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Toxic Stress: The Pluralistic Hydra

What Toxic Stress can do to you!

What Toxic Stress can do to you! (Representative Image)

The essence of existence and survival in the biological sense is to establish a very dynamic and sustainable give-and-take with the environment. In a nutshell, the environment is what surrounds the organism and there is a constant input and output, stimulus and response as far as the organism and its environment are concerned. The quality of its survival and its biochemical efficacy is determined by how the organism capitalizes on the positivity and manages to get minimal disadvantage from the negativity.

What is Toxic Stress?

Stress is basically used to define the response to the environment on a day-to-day basis. Factors that are causative to stress, are known as stressors. By nature, these may be physical, emotional, environmental or holistic, and all may equally affect the body’s response in a very emphatic manner. Interestingly, the response is hormonal, neurological and manifests itself many times in the immune response of the organism. The stress actually may be transient, manageable and in fact, helps the organism to evolve itself. However sometimes, quantitatively, stress maybe too much for the organism to handle and under these circumstances, it is known as Toxic Stress.

Our response to stress is a part of our native biochemistry because stress has to be contended with every moment of our life. The biochemical response to stress is native to every organism and is imperative to being biodynamic. In times of stress, our heart rate increases, blood pressure escalates, and two endocrine secretions — adrenaline and cortisol — are biosynthesized. In short, the physiological changes that come with stress serve to endow us, the physical resources to deal with whatever might obstruct our well-being and threaten the quality of our existence. Hormones are need-based and biosynthesized in our bodies in a specific time frame.

It is, however, very interesting to delve into the eventuality that the quantum of stress exceeds the level of safety and becomes toxic. It is then termed as Toxic Stress. When stress becomes ongoing and a chronic profile sets in, the condition becomes worrisome.

In the handling of the condition of Toxic Stress in children, it is important to recognize that it is a very natural occurrence. It has to be taken in cognizance with age, environment and has to be tackled with TLC (Tender Loving Care). The child has to be reassured that it is a normal part of growing up. This ensures that there are no residual scars remaining and the child’s perspective is not marred. However, the causative factors have to be investigated and addressed very emphatically. How to buffer the effects of toxic stress and keep it at bay, becomes a question with multifaceted significance since stress build-up is a bane to the socio-cultural fabric of the nation.

An inclusive approach to the entire catastrophe of toxic stress can be sighted as the only way to avoid it. Prevention of this biological calamity by keeping a very amicable atmosphere at home and by winning the confidence of each and every family member, literally, pediatric to geriatric so that causative factors can be identified at an early stage and addressed immediately and very exhaustively. Every member of a family, work fraternity and even an informal or formal community should be able to feel confident of sharing apprehensions, seen and unseen negativisms and even tangible and nontangible fears so that they can be understood and addressed.

A number of subjects of toxic stress are very wary of touch. They have to be reassured of a pat on the back, a handshake, even a hug… since it is seen that a soothing touch works magic. The period of recovery may be gradual so the subject has to be shown or encouraged to develop a rewarding occupation or a hobby. The camaraderie and interpersonal relations are flagstones of self-worth and go a long way in helping the subject to recover. A significant amount of hand-holding is required so the mentor has to be available and responsive. Exercises to strengthen the brain and a singularly balanced diet to nurture brain health are very important. Staying away from gadgetry, and leading a Mindfulness lifestyle is indicated, both for adults and children if toxic stress has to be addressed.

The tragedy of toxic stress is its direct effect on learning, memory and emotional balance. It shows that the subject under this condition has an increased vulnerability to addiction. Behavioral aspects include over-reactivity and hypersensitivity, reclusion, depression, dementia, neural degeneration and an emphatic, proven susceptibility to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. There is a marked compromise in the immune profile and a general persistent malaise results in the subject making him lose his morale and overall motivation. His sleep-wake patterns are grossly disturbed and often he suffers from attention deficit disorder. His body temperature is also an indicator of biochemical disturbance… it either fluctuates or is subnormal.

Summing up, Toxic Stress is an all-encompassing, gradually debilitating disorder which needs much more understanding if we wish to make inroads into its prevention, cure, and management.

As a postscript, many Vedic practices like Saatvik Dietary practices, Yoga and chanting are being lauded as very promising. Evidently, our ancestors knew best.

The author acknowledges the use of authentic medical literature to structure this article.

Views expressed by the author are personal.

Jyoti D Vora

MSc., PhD, F.S.Sc. , MASFFBC, CME (USA), Net Cleared, Certified Functional Foods Scientist, (FFC, USA), Proprietor and CEO, Dhirang Consultants, Mumbai.

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