10/22/2014 11:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Silent Partners, Silent Killers


Let me introduce you to the S partners. They hang out a lot together and are known for causing excitement, a feeling of euphoria, elevated blood pressure and even pandamonium at times. They can be sneaky, sinister, silent and even quite serious. Let me introduce you to stress, sugar and salt.

Yes, they like to partner up quite a lot. Stress has a notorious reputation for putting people into action (good stress). Good stress, or eustress, helps us adapt to change and to survive. Meanwhile, sugar is oh so sweet, plenty tasty and so pleasurable! Salt is the quiet type but often does a sneak attack on us during a late night binge or (for women) a few days before that "time of the month." But all of these silent partners become silent killers when we overload ourselves with them -- when our body is maxed out by them.

Stress and sugar have fun playing off of each other. Stress can sometimes get us so wound up that our body forgets to shut off the production of cortisol. High levels of cortisol hang out in our body and send wrong messages to our cells. Then, in order to deal with the stress, we may seek eating sugar to pacify us, to help us feel pleasure. But sugar plays its part by causing even more excitement, hyperactivity and an energy boost only to let us down in a big way, causing a sugar hangover. (Blood pressure rises, our body produces more insulin to compensate for the sugar, then blood sugar drops. It becomes a stress response roller coaster!) Or sometimes we just want to indulge in something salty -- salted nuts, chips, pretzels... ANYTHING sprinkled with or made with salt! And guess what, eating salt just makes our body hold onto water... aka bloating!

While a little bit of stress, sugar and salt are not so harmful, bigger, consistent and continuous doses can take us down the path of gloom and doom. Yes, doom... as in chronic illness and (if not monitored and managed) even death! Both chronic stress, sugar and salt, in large doses or accumulation over time, can cause bodily inflammation, which can trigger the onset of chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer.

So what do we do? We will always have some sort of stress in our life and, certainly, (added) sugar is found almost everywhere in foods we eat -- even in the most unlikely places we thought were healthy (granola cereals, yogurt, canned tomato sauce... to name a few). And salt... well, holey moley, there is added (table) salt in nearly everything from canned goods, to frozen food, to processed foods to fast food to sit-down-restaurant-prepared food... it's nearly inescapable!

The solution: Don't Do the Dance With Stress, Sugar & Salt

Instead, partner up with meditation, relaxation, exercise, massage, exploring nature, enjoying friends, journaling, music, philanthropy, more phytofoods (veggies and fruits), sea salt, and practicing our passion(s) which can calm us and are so pleasurable! Then stress will slowly dissolve and sugar and salt won't be a constant or habitual craving. With practice, these partners in crime won't have a hold on us because we will be better at recognizing their M.O. and substituting it with healthier lifestyle choices.

It doesn't get much simpler: stress, sugar and salt
Minimize them to optimize your health!