Stress is abundant this time of year and it can harm liver health. Try these seven natural stress relievers to reduce the burden on your liver – and your emotional well-being.
Despite its reputation as being the most wonderful time of the year, many people experience an increase in stress during the holiday season. In addition to festive celebrations and yuletide joy, the span of time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s has been known to present additional emotional challenges to monetary budgets, family logistics and personal relationships. Because these stressors impede the liver’s well-being, practice as many stress relief practices as you can.
Why Stress Hurts the Liver
Even though medical doctors, clinicians and holistic healthcare practitioners have recognized the negative impact of stress on the human body, scientific proof of this connection was not always available. However, the last decade has seen an increase in irrefutable data supporting this understanding.
As chronicled in a 20-year review published in the January 2006 edition of the Journal of Gastroenterolgy and Hepatology, Y. Chida and colleagues delved into the effect stress has on the liver. They found the following:
- The release of glucocorticoids (chemicals released during stress) controls the homeostasis of each organ. In corticosterone pre-treated subjects, liver injury was dramatically exacerbated.
- During stress, natural killer cells are expanded in the liver. This is likely to contribute to liver cell death and liver disease progression.
- Stress impairs blood flow in the area of the brain that controls the liver. This cerebral impairment of blood circulation could lead to or trigger liver damage.
- When the vagus nerve is stimulated with anti-stress therapies (hypnosis, meditation, acupuncture), the negative effect of stress on the liver is alleviated.
The authors concluded that even though the totality of the associations between stress and the liver are not completely understood, there is sufficient evidence that stress worsens liver disease.
7 Stress Relieving Tips
Different stress-reduction strategies will work for different people, so experts advise experimenting with stress relief to find what works best for you. Seven ways to ease stress for your liver’s sake are:
- Aromatherapy – For some people, smelling something pleasurable exerts a powerful effect on diminishing their stress response. Experts suggest seeking scents that are energizing and invigorating for those who zone out or get depressed when stressed – and sniffing comforting and calming scents for those who become anxious or agitated. The Aromatherapy Sampler is a great way to test your response to high quality, popular essential oils.
- Listening to Music – Relaxing music or sounds can take on many different forms (eg: nature sounds, classical music, new age music, electronic trance), but if it is soothing to you, listen for stress relief. Shown to lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol (a hormone linked to stress), listening to calm music (like the CD Unwind) lowers the stress response.
- Get a Massage – A great way to be proactive in preventing holiday-related stress is to book a massage during this time of year. Historically, the Chinese used massage therapy to open blocked energy channels in order to improve emotional and physical health. Licensed massage therapists are trained to relax tense muscles, reduce pain and improve circulation – all of which dampen the stress response. Research has demonstrated that massage therapy reduces cortisol in the body which eases stress, depression and anxiety.
- Watch a Funny Movie – Whatever makes you laugh, indulge in it when the weather gets colder. By tricking the nervous system into making you happy, laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
- Eat Your B Vitamins – Besides promoting proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, B vitamins help induce relaxation and fight fatigue. Indicators of B deficiency include irritability, depression and apathy, so increase your intake of foods rich in B vitamins during the holidays. Great sources of Vitamin B include spinach, parsley, broccoli, beets, turnips, asparagus, romaine lettuce, calf’s liver, lentils, bell peppers, snapper, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, oysters, kidney beans, chicken, peanuts, eggs, potatoes, avocados, peas, brown rice, cheese, oranges, mushrooms, oats and turnip greens.
- Meditation or Deep Breathing – Taking 5 to 10 minutes a day gives you time to silence racing thoughts and focus on breathing. This is a great way to deal with and release stress. Deep, long breaths oxygenate the bloodstream which dissolves muscle tension, centers the body and clears the mind.
- Get Moving – Whether it’s yoga, Tai Chi, basketball, Zumba, running or walking around the block, exercise appears to be a ‘cure-all’ for nearly every chronic health condition. Besides fighting obesity, fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and arthritis, regular exercise is essential for a healthy immune system, digestive system and nervous system. When it comes to relieving stress, studies have documented that exercise releases endorphins (natural mood elevators) in the brain. Apparently, those people who work out after work know what they are doing.
Help your liver stay healthy throughout the holidays by aiming for a stress-free winter. Because many people’s holidays are minefields full of stressful events, strategizing to minimize and relieve stress is essential. By finding the stress relief approaches that work best for you, it is possible for you and your liver to make it into the New Year feeling relaxed, happy and healthy.
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/01/27/10-ways-to-relieve-stress-naturally/, 10 ways to relieve stress naturally, Dr. Manny Alvarez, Retrieved November 17, 2013, FOX News Network, LLC, 2013.
http://www.hcvadvocate.org/hepatitis/factsheets_pdf/stress_liver.pdf, Stress and the Liver, Liz Highleyman, Retrieved November 17, 2013, Hepatitis C Support Project, 2013.
http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/10-ways-to-relieve-stress, 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress that You Can Start Today, Nathan Reese, Retrieved November 17, 2013, Healthline Networks, Inc., 2013.
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/quick_stress_relief.htm, Stress Relief in the Moment, Jeanne Segal, PhD, Melinda Smith, MA, Lawrence Robinson, Retrieved November 17, 2013, HelpGuide.org, 2013.
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/stress-relief_b_1606043, 10 Tips for Quickly Relieving Stress, Sonia Choquette, Retrieved November 17, 2013, TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., 2013.