Stress and Histamine Part 6: Sleep

Good sleep is essential for stress reliefGood sleep is essential for stress relief

Getting a good night’s sleep is an essential factor in stress relief. It’s especially beneficial for people who suffer from histamine intolerance.

Cortisol is the “stress hormone”. When we are sleep-deprived our cortisol levels rise. [Leproult et al]

Nutritional biochemist Shawn Talbott, author of “The Cortisol Connection”, says that when we sleep for only six hours per night instead of the recommended eight, our cortisol levels rise by a whopping fifty percent!

While we sleep, our bodies cease producing cortisol, because sleep is meant for healing and regenerating. [Weitzman et al]

Stress can cause poor sleep, and poor sleep can cause stress.

If you’re sleep deprived, due to stress or some other cause, your mind does not function as well as it should. It’s harder to concentrate and to think rationally. This, in turn, can exacerbate stress.

Stress and anxiety can contribute to insomnia and restless sleep. Even when we are asleep, anxiety can permeate our dreams and disrupt our quality of slumber. It’s important to curb anxiety before you lie down to sleep at night.

Some Tips for Good Sleep

Sleep on your side

An Australian survey found that people who slept on their side reported better sleep and fewer aches and pains.  Lying on your stomach gives you the worst sleep. [Gordon SJ. et al]

Don’t hit the snooze button in the morning.

Robert S. Rosenberg, the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley and Flagstaff, Arizona says that after you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock, your sleep will be of poor quality. You’d be better off simply continuing to sleep for that extra 10 minutes. To make matters worse, by waking up enough to hit the button then falling back asleep for a very short time, you’re interfering with your body’s natural sleep patterns.

Do not use the bedroom for work

We subconsciously associate places with activities. For example if we use our bedroom as a study or office, the brain will associate that space with working, thinking, being alert, and solving problems. Whereas your place of repose should be associated with relaxing and unwinding.
Set aside a dedicated space for work and a dedicated space for sleep.

Teenagers should be allowed to sleep in when practicable!

Teenagers need 9 – 10 hours of sleep every night, yet most adolescents only average about seven or eight hours. Some sleep even less. The hormones swirling throughout the body during puberty shift teenagers’ body clocks forward by one or two hours. This means they are naturally inclined to stay up late at nights, and then sleep in when morning arrives. (Sound familiar to you?)
Early school starts prevent teenagers from sleeping in. Over time, they build up a  ‘sleep debt’ of chronic sleep deprivation, which can adversely affect their health and studies.

Other strategies

Meditation, a warm bath, soothing music – these are some other useful tools for pre-sleep relaxation.

Good sleep is a top priority for management of histamine intolerance.


References:

[Rachel Leproult, Georges Copinschi, Orfeu Buxton and Eve Van Cauter.  Sleep Loss Results in an Elevation of Cortisol Levels the Next Evening. Sleep, 1997. Researchgate.net.]

[Elliot D. Weitzman, Janet C. Zimmerman, Charles A. Czeisler, Joseph Ronda; Cortisol Secretion Is Inhibited during Sleep in Normal Man. 1983; 56 (2): 352-358. doi: 10.1210/jcem-56-2-352]

[Gordon SJ, Grimmer KA, Trott P. Sleep Position, Age, Gender, Sleep Quality and Waking Cervico-Thoracic Symptoms. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2007 Jan 01;5(1), Article 6. ]

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Stress and Histamine Part 5

exercise relieves stressExercise relieves stress

Physical activity plays a vital part in relieving stress and protecting us from its harmful effects, such as problems with histamine. Use movement to relieve stress, instead of junk food.
As a bonus, exercise promotes muscles growth. The benefits are many, whether your exercise is intense or moderate.

Vigorous exercise

When you exercise vigorously your cortisol levels rise temporarily. (Your body is primed with cortisol to help you – for example, in case the reason you’re running is because you’re escaping from danger or chasing food.)
Despite this natural rise in cortisol, vigorous physical activity can protect the body from the harmful effects of chronic psychological and physical stress.

Intense exercise like running, fast bicycling or swimming, boxing, aerobics or vigorous dancing releases tension and stimulates the release of those “feel-good” chemicals in the body that not only lower stress levels but also help to curb excessive appetite.

Moderate exercise

When you exercise moderately, on the other hand, your cortisol levels drop.  Some examples of low-intensity exercise include gardening, walking, slow bicycling, housework, tai chi and yoga. Experts say we should aim to walk 10,000 steps per day. These days we can buy step-counting devices to wear on the body.

“Physical exercise is beneficial to mental health,” concluded the authors of a 2011 study involving more than 7,000 people. [J Psychosom Res. 2011 Nov;71(5):342-8. doi:  10.1016/j.jpsychores.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 18. Physical exercise in adults and mental health status findings from the Netherlands mental health survey and incidence study (NEMESIS). Ten Have M1, de Graaf R, Monshouwer K.]

What’s the best exercise?

There are many different kinds of exercise to choose from, but by far the best are those that you ENJOY. If you don’t enjoy it, you are unlikely to keep doing it. Some people say there is no exercise they enjoy doing. Here are some tips:

  • join a group or exercise with a friend. Socializing makes exercising more fun.
  • Dance to music. Think you can’t dance? Who cares! Find yourself a private space and dance alone, where no-one else can see you. Play your favorite music. Turn up the volume and go wild. Dance is exercise that’s usually accompanied by music, so it combines the stress-relieving benefits of movement with the stress-relieving benefits of melody and rhythm.

What does exercising cost?

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on gym memberships to get exercise – your body is right with you all the time, and all you need to do is get up and move it. Exercise is free.

