Big Idea #1: Stress Causes Disease

Modern stress research dates back to the 1930s when researcher Hans Selye published his ‘General Adaptation Syndrome’ theory of stress and disease. While Selye’s work was broadly adopted in sociology and psychology, medical researchers felt his emphasis on hormones was inadequate to explain the complexities of human disease and ultimately rejected stress theory. In the 1980s, Helmut Sies coined the phrase “Oxidative Stress” which sparked four decades of productive research into redox biology. I refer to this period as Stress Theory 2.0 because redox biology research has evolved to a place that fills most of the gaps in Selye’s original work. We can now explain why stress causes disease in credible biochemical terms.

For ordinary healthy consumers, the key understand is that our definition of stress needs to be much broader—anything our cells would understand as requiring an adaptive response. I use a simple mnemonic device to remember the eight kinds of stress, TOP SPEED:

Eight Types of Stress (TOP SPEED)

Toxic (poisons, pharmaceuticals, xenobiotics, heavy metals, biological waste products)

Ordinary Daily Stress (the psychological and relational stress we typically think of as stress)

Pathogenic (fungal, bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections)


Systemic (Damage and Dysregulation of bodily systems, including gut dysbiosis, autoimmunity, neurodegeneration, chronic fatigue, allergens, overeating, malnutrition)

Physical (injury, damage, imbalance, repetitive use, under-use, inactivity)

Environmental (light, sound, radiation, electromagnetic fields, heat, cold, barometric pressure changes, moon phase change)

Epigenetic/Genetic (Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Sickle Cell Anemia, DNA damage, mutation, problematic SNPs, pathological gene expression, signaling)

Dietary (processed carbs, sugar, trans fats, grain oils, high-heat cooking, food additives, etc.)

Once you’ve broadened your definition of stress, you still need to understand how it affects your body. You need to understand redox imbalance.

I want to skip straight to the point...