Nowadays many people are stressed out most of the time.
Whether it be thanks to the economy and job insecurity or working two jobs to help make ends meet or relationship issues or dealing with the kids and all their needs, etc… most of us are going 90 mph and feel like we’re getting no where.
Chronic stress affects we humans far more than we realize. It can manifest itself as “minor” problems like facial lines (hello, that should be classified as “major”!), nail biting and moodiness or it can show up in a much more major way such as digestive problems, sleep problems and immune system disorders.
Some people handle stress better than others.
Some people even seem to thrive on stress.
Then there are others, like me, who crumble under its weight.
I, personally, can think of two examples of how stress affects me physically… one in a minor way and another in a major way.
A minor example is cold sores or fever blisters. I have gotten these all my life and over the years I have learned that stress triggers their occurrence tremendously. If I am feeling overwhelmed in my job or with a personal problem, I almost always end up with a cold sore.
I have found some supplements that have helped me reduce their frequency, but I recently found something that works even better. About a year ago I left my stressful job and its three-hour round trip commute and I haven’t had a cold sore since.
Not even during the holidays!
Although leaving a stressful job isn’t often the best solution, it sure proved to me just how stressed I had been and the effect it was having on my body.
Another more major effect stress has had on me occurred several years ago in another stressful job that I had. (Note to self – stay out of stressful jobs!) I had been working many hours of overtime and was overwhelmed.
Then one day I noticed that the left side of my face was numb. I couldn’t feel it! Just like when you get Novocain at the dentist. I was terrified.
I made an appointment with my doctor and told her what was going on. She asked me if I had been stressed out over anything, and back then I was young and stupid and didn’t realize how stressed I was… so I said “no, not that I could think of”.
So she casually informed me that the numbness was most likely either caused by stress or the beginnings of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis??!! Holy crap!
Again I was terrified. I was only around 30 years old.
So my doctor gave me a prescription for some tranquilizers and told me the next time my face went numb to take one. If that made the numbness go away, then we knew it was stress related and not MS.
Long story short… the tranquilizer nipped it in the bud.
It was then that I realized how poorly I handle stress. It also concerned me, because the cold sores and the facial paralysis were outward signs. What was going on INSIDE my body that wasn’t obvious yet?
Animals Are Affected Too!
We humans aren’t the only creatures affected by stress. It also affects our animals just as much as it affects us.
I have a little 12 year old dog that is a terrier / schnauzer mix. Her name is Idgie (you can go to our About Page to read more about Idgie under the Soulful Equine Team area).
She has a heart condition and has been on a diuretic called furosemide (Lasix) for about a year now. (I am currently working on an e-book that documents the journey we have been on using less toxic means to manage her heart condition and then integrating drugs in when it became necessary. I’m hoping to have it ready in January 2010.)
One of the many side effects of the drug furosemide is pancreatitis.
I have been surprised that not one vet that I have consulted with in the past year knows this. It even lists it on Merck’s website as a cause of acute pancreatitis.
This is not to say at all that these vets are bad. I absolutely love my current veterinarian. She is a traditional vet but she is awesome. I, however, realize that the vets can’t be expected to know everything. There are thousands of drugs with millions of side effects and these doctors can’t be expected to know them all.
That is why we have to take responsibility for our own health and the health of our animals and do some research on our own. Don’t take everything your doctor/vet says as gospel. They’re human. They’re sometimes wrong and they can’t be expected to know everything. (Okay, stepping down off the soapbox now…) 🙂
In any event, my little dog now has bouts with pancreatitis.
The terrier and schnauzer breeds are predisposed to pancreatitis for some reason so this complicates the issue.
I have learned that I can usually prevent an occurrence if I feed her small meals many times a day. Keeping something in her tummy seems to help counteract the negative digestive effects of the furosemide.
So here I am… performing this balancing act with furosemide and lots of little meals throughout the day… keeping the fluid out of her lungs and the inflammation out of her pancreas… when what do I find out? Stress can send the whole thing right over the edge.
I have a friend who comes to stay at my house and take care of my animals whenever I go out of town. A few months ago she came to stay because I wanted to go to a local horse show. I planned to be gone all day but would come home every night. The show was three days long.
The thing is, my little dog now associates this friend’s arrival with my leaving town, and so she immediately started showing signs of pancreatitis. Just from the stress of thinking I was leaving.
Then most recently during the holidays there were all kinds of stressful events going on like family and friends coming to visit and going on long car rides to see Christmas lights and pay holiday visits. The stress from all of this again pushed my little dog into a pancreatitis attack.
Nothing else had changed either time. Her diet was the same; her supplements were the same, her exercise… all the same. The only change was the stress.
…there’s stress in my life and stress in my dog’s life.
Is there stress in your life? How about your horse’s life?
Does your horse have a cold? Is he tender-footed or having a bout of diarrhea? Stress suppresses the immune system and can disrupt nearly every system in his body.
So the next time you, your dog or your horse become ill, and you start digging to find the cause so you are better able to administer a cure, remember to consider stress. It seems somewhat nebulous and intangible, so we often look for something more concrete. But the next time, consider that stress may be a factor and it could even be the underlying cause.