Diet and Nutrient Therapies

Thoughts on Coping with Stress this Holiday Season

A new year is the best time for a fresh start.  Most people share this perspective as it is the time of year when most people want to make major changes in their lives.   New diets, new exercise regimens, finally starting to see a holistic doctor and of course the post-holiday cleanse or fast.  So whether your health goal is to stay on your path over the holidays or get going on a new one after the New Year, this holiday season you deserve to start off right.  But how do you choose a safe and effective program that will actually get you the results you’re looking for, inside and out?  The answer is an ND who is trained in medically supervised fasting and cleansing as part of their holistic healthcare training.

The holidays are notoriously jam packed with opportunities to indulge in all the wonderful/terrible obstacles we strive all year to overcome.  Why is that?  Family, traditions and very old habits are the things that put our somato-social responses (a.k.a. triggers) in place and are therefore are specifically pushed whenever the people or situations are revisited.

Some of us internalize our stress response, others lash out at others.  We all experience stress over the holidays, however we move through it.  Not all stress is bad stress, or “distress”, in fact there is “eustress” meaning good stress.  The later is the source of motivation for all things we get energized doing and the former is the source of stress that leaves us feeling drained.  It is the distress and its biochemical pathway that can lead to an overall decrease in detoxification if sustained for long periods of time.

When the body is being “driven” by the sympathetic nervous system, which is active during the stress response, normal digestive functions are suppressed but also repairative and restorative processes as well.  Metabolic energy is shunted during the stress response to the systems that will get us away from the proverbial bear  such as  the cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and respiratory systems.  In our time and culture, the problem is that the bear never stops coming and we never quite get away or get eaten so it just never stops.  So what do we do when we’re not in control of our stress responses?  Lash out, eat, drink, smoke, stay up all night, binge on whatever makes us feel better or numb.  Part of the recovery process therefore has to be addressing the pieces of ourselves and our lives that are hard to sit with and most of us need some help with that.

Add the natural holidays stress response to a ton of rich, heavy foods and maybe some alcohol or sugar and you’re psycho-neuro-immuno-digestive system is going to be taxed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with eating a big meal when you’re hungry but when you’re stressed while you’re eating, your not digesting and absorbing everything like you normally would when at ease.   This most often leads to what we call “the itis”.  A belly ache from eating too much stuff that makes you feel heavy, weighed down or tired afterward is “the itis”.  Eating when you’re not all that hungry compounds this even further.  It is more important to be true to your subtle insight that you are not in need of large amounts of food at that time than to eat to be polite.  And when you are eating, remember to smell, look at and savor your meal so that you turn on your parasympathetic rest and digest nervous system and decrease your symapthetic stress responses.

Staying true to your needs strengthens your mind-body neuropathways.  With practice, like any exercise, this will get stronger and radiate into other aspects of your life.  So go to the parties, have a little nosh if you like but be mindful while you’re eating and make a note of why you are eating.


Dr. Blake Ashley Kovner ND, is a graduate of Salem College’s Fleer Program where she earned her B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry with an emphasis in the crossroads of the two, biochemistry. She went to Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington where she was trained as a Primary Care Provider in Naturopathic Medicine. During her education, Dr. Kovner underwent specialized and extensive Naturopathic training in Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis and autoimmune disease management approaches. She also became a licensed massage practitioner at the same time. Her practice is comprised of roots-based, constitutional medicine that stems from Western Medical Herbalism, German Biologic Medicine and Ayurveda. As a Medical Herbalist, Dr. Kovner employs the art and science of individualized formulation where she makes botanical medicine for her patients, teaches them about the plants and how to grow them. While she is a specialist in nutraceuticals, Dr. Kovner believes strongly in the Hippocratic principle, “Let thy food be thy medicine.” With this in mind, she teaches her patients about the gut-brain axis, empowering them from the inside out. In a similar light, she excels in drug-free pain management for almost any chronic condition utilizing functional medicine and biofeedback. She worked in New Orleans at LSU as a research associate on an NIH-funded clinical trial on the safety and neuroprotective effects of a green tea extract on people with Multiple Sclerosis. There, she co-authored two peer-reviewed articles on MS that were published in scientific journals. The first is entitled, “Cognitive Impairment in multiple sclerosis” and the second one, “Polyphenon E, Non-futile at Neuroprotection in Multiple Sclerosis but Unpredictably Hepatotoxic: Phase I Single Group and Phase II Randomized Placebo-Controlled Studies”. She also participated in building an MRI database to see if brain atrophy is directly related to disease progression as measured by EDSS score and was trained as a Wheelchair Hatha Yoga Teacher and a Rasayana Yoga Teacher. Prior to practicing medicine, Dr. Kovner was a poet on the local SLAM poetry team and is the artist who created the iconic Trade Street figure called, Sax Man and had two gallery openings at AFAS's former UnLeashed Gallery.

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