What Is Stress?
Model of Stress
Stress, first and foremost, is an
oxygen problem. The negative health effects of what
is commonly called stress are caused by disruptions
of oxygen homeostasis, whether starting with deep
disappointments of life or with disruption of bowel
and liver ecosystems. I present my guidelines for
preventing negative bodily effects of stress in a
companion tutoorial entitled "The
Seven for Stress." Chronic
stress is biologic addiction, a subject I discuss in
a companion article entitled
My patients with severe,
chronic stress have given me four insights:
First, the common notion of
stress being the fight-or-flight response launched
by the adrenal gland is so superficial as to be
Second, the prevailing idea of
mind-over-body healing is a cruel joke, and, in
essence, pours salt on their wounds
Third, spiritual and ethical
equilibrium, not psychology, is the answer to the
problems of life’s disappointments.
Fourth, the best long-term
results are obtained when works with ethics and
spirituality is integrated with issues of toxic
foods and toxic thoughts.
Long hours of listening to highly
stressed patients has taught me that the general
practice of searching for relief of the agony of the
present through working out the problems of the
past’ is little more than a cortical trap—the mind
endlessly recycles past pain or precycles feared,
future misery. Psychology, by and large, keeps us
incarcerated in obsolete models of disease and
sufferings. Spirituality sets us free.
Begins, It Begins to
In essence, life consists of injury and
healing, only to be followed by yet more injury. The
injury-healing-injury continuum of life is the true
nature of stress. Looking through the prism of
oxygen homeostasis, life begins with oxygen and is
terminated by events controlled by oxygen signaling.
The central importance of this statement—The Oxygen
Model of Stress, simply stated—is that every threat
to an individual’s oxygen-governed bodily systems
must be recognized and addressed for best long-term
clinical results. All my tutorials on mental health
matters are devoted to various theoretical and
practical (clinical) aspects of this model.
Many "stress experts" hold that
it is an organism's fight-or-flight response to a
threat to his survival, and that it is followed by
an adaptation response by which the organism adjusts
to its altered condition. Furthermore, the stress
response is considered to be mediated by the adrenal
gland. In my view, these notions are mere artifacts
created by animal mutilation experimenters and are
so inadequate as to be clinically irrelevant.
The adrenal gland, the putative
seat of the fight-or-flight response, is not a
hermit organ. It senses and responds to its internal
and external environments like every other body
organ. Similarly, adrenal hormones influence—and, in
turn, are influenced by—all other hormones and
messenger molecules in the body. The idea that
stress can exist as a discrete adrenal malfunction
is neither tenable on theoretical grounds nor
consistent with my clinical observations.
Life is an ever-changing
kaleidoscope of energetic-molecular events. In
biology, when one thing changes in one way,
everything changes in some way. We can neither
understand nor effectively address issues of stress
in clinical medicine by applying narrow-focused,
reductionistic and artificial notions of the stress
response. What is required for this purpose is a
deep, holistic understanding of the
energetic-molecular relationships in human biology.
This is an exciting time. Nearly
each month I see scientific studies that validate at
least one of the ancient healing arts or
philosophies. Science catches up with empirical
medicine. As far as stress in clinical medicine is
concerned, this means an end to the era in which
animals are burned, drugged, drowned, electrocuted,
or decapitated by experimenters so they can develop
"scientific" theories of what stress is and isn't.
Science is not only self-correcting, it is also
Children on Metabolic Roller
I see little children living
troubled lives on metabolic roller coasters. They
suffer wide mood swings—behaving as loving little
angels one moment, then kicking their mothers' shins
the next. Punishment is frequent at home, and they
face daily indignities at school. They are tormented
by sugar roller coasters that are recognized neither
by their parents nor by school psychologists. Their
food sensitivities remain undiagnosed, and their
mold allergies remain unrecognized and untreated.
School psychologists are quick to label them with
learning disabilities, hyperactivity and attention
deficit disorder—and their pediatricians are quick
to offer Ritalin prescriptions. How does the
suffering of these children coincide with the
prevailing notions of fight-or-flight stress
Antidepressants for Human
I see young women and men who not
too long ago were athletic teenagers. Their common
colds were aggressively treated with massive doses
of antibiotics that battered their bowel ecosystems.
Their sinus headaches were treated with painkillers,
and the symptoms of caffeine addiction and anxiety
were suppressed with Ativan and Valium. Their undue
tiredness was chalked up to shirkers' syndrome,
Yuppie syndrome, all-in-the-head and other insolent
diagnostic labels. For indigestion and bloating they
were prescribed antacids and ulcer drugs. Their
physicians never bothered to look for nutritional
and environmental causes of their suffering.
