases known to modern medicine, including innate and humoral immune suppression, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and cancer. A 2011 study suggests biological embedding as a physiologic mechanism to explain how significant early life stressors cause macrophages to program, producing more inflammatory cytokine responses through epigenetics, posttranslational modifications and tissue remodeling. Over time, the proinflammatory states may lead to hormonal dysregulation. Chronic stress (whether real or perceived) affects the majority of patient populations and is potentially modifiable, therefore solid strategies to address stress management are key for practitioners to improve patient health.

While the etiologies of stress are numerous, simplification of environmental stimuli may be a powerful access point to disrupt the stress cycle. "Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century" by UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press peered into the households of the average middle class American and found that managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevated mothers’ stress hormones. A 2010 study toured participants’ homes and asked homeowners to describe their level of associated stress. They found “over 3 weekdays following the home tours, wives with higher stressful home scores had flatter diurnal slopes of cortisol, a profile associated with adverse health outcomes, whereas women with higher restorative home scores had steeper cortisol slopes.”

An emerging trend towards minimalism is sprouting up from all corners with its followers reportedly living happier, healthier lives. From TV shows, to books, to blogs, to design, this simple approach is catching waves. Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” lived on the 2016 New York Times best-seller list for 86+ weeks. People seem to be seeking a movement away from chaotic over-stimulation towards true, simple fulfillment. This subtle yet palpable desire leads readers to resonate with Kondo’s book with one deep, resounding diaphragmatic exhale.

With numerous medications and supplements available to treat anxiety, depression and fatigue, what if simplistic spring cleaning was an effective management of chronic stress and its negative health effects? If providers can help patients learn to stress less by decluttering their surrounding environment, it could provide a powerful tool to manage emotional feelings and overall health. Less visual stimulation may free up the mind, allow patients to step out of the exhausting daily grind, improve energy, empower self-discovery, build financial security and let go of unnecessary excess. Simple living may lead to less spending and more financial security, a wonderful side effect as a 2014 poll from the APA found that 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money. At the same time, there is a positive impact on the environment through less consumption; an all around win.

Reduction in overall stress can improve the HPA axis response, leading to healthier diurnal cortisol patterns and DHEA levels. Consider testing patients with Labrix’ Adrenal Function Panel before and after stress management techniques have been implemented to track improvements in HPA axis signaling. Sipping tea slowly from a ceramic mug, eating a nourishing whole foods diet, practicing meditation, taking time for a workday walk and spring cleaning are all considerations to positively impact HPA axis health. While cortisol levels can take a length of time to improve, patients with increased energy, stamina and vitality will know it was worth the wait.

References:
  • Arnold JE. Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, 32 Families Open Their Doors. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology; 2012.
  • Miller GE, Cohen S, Ritchey AK. Chronic psychological stress and the regulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines: a glucocorticoid-resistance model. Health Psychol. 2002;21(6):531-41.
  • Miller GE, Chen E, Parker KJ. Psychological stress in childhood and susceptibility to the chronic diseases of aging: moving toward a model of behavioral and biological mechanisms. Psychol Bull. 2011;137(6):959-97.
  • Saxbe DE, Repetti R. No place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010;36(1):71-81.
  • Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004;130(4):601-30.
Disclaimer:

All information given about health conditions, treatment, products, and dosages are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.



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