Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third Edition

 
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Why don't zebras get ulcers--or heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases--when people do? In a fascinating look at the science of stress, biologist Robert Sapolsky presents an intriguing case, that people develop such diseases partly because our bodies aren't designed for the constant stresses of a modern-day life--like sitting in daily traffic jams or growing up in poverty. Rather, they seem more built for the kind of short-term stress faced by a zebra--like outrunning a lion.

With wit, graceful writing, and a sprinkling of Far Side cartoons, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers makes understanding the science of stress an adventure in discovery. "This book is a primer about stress, stress-related disease, and the mechanisms of coping with stress. How is it that our bodies can adapt to some stressful emergencies, while other ones make us sick? Why are some of us especially vulnerable to stress-related diseases, and what does that have to do with our personalities?"

Sapolsky, a Stanford University neuroscientist, explores stress's role in heart disease, diabetes, growth retardation, memory loss, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis. He cites tantalizing studies of hyenas, baboons, and rodents, as well as of people of different cultures, to vividly make his points. And Sapolsky concludes with a hopeful chapter, titled "Managing Stress." Although he doesn't subscribe to the school of thought that hope cures all disease, Sapolsky highlights the studies that suggest we do have some control over stress-related ailments, based on how we perceive the stress and the kinds of social support we have.

how stress affects sleep and addiction, as well as new insights into anxiety and personality disorder and the impact of spirituality on managing stress. As Sapolsky explains, most of us do not lie awake at night worrying about whether we have leprosy or malaria. Instead, the diseases we fear-and the ones that plague us now-are illnesses brought on by the slow accumulation of damage, such as heart disease and cancer. When we worry or experience stress, our body turns on the same physiological responses that an animal's does, but we do not resolve conflict in the same way-through fighting or fleeing. Over time, this activation of a stress response makes us literally sick. Combining cutting-edge research with a healthy dose of good humor and practical advice, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers explains how prolonged stress causes or intensifies a range of physical and mental afflictions, including depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, and more. It also provides essential guidance to controlling our stress responses. This new edition promises to be the most comprehensive and engaging one yet.

Customer Reviews:

  • One of the best books you will ever read.
    This was one of my favorite books to read in college. Not only is it in depth, but thought provoking into an area that you might not be interested in. This book takes you into a whole new world. The author is in depth and amazing.

    After reading this book, my college class (Psychology / Communications) took a trip to a zoo. I had never been to a zoo before, so I thought the experience was more than just going to a zoo, it was the first time I went to a zoo! After reading this book, I recommend visiting a zoo. You will think about animals there especially chimps / monkeys way differently than what you think of them now.

    This author is one of those authors which I want to actually meet, before I die to congratulate them on a good job done! This book was one of my favorite books to sit around after class and talk about. It isn't one of thoose books you read, then forget about forever - its a book that you will continue to think about after reading....more info
  • Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers saved my life
    It didn't save my life but I got your attention.
    Sapolsky's book is an absolute hoot. He is clever, entertaining, and passionate in his work. More than that he is humorous. Even more than that he is a literary genius. I have never enjoyed endocrinology and the physiological response to stress so much. I now understand what glucocorticords are without referencing my "Dorlands Medical Dictionary". The book is informative and written clearly enough for me to use it as a reference in my course "Stress Management" an undergraduate course in psychology. I'm eagerly anticipating the release of "ZEBRAS II, the sequel". Buy it, you'll like it.
    ...more info
  • excellent book
    This book combines excellent writing with sound scientific reasoning. This is very possibly the best book of this genre that I have read....more info
  • The best layman's source about the science of stress.
    Why Zebras...is a thought provoking, sometimes disturbing, insight into the workings of the human being. If you think the stress in your life might kill you, you could be right! Robert Sapolsky's writing style enlightens while educating and he doesn't speak "over" the abilities of those of us who are outside the field of science....more info
  • Amusing and informative
    I'm enjoying this book. It is informative and fun and kept my interest even when the alternative leisurely pursuit was people watching on a Caribbean beach - so that can't be bad. The point the author wishes to make is zebras don't get ulcers because their stress comes from occasional short-lived encounters with lions. On the contrary our stresses are constantly trickling if not constantly full-on. This eventually throws our whole body into disarray. I am studying a nutrition course and the book was recommended as part of this (it doesn't have much to do with nutrition however) but it would be perfectly readable for those with little biological technical knowledge. I am also tempted to read others by the author as I'm impressed by the writing style. Just an FYI: I'm from the UK and had to buy this book from Amazon US because it was (currently) difficult to obtain over here....more info
  • Relevancy and Humor Make This Science Book Palpable
    This is a great book which explains the causes of stress in western civilization--both physiologically and psychologically.
    Comparing human civilized life with animal behavior on the savannah, Sapolsky makes the point that zebras need to run like the dickens to avoid being caught by lions, causing them to produce "glucocorticoids" like mad, but then, if the zebras do, in fact, get away, they can relax.
    Not so with humans, who are under continual stress and have trouble "unwinding." Excess "glucocorticoids" lead to all sorts of diseases, which Sapolsky explains in great detail.
    A biologist and neurologist at Standard University, he can get quite technical, but thanks to the relevant examples he uses and his great sense of humor, this is one science book that is made palpable to lay readers....more info
  • why zebras don't get ulcers
    The best science writing for non-science people I've ever read. It is funny, informative and this guy clearly knows what he is talking about. The book is based on his 30+ years of research on the subject of stress....more info
  • A scientist chimes in!
    This is a refreshingly well-written and well-researched book by an actual, respected neurophysiologist!!! It not only gives a wealth of information in a flowing, understandable form, but also gives hope that science can find some answers that will help us to fit into our modern lifestyles. Thanks, Dr. Sapolsky!...more info
  • Interesting read...
    Great book about stress and how it impacts different areas of our physiology. Make sure to read more as a novel rather than textbook....more info
  • Should be taught in grade school
    The most "bang for the buck" health maintenance book you could read, plus fascinating science to boot.