Finally, when their symptoms became disabling, they
were labeled with chronic fatigue syndrome and were
awarded prescriptions for antidepressants. How does
their anguish fit into the fight-or-flight stress
Hollow Tin Dolls
I hear gynecologists praise
synthetic estrogens and progesterones, speaking as
if those hormones were little marbles rattling
noisily in hollow tin dolls. I never hear a word
about how female hormones are affected by
sugar-insulin-adrenaline roller coasters. Nor do I
hear gynecologists acknowledge roller coasters. Nor
do I hear gynecologists acknowledge interactions
between female hormones and other hormones produced
in the thyroid, pancreas, pituitary and pineal
glands. They are always silent about the roles of
yet other hormones produced in the bowel, lung or
heart. They excitedly talk about their patients as
if the female bodies were hollow vessels—as if
estrogens and progesterones turn, twist and bump
into each other in empty cells.
But my female patients are not
hollow tin dolls. They are living, breathing beings.
The tissues under their skin teem with a thousand
ever-changing molecular kaleidoscopes. When they
suffer wide mood swings, the jitters and headaches
associated with PMS, it's not just estrogens that
trick their bodies. When they are shocked with hot
flushes one minute and cold waves the next, mere
estrogenic pranks are not at fault. During the
night, when they awaken drenched in sweat, it can't
simply be chalked up to a frenzy of sex hormones.
How do sugar-insulin-adrenaline
roller coasters feed—and how are they fed
by—estrogen roller coasters? What does a confused
thyroid gland have to do with hot flushes? What does
a bowel in revolt against yeast overgrowth have to
do with a patient's nocturnal misery? Allergic
triggers light up oxidative fires in their blood
streams. What do such fires in blood have to do with
their brain fog and muscle symptoms? How do chemical
triggers fan those oxidative fires? Gynecologists do
not ever concern themselves with such questions—at
least not the ones I know. How does all that fit in
with the fight-or-flight stress response?
Sleeping with Machines
Recently, The New England Journal
of Medicine discovered that young people are sleepy
during the day if they do not sleep soundly at
night. (How desperately do we need such insight?)
The Journal further reported that in a sleep study,
one-fourth of the young male volunteers revealed
evidence of sleep-disordered breathing (328:1230;
1993). Then the study concluded that those young men
would benefit from sleeping with a sleeping machine
stuck up their noses. Amazingly, the Journal
does not bother to ask how the young sufferers'
sleep patterns became deranged in the first place.
When we sleep, we are not dead.
That is self-evident. What happened to those young
men during the day to interfere with their sleep at
night? After a sleepless night, people tend to drink
large amounts of coffee to stay awake at work. The
caffeine keeps their neurotransmitters revved all
day and prevents deep restful sleep during the
night. The next day begins just as the previous one.
How does sleep-disordered breathing coincide with
the fight-or-flight stress response?
The Unstoppable Has No Motivation
Some time ago, a 29-year-old man
consulted me for chronic fatigue, migraine
headaches, recurrent sinusitis, irritability and
heart palpitations. He had single-handedly built a
small and highly successful commodity brokerage
"I was athletic. I suffered
sinusitis and migraine headache attacks, but I did
okay with them. I was a very high-energy person. I
always performed four or five tasks at a time. I was
unstoppable, Dr. Ali." He spoke with pride, then
added ruefully, "But now I'm drained all the time. I
drink a lot of coffee, but simple tasks still seem
impossible. I have no motivation left in me."
How does chronic fatigue and lack
of motivation coincide with a fight-or-flight stress
When Hospitals Aren't Healing
A patient kindly sent me a video
of a Nova program. It showed sad stories of nurses
who contracted a mysterious malady. They developed
incapacitating weakness, confusion, headaches, skin
rashes, joint pains and breathing difficulties. Many
of them cried as they described how they were
finally disabled by the malady. After prolonged
consultations with world-famous medical specialists
and extensive batteries of diagnostic laboratory
tests and scans, the illness remained undiagnosed.
What went wrong? The nurses made
a grave error: They breathed the air in the
operating rooms of Harvard's Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston. The mystery was finally
solved by some medical sleuths who identified the
elusive offender molecule: glutaraldehyde, which is
used to sterilize surgical instruments in operating
rooms. The scene then changed and the video showed
some high-powered environmental specialists talking
about multi-million-dollar renovations to eliminate
the problem. I have doubts about their success. The
diminished antioxidant and immune defenses of the
hospital staff are as much a part of the problem as
is the virulence of the offending molecule. All the
millions spent on structurally renovating the
hospital building will not restore the damaged
antioxidant, enzyme and immune defenses of the
I know that to be true because I
have seen too many people crippled by such stealthy
tormentors. How does Hans Selye's fight-or-flight
stress response coincide with the unmitigated misery
of those nurses?