How often should I exercise?

We recommend that you move your body for at least 30 minutes, three times per week.

 

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Stress and Histamine Part 4

MeditationMeditation – a powerful stress-reliever

It’s well-known that meditation is a powerful stress-reliever. It produces measurable biochemical and physiological changes which can be of great benefit to those who suffer from histamine intolerance. Countless scientific studies continue to provide evidence for its usefulness. For example a 1991 study found that after practicing Buddhist meditation, the cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate of 52 young men were significantly reduced.
[Sudsuang R, et al]

“… repeated practice of the Transcendental meditation (TM) technique reverses effects of chronic stress significant for health,” reported researchers who conducted a study in 1997. [MacLean CR, et al]

Science has shown that regular meditation can actually produce physical changes in the brain.

Types of meditation include Transcendental, Kundalini,  Guided Visualization, Vipassana, Qigong Mindfulness and Zazen (Zen).
It doesn’t matter what form of meditation you practice, as long as you do it regularly.

Meditation can be as simple as sitting or lying down comfortably in a quiet place, closing your eyes and breathing naturally. Concentrate on the gentle rhythm of your breathing, while allowing your thoughts to come and go without dwelling on any of them. Just let them flit in and out of your mind like butterflies in a garden.
Guided meditation tracks are available for free online, or you might be able to find a local meditation group.


References:

[Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K. Physiol Behav. 1991 Sep;50(3):543-8. Effect of Buddhist meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time. ]

[MacLean CR, Walton KG, Wenneberg SR, Levitsky DK, Mandarino JP, Waziri R, Hillis SL, Schneider RH Psychoneuroendocrinology. 1997 May;22(4):277-95. Effects of the Transcendental Meditation program on adaptive mechanisms: changes in hormone levels and responses to stress after 4 months of practice. ]

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Stress and Histamine Part 3

Oriental disciplines can relieve stressOriental disciplines can relieve stress

Oriental physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines such as yoga, t’ai chi, and qigong, which combine exercise with meditation and mindfulness, can trigger the release of beneficial hormones and other body-chemicals. Reducing stress can help people with histamine intolerance.

Evidence shows that such oriental disciplines can lower cortisol levels and encourage cell-healing. In fact, studies have found that when used to supplement traditional forms of treatment, regular practice of such techniques can:

  • reduce stress levels
  • combat depression
  • improve the quality of sleep
  • keep the body flexible
  • improve the sense of balance
  • help maintain bone density
  • decrease the pain of arthritis
  • improve heart health
  • reduce hypertension

Yoga

Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines that began in ancient India. There is a broad variety of Yoga schools, practices, and goals.
Types of yoga include Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram,  Kundalini and Yin. “How to Do Yoga for Absolute Beginners” can be found here.

T‘ai-chi

T‘ai-chi is a Chinese discipline. Though originally conceived as a martial art and used for defense training, it is frequently practiced for a variety of health reasons. It has become popular worldwide. Most modern styles of t‘ai-chi trace their origins back to one or other of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun.
“How to do Tai Chi” can be found here.

Qigong

“Qigong is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), translated as ‘life energy’.[Cohen, 1999]

“Qigong practice typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and calm meditative state of mind. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise and relaxation, preventive medicine and self-healing, alternative medicine, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.”How to Practice Qigong” here.
[Wikipedia]

You don’t need expensive equipment or even expensive classes to practice these methods. Classes are recommended, because of the social benefit of exercising in groups, and the value of a good teacher. However if you’re really hard up and cannot afford classes, once you have learned some moves from books or YouTube, you can practice yoga, t’ai chi, or qigong for free at home.


Reference:
Cohen, K. S. (1999). The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. Random House of Canada. ISBN 0-345-42109-4.

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Stress and Histamine: Part 2

dealing with stressful situationsDealing with Stressful Situations

As discussed in the last post, stress is associated with histamine. Minimizing your experience of stress can help to curb your histamine intolerance symptoms.

The team at University of Southern California [“Stress Management” Be Well at USC.] says, “There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four “A”s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.”
You can change the stressful situation by avoiding it or altering it. Or you can change your reaction to the stressful situation by adapting to it or accepting it.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four “A”s:

Change the situation:
* Avoid the stressor:  E.g. Learn how to say “no”;  avoid people who stress you out; take control of your environment; avoid conversational topics that lead to heated arguments; pare down your to-do list; quit your stressful job; get out of your stressful relationship. Changing your situation may not be easy, but if you want major changes in your life you may have to take big leaps of faith. If you’re not prepared to take those big leaps you may have to be satisfied with smaller changes.
* Alter the stressor: E.g. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up; be willing to compromise;  be more assertive;  manage your time better.

Change your reaction:
* Adapt to the stressor: E.g. Reframe problems; look at the big picture; adjust your standards; focus on the positive; change your attitude.
* Accept the stressor: E.g. Accept the things you can’t change; don’t try to control the uncontrollable; look for the positive side; share your feelings with people you trust; learn to forgive.

Each of us has our own way of responding to stress, which means that what works for one person may not work for another. It is worthwhile trying out a range of stress-management strategies. Pay particular attention to the techniques that enable you to feel composed, serene and in control.

In addition to taking control and having a positive attitude, one of the best things you can do to reduce stress is to nurture yourself, body and mind.

You can learn more about stress management on the University of Southern California’s website.

Looking after yourself is a necessity, not a luxury – especially for people with histamine intolerance. Set aside some time each day to really nurture yourself and do something enjoyable and relaxing.

We’ll be offering more stress management strategies in the next post. See you then!

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