Everyone experiences stress in their lives. Whether it be work, financial, emotional, relational, anxiety, specific phobias, or other factors that we may be struggling through. Stress often manifests when people are not expecting it and the effects of these stresses on their bodies are far greater than many realize.
I was first diagnosed with Pompe disease in 2015. Pompe is a rare genetic disorder in which the body is not able to break down complex sugars, which affects organs and tissues, particularly muscles. The disease results from the deficiency of the enzyme acid alfa glucosidase (GAA), which breaks downs complex sugars in the body. This buildup occurs in organs and tissues, especially in muscles, causing them to break down.
Being a multi-sport coach, over the years I have experienced how many of my athletes react differently to the various stresses in their lives and how it affects their performance in training and overall health. I watch them go from being in the best fitness form to down and out with illness due to increased stresses in their personal or work lives.
Read more about therapies for Pompe disease.
Before I was diagnosed, I was experiencing symptoms relating to Pompe disease but I could never quite work out what exactly was causing these symptoms. There always seemed to be no particular pattern to them and the symptoms would be more severe in some instances than others.
These symptoms started with becoming extremely tired during the day when I felt I could not function properly. My legs and trunk area started steadily getting weaker, and no matter how much I tried to train my muscles they would not experience the growth that I saw in some of my friends while doing the same training.
Over time, I would experience more muscle pain over larger areas of my body and at times increased difficulty in being able to walk. I would always try and consult a physician or specialist and the only thing they noted was much higher levels of creatine kinase (CK), an enzyme that helps the body’s functions work and provides energy to cells. Yet they could not explain why it was so extremely high.
They used the reference to that of someone who has done an extreme physical or sporting event like an Ironman. After doing such an extreme event when they were placed under physical stress for 10-15 hours, their CK levels are so abnormally high that they struggle to function normally and are in extreme pain.
The doctor mentioned that my body seems to be undergoing massive trauma and stress but we could not figure out what caused this as I was hardly active at the time due to being in so much pain.
I had to rest a great deal and spend a lot of time in bed due to my body struggling to recover from these extremely high CK levels. Once these levels stabilized I would slowly try and rehabilitate my body back into exercise slowly. I started with walking in the pool, then walking my dogs around the block, then eventually into swimming and cycling.
At this time, before I was diagnosed, I would experience more severe symptoms whenever I would be placed under more stress at work. It also happened at various sporting events I wanted to participate in. As soon as my body experienced this stress relating to the event, whether it be from excitement and adrenaline or from the stress of worrying if I could even finish the event, the symptoms emerged. They would hit me as if I was running directly into a wall at high speeds and the pain would be excruciating to a point that it would cripple me and I would be unable to move.
When you are placed under stress, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which causes the body to prepare for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. This flood of hormones can trigger many responses in the body and some people can handle these responses with ease while others’ reactions are far more severe and can take time to manage.
Once I figured out that stress was causing huge reactions in my body, I immediately started looking at ways to manage and gain control over the stress-related responses of my body.
I started off with meditation and breathing drills, trying to develop a sequence of actions that would assist my body in dealing with this flood of hormones. Positive self-talk and being able to switch into a calm state of mind, even when surrounded by others who are also adrenaline-filled and on edge with nervous energy, helps bring clarity and focus.
Through regular practice of yoga, which includes my breathing drills, I have been able to gain control of my heart rate responses to these high-stressed situations. Also, that practice helped me improve my body’s mobility and release some of the tension and pain in my body.
I have also made use of cannabinoid (CBD) oil, which has helped a great deal in managing the pain in my body. When the body is placed under so much stress it can not heal correctly. Since making use of CBD oil, it has helped to assist in cellular rejuvenation and managing the cortisol stress hormone.
By consistently performing these various practices, it has allowed me to experience fewer symptoms caused by Pompe disease and I have been able to perform everyday functions more normally.