Nitric Oxide: a Guardian Angel or
I hear internists talk about the
role of nitric oxide in high blood pressure and
heart disease. That's their scientific rationale for
prescribing their favorite drugs. Somehow the nitric
oxide story is accepted as scientific validity for
the long-term use of drugs that block one or more
cellular receptors, enzymes, membrane channels and
messenger molecules. Invariably, such blockade
medicines create long-term chemical toxicities.
What my internist-friends do not
see is that nitric oxide is a molecular Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nitric oxide protects the
healthy heart in some ways and attacks a damaged one
in other ways. How does an internist know when
nitric oxide will be a guardian angel and when it
will be a remorseless destroyer? Internists rarely
ask such questions.
Iron is also a molecular Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A part of hemoglobin, it is
essential for transporting oxygen to the tissues.
Yet excess free iron is also toxic, causing oxidant
to the liver, adrenal glands and
heart. Adrenaline also plays dual roles—essential
for survival in life-threatening emergencies as well
as a dangerous oxidizing molecule. How do such
molecular vagaries coincide with the adrenal
fight-or-flight stress response?
How well does a psychologist
understand stress if he is unfamiliar with the havoc
wrought on his client by sugar-insulin-adrenaline
roller coasters? How effectively can a psychiatrist
treat depression caused by chemical sensitivity if
he vehemently denies that chemical sensitivity can
cause depression? How competent can a cardiologist
be in helping a young woman with mitral valve
prolapse caused by stress of rampant yeast
overgrowth? (Indeed, most cardiologists will
probably scoff at the very idea.) How successful
will a gastroenterologist be in soothing a
rebellious bowel if he insists that food
sensitivities cannot cause colitis? Surgeons
enthusiastically perform sympathectomy—an operation
that cuts sympathetic nerves out—for patients with
arterial spasms. What is the true value of such an
operation when arteries are tightened by unrelenting
stress of oxidatively damaged blood cell membranes?
Or when the blood proteins are literally cooked by
simmering oxidative coals kept lighted by viral
Psychoneuroimmunology experts are
creative folks. They are busy propounding complex
theories of how the psyche punishes the nervous and
immune systems. In the past decades, we spent
hundreds of millions of dollars on research
establishing the psyche, brain and immune system as
discrete segments of the human condition. How ironic
that we are now wasting larger amounts of public
funds trying to link them back again! Long live the
gurus of our fight-or-flight stress industry!
Every day in my clinical
practice, I see the folly of fight-or-flight
thinking through the true-to-life suffering of my
patients. And every day I wonder why our
fight-or-flight experts cannot see something so
obvious: Life is an injury-healing-injury
continuum—and that is the true nature of stress.
Spontaneity of Injury,
Spontaneity of Healing
The beginning of life as well as
its ending are spontaneous phenomena. This is not a
romanticist's view, nor is there anything
metaphysical about it. These two aspects of life are
observable phenomena and constitute the two sides of
life's essential energetic-molecular equation.
Oxidation is the loss of
electrons. It is a process by which high-energy
molecules are turned into low-energy molecules.
Common examples of oxidation are the wilting of
fresh flowers, spoiling of fruit, decomposition of
meat and rusting of iron. Spontaneity of oxidation
in nature determines that the process of electron
loss—breakdown of high-energy molecules—requires no
external triggers. It is triggered solely by
internal cues. It has nothing to do with demand for
change. (I devote a large part of the companion
volume RDA: Rats, Drugs and Assumption to this
Healing is also a spontaneous
phenomenon—it occurs in response to inner cues. Some
folks are enchanted by notions of spontaneous
healing. I am at a loss as to the source of their
excitement. For nearly three decades as a hospital
pathologist I studied the healing phenomenon in
injured tissues with a microscope. I do not know of
any unspontaneous healing. We pathologists have
limited ideas about some observable aspects of the
healing response. However, the truth is that we have
no inkling about the internal energetic-molecular
signals that molecules, cells and tissues heed
during the course of healing. (I devote a large part
of the companion volumes The Cortical Monkey and
Healing and The Dog, Directed Pulses and Energy
Healing to this side of life's equation.)
