Caring for Our Bodies in Crisis
by Dr. Cynthia Clark, AP, ACN
I made a mistake—the kind anyone could have made. And most likely, half the people who have made it would not even notice. However, I made this particular mistake at the wrong time, and I was not part of that lucky half.
But first, let me rewind to another mistake. Two days after Hurricane Irma made landfall in 2017, I rode my bike down Legacy Trail in Sarasota. I wanted to check on my favorite route and see how it had fared in the storm. I rode as far as I could until a tree covered the path, and then turned to pedal home. As I reached an intersection, I misjudged the distance and timing which resulted in narrowly missing a car. As the driver coasted slowly in front of me and wagged her finger in my direction, I responded with, “Sorry. I’m just a little Irma-dumb.” She nodded, understood, forgave me and withdrew her finger.
Over the next few weeks, I witnessed drivers bypass lights and stop signs, cross several lanes of traffic, or fumble with GPS apps while in motion. Stress-induced brain fog, slow thinking, and low energy occur so often that sometimes we hardly notice them. We develop habits or workarounds to manage these symptoms, and not until the haze of stress lifts from our brains, do we realize just how severely affected we were.
When we experience unusual amounts of frenetic, emotional activity, our bodies compensate by fueling us with the energy we need to survive. Picture finding a mouse in your bedroom. You gasp, jump onto the nearest piece of furniture and move as far away from it as you can. That gasp fills your upper chest cavity with shallow breath, and this signals to the body that you are under stress. The adrenal glands then release a flood of cortisol, so you can move and think faster to outsmart that wily mouse.
“The elevated activities of physiologic systems lead to wear and tear, called ‘allostatic load.’ It reflects not only the impact of life experiences, but also of genes, individual lifestyle habits (e.g. diet, exercise, substance abuse) and developmental experiences that set lifelong patterns of behavior and physiologic reactivity. Hormones associated with stress and allostatic load protect the body in the short run and promote adaptation, but in the long run allostatic load causes changes in the body that lead to disease,” according to research from the Psychiatric Clinics of North America.
Some of the most stressful conditions for most humans are fear of the unknown, financial insecurity and disharmonious relationships. Even those whose jobs are secure will be affected by the health and financial crises they witness around them. If this continues for months indefinitely which results in chronic stress than can genetically alter the immune system and elevate the risk of disease. That disease might not rear its head this month necessarily, but it could manifest even years down the road.
So here is the mistake I made which placed me in the unlucky half. A few weeks ago, I trimmed a tree in my yard that I did not realize was poisonous. Although I take excellent care of myself, eat nutritious foods and exercise regularly, I also had not taken into account how much the additional pressure I was under affected me. My face swelled so much that I could barely see, and I was covered from head to waist in a painful, itchy rash. I could hardly sleep at night, I had constant chills, and when fluid leaked from my eyes, the burning was so severe that I could not keep my eyes open.
However, my recovery from this was so rapid and dramatic that I have been asked by many people, “What did I take?” The explanation is simple: my body was just imbalanced which is the reason I was so affected by that minorly poisonous tree. But the response I had—you can think of it as physical PTSD—was so traumatic that it completely exhausted me. So I turned to a number of measures for healing.
I used whole food supplements, homeopathics and custom raw herbal traditional Chinese teas. In addition, since I am fortunate enough to work with an incredible team of practitioners, I received immediate treatments from each member of my team. I also visited a practitioner who specializes in an extremely painful but highly effective technique that I reserve for just such emergencies. I didn’t take just one “quick-fix” because I wanted results—yesterday.
We all make mistakes, like I did in not correctly identifying that tree. But it is possible to restore our health both naturally and efficiently, and to protect ourselves from the long-term allostatic load which can impact our genetic codes.
“The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits
himself. The more he gives to others, the more he gets himself.”
Dr. Cynthia Clark, Acupuncture Physician, Applied Clinical Nutritionist, has an award-winning practice in Bradenton. She and her team have empowered hundreds of patients to heal naturally from many ailments. As an engineer, she focuses on understanding the root causes of how systems work, from the human body to quantum mechanics.