Big Idea #2.
Redox Imbalance is why stress causes disease
Redox Imbalance is just an umbrella term for oxidative and reductive stress, biochemical processes the body uses to maintain a healthy, balanced state when facing stress. And by stress we don’t just mean a hard day at the office. As mentioned in the first Big Idea, stress can be caused by viruses and bacteria, injuries, drugs, toxins, air pollution, noise, light or radiation, weather or temperature changes, smells, gravity, genetics, processed foods, malnutrition, an activated immune system, negative thoughts or emotions—anything the body perceives to be a change requiring some kind of adaptive response. If you experience too much stress or too many stressors for too long, you will eventually experience symptoms—pain, inflammation, rash, allergies, digestive issues, malnutrition, low energy, depression anxiety, and bodily systems that are progressively damaged and dysregulated. Redox imbalance is connected to virtually every symptom and pathology that comprise what we call disease.
Hormones and the HPA Axis are still important components of the stress response, but we now understand that stress leads to imbalances in the redox systems that help our cells, tissues, and organ systems respond and adapt to stress and environmental change. We also understand that our bodies are designed to deal with and benefit from low levels of redox stress. That’s why things like bed rest are incredibly problematic. Too little stress, it turns out, is a stressor in its own right. Helmut Sies likes to talk about “the Goldilocks Zone” of redox stress—a level of stress that is not too much and not too little. And it’s different for different people, and can be different at different times for the same people.
Most of us have the ability to deal with life’s daily stressors with minimal negative effects. We are stress resilient. But over time, stress can deplete our resilience to the point that even minor stressors can cause symptoms, pain, flares, damage, dysregulation or disease. Our resilience needs a shot in the arm. Fortunately, there are strategies for doing just that!