Spontaneity of Living
In this volume I include some
personal observations and reflections on the third
element of what I call the trio of spontaneities:
the spontaneity of living.
Living was once spontaneous. For
one thing, no one knew how to be unspontaneous. For
another, everyone entered this world
spontaneously—without any prior planning. People did
what needed to be done—when it needed to be done.
The ancients recognized that death was also a
spontaneous process.So where did things go wrong?
"Doubt grows with knowledge," the
German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote.
The novelist Virginia Woolf lamented that literature
is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded
beyond reason the opinions of others. At least, we
have some understanding of what happened along the
way—how we were reduced to living unspontaneously—and
Now here, you see, it takes all
the running you can do to keep in the same place. If
you want to get somewhere else, you must run at
least as fast as that.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
How could the English writer and
mathematician, Dogdson (alias Lewis Carroll) see the
future so clearly? How did he know that all we would
do would be to keep running to keep in the same
place? Did he know that would happen within a mere
hundred years after his death? A perceptive rogue,
that Mr. Dodgson!
Andy Warhol, our modern-day
prophet, thought people forgot what emotions were
supposed to be during the 1960s. "And I don't think
they've ever remembered," he concluded. Mr. Warhol,
it seems to me, mistook the 1960s for the beginning
of the human era. The phenomenon of forgetting what
human emotions are is much older.
How does one live spontaneously?
Once lost, how does one recapture one's innocence?
When we know something, we cannot unknow it, my
friend, Choua, often says. How do we say no to
Goethe's knowledge that creates doubt? How do we
unknow? How do we detect—and sidestep—the wreckage
of other men's ideas that Virginia Woolf warned us
Socrates pronounced that an
unexamined life wasn't worth living. Now all we ever
do is examine our lives. Could Socrates have
imagined that? Then we re-examine and
"re-re-examine" until the process of examining life
totally excludes all possibility of living.
The past lives in the present,
psychiatrists and psychologists teach us. Then they
go on to promulgate their theories about solving the
problems of the present through analysis of past
suffering. We learn our lessons well. Under their
able tutelage, we learn to recycle past misery—and
when that doesn't suffice, we precycle feared,
My patients teach me something
different. They have found that the endless
recycling of past misery only causes endless
misery—it does not free them from the misery of the
moment. They have learned that they cannot
clever-think their way out of all their problems.
Neither stress nor healing are intellectual
One clinical observation in my
work has influenced my thinking more than anything
else: Tissues do not lie. The thinking mind is the
only part of the human condition that deceives.
Where do the distortions in spontaneous healing come
from? I asked. The mind—that was the obvious answer.
If the mind was the only part of the human condition
that lies, why should I heed it in matters of
healing? This simplistic notion was reassuring.
There Aren't Enough Tibetan Caves
The early African who walked out of the Rift
Valley and looked up understood something about his
linkage with the larger presence that surrounded him
at all times. He understood something about
injury-healing-injury cycles and about the real
source of healing. The early African bequeathed
those insights to the ancient Indians. The notion of
the reverence for all life and the ancient Jain
concept of ahimsa, on which it is based, is rooted
deep in human history.
What Is Chronic Stress?
- A Biologic Addiction
Seven for Stress
Anxiety Is a
Matter of Biology, Not of Psychology
Mental Health Course
Dr. Ali's Mental
Be Your Own Healer
Seven for Stress
Demand Nor Offer
Forgiveness, Act Compassion
Roots of Fear
Emotions Are Unsorted Thoughts
Disappointment Is Unsorted thoughts
Be Your Own Healer
Are the largest mental health hospitals
Mental Health and Disorders
Anxiety Is a
Matter of Biology, Not of Psychology
What Is Anxiety?
Physiology and Pathology
* Mental Health
* What Is Stress?
Seven for Stress
Depression - How Large Is the Problem?
- Early History
Absence of Freedom of Thought
* The Aristotle Principle
* The Darwin Principle
Why Do Men Go to War?
Ethical Science for
Science, Health, and
Health and Healthful Aging
Who Should Be Charged
With Unethical Conduct?
Prevalence of Autism Spectrum
Cerebral Ischemia and Infarction
Sclerosis (MS) and Demyelinating Diseases
Model Alzheimer's Disease
Anatomy of the
Parasympathetic Nervous System
and Tau Protein
George Putin, George
A Dress Rehearsal for the Iran Thing
Course on Stress
Chronic Stress - It Is Biologic Addiction
Mental Health and Disorders
Seven for Stress *
Seven for Stress
Who Should Be Charged
With Unethical Conduct?