Kathleen A. Head, ND, Gregory S. Kelly, ND
National College of Naturopathic Medicine.
Research shows a dramatic increase in use of the medical system during times of stress, such as job insecurity. Stress is a factor in many illnesses – from headaches to heart disease, and immune deficiencies to digestive problems. A substantial contributor to stress-induced decline in health appears to be an increased production of stress hormones and subsequent decreased immune function. Non-pharmaceutical approaches have much to offer such patients. This article focuses on the use of nutrients and botanicals to support the adrenals, balance neurotransmitters, treat acute anxiety, and support restful sleep.
It is estimated that 75-90 percent of visits to primary care physicians are related to stress–either acutely or because of chronic problems associated with stress.  An October 2008 American Psychological Association (APA) press release on stress in America claims eight of 10 Americans cite the economy as a significant source of stress, up from 66 percent six months earlier. In June 2008, more people were reporting symptoms associated with stress compared to the previous year, with nearly half polled indicating stress had increased in the past year. The APA conducted an online Harris poll Table 1 outlines some of the results. 
Stress responses have evolved from the original “fight or flight” mechanism, designed to protect from imminent physical danger. Chronic exposure to psychological stress results in chronic engagement of the fight or flight mechanism. Physiological changes associated with the fight or flight mechanism include increased blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar. In addition, blood tends to be shunted away from the digestive system. These effects are associated with overreaction of the sympathetic nervous system that ramps up secretion of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. 
Health Consequences of Chronic Stress
Stress is a factor in many illnesses–from headaches to heart disease, and immune deficiencies to digestive problems (Table 2). A substantial contributor to stress-induced decline in health appears to be an increased production of stress hormones and subsequently decreased immune function.