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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2017-10-11 (EDT)

Stress refers to any disturbance that causes an individual to undergo a stress response - a release of epinephrine and other stress hormones, often described as the flight or fight response. Although a necessary aspect of survival, uncontrolled or abnormal levels of stress have known detrimental affects on health. It is estimated that between 75-90 of visits to primary care physicians are due to stress or the effects of stress.[1]

Causes Dietary Factors, Lack of movement, Social relationships
See Also Mental/Emotional or Psychological Conditions
Books Books on Mental / Emotional Health
Articles Articles on Mental/Emotional or Psychological Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

Article The Effects of Yoga on Anxiety and Stress , Alt Med; 2012; Vol17(1)

Check out this book Stress Free Living – 222 Ways to Live Stress Free
Check out this book Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia- What the Drug Companies Won't Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn't Know
Check out this book The Complete Doctor's Stress Solution: Understanding, Treating and Preventing Stress-Related Illnesses
Article Are low-fat diets associated with stress? , 2004 September;Vol 1(1) IJNM

In order to stimulate the innate ability of the body to heal the causes of disease must be identified and addressed. Stress can be initiated or aggravated by a variety of stimuli, which may include lifestyle and social factors. A detailed assessment is required to determine which factors are contributing to stress in order to properly achieve stress reduction.


  • Diets high in simple sugars and refined food may decrease the body's ability to adapt to stressors.[2]
  • Caffeine and alcohol consumption can increase stress on the body and further decrease an individual's ability to cope with stressors.[2]
  • Vitamin C deficiency associated with mood disorders.
  • Exercise is an important aspect of stress management and can effectively prevent the development of chronic stress.[2]


  • Relationships
  • Marital, family, and job-related relationships can be major stressors. Effective communication strategies can help to decrease conflict and reduce the risk for increasing chronic stress.[2]
  • Time Management
  • Individuals who feel over-committed experience higher levels of stress. Setting priorities, and improving organization skills can help prevent increased stress.[2]


  • Direct exposure to natural settings has been shown to decrease physiological markers of stress. Spending time in nature can help individuals cope with exposure to stressors, and prevent development of a chronic stress state.[3]


  • Significant Life Events
  • Life events that are particularly impactful may lead to increased levels of chronic stress. Events such as occupation change, termination of a relationship, death of a close family member, change in financial state, change in living habits, marital strife, or legal trouble can lead to elevated stress levels.[2]

Medical Interventions

  • Surgery
  • The increased physiological and psychological burden associated with surgery can increases the stress response.[4]

Diagnostic Testing

The evaluation of an individual with stress is based largely on clinical presentation, medical history, and relevant interview.[5]

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Conditions related to stress include:[2]


  • The Stress Response
  • Within seconds following a stressor, norepinephrine is released from nerve endings, followed quickly by epinephrine and norepinephrine release from the adrenals. In the following minutes to hours a complex interaction between the nervous and endocrine system occurs. Perhaps most importantly, cortisol is released from the adrenal gland in response to stress, and is the factor implicated in the many detrimental effects of chronic stress. Due to the ability of cortisol to adversely affect circadian rhythms, the affects of stress are evident long after the removal of the original stressor.[4]
  • Physiologic Consequences
  • The intricate interplay between the neurological and endocrine systems in response to stress has many different physiologic consequences including:[1]
  • Decreased function of the immune system
  • Decreased digestive function
  • Altered endocrine function
  • Changes in mood and behaviour

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of stress depend on an individual's response to stressors and the specific triggers at any time. When individuals response positively and are able to cope, stress can be considered healthy. However, when individuals are not capable of coping with the amount or frequency of stress they encounter, negative coping strategies and symptomatic presentations occur.

Common symptoms of elevates levels of stress include:[2]

Common symptoms of the acute stress response include:[2]

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Increased perspiration
  • Decreased digestive function

Naturopathic Treatment


The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • Time management strategies and ensuring that you don't plan too many activities or tasks within a day can assist in decreased feelings of stress.
  • Many people are aware that they are stressed, but are not exactly sure why. Writing tasks down and the impact they had on you can be helpful in figuring out what is truly causing you stress. Once you know the source of the stress it is easier to figure out how to decrease it.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • As stress impacts digestive function, it is always better to avoid food intolerances, heavy meals, alcohol and simple carbohydrates during times of stress.
  • Be aware of and avoid stress eating as it is often associated with weight gain.
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Physical exercise has been demonstrated to be one of the best forms of stress management.[2]
  • Good posture is associated with efficient breathing function, which in turn can be beneficial in stress management.[6]
  • Meditation and other breathing techniques have been found to greatly reduce stress levels.[7]
Article Sleeping With Your Stress, NDNR; 2013 March
  • Proper sleep hygeine and promotion of good sleep habits can significantly affect an individual's response to stressors.[1]
  • Stress management programs may include meditation, relaxation techniques, and stress innoculation may help to reduce overall stress load, and an individual's response to stressors.[3]

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for stress include:

  • Homeopathy can be effective in the treatment and management of stress.
  • Acupuncture has been found to decrease the impact of stress on the body.
  • Increased exposure to early morning sunlight (6-8am) is recommended in cases when stress affects sleep and circadian rhythm.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Head KA, Kelly GS (2009) Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep. Alt Med Rev 14(2):114-140
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Murray MT, Pizzorno JE (2006) Pizzorno Textbook of Natural Medicine 3rd ed Chap 62 Stress Management Elsevier.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hoffman D (2003) Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Kelly GS (1999) Nutritional and Botanical Interventions to Assist with the Adaptation to Stress Alt Med Rev 4(4):249-65
  5. 5.0 5.1 Prousky Jonathan (2008) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Clinical Nutrition. CCNM Press Inc.
  6. Chaitow, L (2008) Naturopathic Physical Medicine: Theory and Practice for Manual Therapists and Naturopaths Churchill Livingstone
  7. Chaitow L, Bradley D, and Gilbert C (2002) Multidisciplinary Approaches To Breathing Pattern Disorders Churchill Livingstone
  8. Lu Henry (1986) Chinese System of Food Cures, prevention and remedies Sterling Publishing Co. New York.