One stressful day doesn’t seem like it will damage your health. But new research suggests stress has a compounding effect. That means what stresses you today may hurt you tomorrow.
The good news is there are a couple of great ways to deal with stress. One is a simple supplement that will help you overcome the damage stress causes. And the other is a tasty way to end the day. It can help you avoid this damage in the first place. And it’s particularly good for your heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.” Emerson wasn’t a doctor, but recent research suggests that his wise words offer great health advice.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, found that when people experience daily stressors, they have higher levels of negative emotion that often stretch into the following day. The faster people can let that stress go, the less their health will suffer.
But Don’t Hold Onto That Stress...
That’s because the longer the negative emotions last, the more likely people are to suffer from poor health 10 years down the road. This connection held true regardless of gender, education level, baseline health status, same-day emotional response, and average number of stressors.
While I’m sure you know that stress is bad for your health, most of us tend to think of major stressors, like job loss, as the problems. However, this study showed that small, everyday stressors can have a big impact as well – but only if we let them.
The researchers examined data from the Midlife in the United States Survey to assess how our emotional response to stress, particularly over time, impacts health. This study, which was a nationally representative long-term study of adults, included a survey of negative emotions. The participants completed the survey over the course of eight days. Each day, the participants recorded both their emotions, particularly negative ones, and the stressors they had experienced.
Ten years later, researchers followed up with the participants to assess their health. They asked them to report any chronic illnesses and functional limitations in completing daily tasks, such as getting dressed, walking, or climbing stairs.
The UC researchers weren’t surprised to see that when the participants reported daily stressors, they had higher levels of negative emotion that often stretched into the following day.
It’s human nature for us to let stressors get to us. But it seems that the faster we can let that stress go, the less our health will suffer. The longer the negative emotions stick around, the worse the results. For these participants, letting bad feelings last into the next day or beyond made them more likely to suffer from poor health 10 years down the road. This held true regardless of gender, education level, baseline health status, same-day emotional response, and average number of stressors.
How to Let Go of Stress at the End of the Day
There are a number of methods you can use to help you let go of stress. Aerobic exercise, yoga, stretching, meditation, and simple conversation with a loved one all can help. But there’s another tasty way to reduce stress. And it's particularly effective at protecting your heart against damage from stress.
Researchers in Brazil found that alcohol can have a protective effect on the heart by “training” it to handle a toxic aldehyde called 4-HNE. Heart cells produce 4-HNE in response to both alcohol and other major stressors, such as a heart attack. A protective enzyme called ALDH2 helps remove 4-HNE from the cells. When you regularly expose the heart to small amounts of alcohol, your body produces protective ALDH2 more efficiently.
That means drinking a little every night will help you deal with stress better and protect your body better.
These Brazilian researchers have been using mouse models to investigate how alcohol protects the heart. They’ve focused on ALDH2 in paticular. This enzyme helps the body get rid of the toxic byproducts of digesting alcohol. But it also helps the heart recover from a heart attack.
Alcohol Actually Exercises Your Heart Cells
Exposure to alcohol may give heart cells a “practice run” in dealing with stress. Then, if the cells encounter more severe stress, they’re better prepared to deal with it.
The researchers tested this theory by simulating heart attacks in mouse hearts. When they tested the simulation under normal conditions, about 50% of the heart cells died. This happened in part because the cells produced large amounts of a toxic aldehyde called 4-HNE.
Then the researchers gave another group of mice alcohol and repeated the heart attack experiment. They found that the ethanol increased ALDH2 activity. This activity helped reduce the damage the heart attack caused by about 60%. The researchers used an amount of ethanol approximately equal to two cans of beer for the average man.
The researchers repeated the experiment. This time, they exposed the heart cells to ethanol and to a drug that inhibited ALDH2. Sure enough, 50 to 80% of the heart cells died. This helped confirm that ethanol’s effects on ALDH2 was the protective mechanism.
The researchers believe that this experiment helps explain why moderate but regular alcohol consumption benefits many people. However, this may not work for everyone. The researchers cautioned that individual genetic makeup still plays a role in this process. If people have a specific ALDH2 gene mutation, this effect can switch from protective to destructive.
The good news is that it’s fairly easy to guess if you have this mutation. People who have it typically become flushed and may develop a headache after just one drink. If that describes you, alcohol probably isn’t good for your heart. And you probably don’t enjoy drinking it anyway.
The researchers also caution that drinking to excess overloads the cells and is damaging no matter what your genetic makeup. Drinking to excess basically over-stresses the cells. “Excess” varies from person to person, but sticking to two drinks for men and one for women is likely a safe bet.
If you enjoy an occasional glass of wine or beer, this study helps explain how it can help your heart. It’s actually “exercising” your heart cells! (Just don’t use this as an excuse to skip actual exercise – your heart needs that too.) And if alcohol doesn’t make you feel good, your body is likely trying to tell you something. Don’t force yourself to drink red wine or anything else in the name of health. It’s probably not a good fit for your individual genetic makeup. But if you enjoy alcohol, one or two drinks a night is likely a good move to help your body deal with stress.
What to Do When Alcohol and Other Stress Relievers Don’t Work
While some stress is inevitable, stress can tax the body quite a bit. If you find that you regularly encounter stress or have a hard time bouncing back from it, your adrenal system may be fatigued. The adrenal glands help produce the hormones the body needs to deal with stress. But when they’re constantly having to churn out these hormones, they get tired. Then they have trouble doing their job well. This creates a vicious cycle.
Drinking alcohol each night can help calm this cycle down. But sometimes, stress wins.
If you feel like you’re running on empty or often wake up worrying about stressful situations from the day before, you probably need to treat your adrenal system. It’s worn out. Fortunately, you can help get it back on track with the right nutrients.
The first nutrient is well known to herbalists. It’s called ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an East Indian herb that Ayurvedic medicine has used for more than 2,000 years. Although like most strong herbs, it has a number of healing properties, it is best known for its direct beneficial effects on adrenal function.
The next nutrient is the mushroom cordyceps. Cordyceps has specific effects on energy, stress, and physical performance. In a study published in “Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin” in 2003, researchers from Dongduk Women’s University in Korea studied the effects of cordyceps mushrooms on fatigue and stress in rats. They noticed that when they took extracts of cordyceps, the animals were able to tolerate much higher levels of stress before becoming fatigued.
The third nutrient is Siberian ginseng. I’m not sure how it got that name. It’s not from Siberia and is not strictly a ginseng. But studies from decades ago showed that it helps support and rejuvenate adrenal function and increase resistance to stress. It also regulates the neurotransmitters that are important in decreasing anxiety and the stress response, as well as improving sleep and lessening irritability.
You can get all of these nutrients, and many others that will help your adrenal function in the supplement Advanced Adrenal Factor. This formulation will help relieve anxiety and give you an energy boost. This way, you can actually address stressors so they aren’t still hanging over you tomorrow. Within just two weeks, most people notice an increase in their energy and concentration. Within 10 years, the benefits to your health can be tremendous.
Getting a flat tire may ruin your evening plans. But if you can let it go by morning, it won’t ruin your health 10 years later. A little alcohol and Advanced Adrenal Factor can make sure you’re equipped to move on.