    ...more info
  • great book
    i think its a great book for understanding everyday human physiology that is stress related. Its a good read, with lots of interesting facts......more info
  • Excellent, well written book
    I will admit that it can be a bit technical for a few folks. His book makes you feel that he is teaching you in a classroom. The citations and references are informative....more info
  • Well..... maybe.
    l. It's very telling that between the first and second editions of this book, the author discovered many important things that needed changing, to which he freely admits. But that leaves you wondering how many more of his firmly stated opinions are also going to be changed! This ain't all figured out yet! 2. As the prince said to Mozart, "Too many notes!" This book is more complicated and repetitive than need be, and I believe, in the hands of a good editor, could have been less of both. It's a hard read, but I'll certainly admit, an interesting one. 3. Sapolsky challenges one of the gurus of the modern "it's all in your mind" school of disease-causation-and-cure, Dr. Bernie Siegel. As a cancer survivor and grateful reader/ follower of Siegel, I'm particularly struck by Sapolsky's lack of humility and drive to put him down. I checked all of Sapolsky's slams of Siegel's book, "Love, Medicine and Miracles," and Sapolsky should have had someone do the same before the book went to press. Some of those attributed to Siegel were actually from patients; others were distorted for effect. It's quite clear that the "love" part of Siegel's work is absent from Sapolsky's repertoire. And he seems to have little time for "non-rational" effects. He ought to read some of the current literature on the efficacy of prayer, and then open up his own mind to things "not dreamed of in his philosophy."...more info
  • Nice Read
    This book was recommended to me by my psychology professor. This is a great take on life & is reminiscent of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff". It is funny & educational....more info
  • A terrific primer on stress and it's effect on health.
    Having sufferred a heart attack at age 50 in July 1998, I have been searching for solid credible information to explain the common question, "Why me?".

    Sapolosky addressed all of my difficult questions and some that I hadn't thought of. His easy to read style and humourous personality makes his serious topic more appealing.

    Cardiologists in my area do not accept stress as one of the major risk factors in heart disease. Having had virtually ongoing job stress and periodic family crises such depression, a brain tumour, job loss, involuntary job reassignments and now bonafide heart disease, it is my personal phsyican's opinion that "stress" is one of the major factors of heart disease and also plays a role in other serious diseases such as ulcers, colitis, memory, sex and aging and depression.

    Saplolsky addresses the main questions and issues in a very readable and guides the reader to options and solutions for developing a personal action plan.

    Highly recommended to spouses, supporters and people who are willing to acknowledge that stress might be a factor in their health....more info

  • Entertaining, Educational and Important

    I'll spoil the ending right at the start. Zebras don't get ulcers because
    a) when they're stressed (like by a lion), they run like hell, and
    b) when they're not in danger, they don't worry about the next lion. They relax.

    But it's still worth reading this book. It's full of fascinating stories and offbeat humor. It's filled with a spirit of compassion for all people and animals who deal with too much stress. And it gives the best explanation I've ever read of how prolonged, chronic stress affects our bodies and minds. I wish I had read it before writing my first book, The Art of Getting Well.

    Sapolsky explains that stress is not the enemy. Without the stress response, none of us would be alive. But when it goes on too long, and when we aren't able to relieve stress by physical action, it raises our blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, tends to make us fat, damage our memories and derange our immune systems.

    Unlike most pop science writers, Sapolsky acknowledges the social and economic causes of stress. He doesn't just say, "Relax!" But he does point to some ways people can cope with stressful environments. Since most of our stresses don't involve hungry lions, we often have a choice in how we interpret threats and how we respond. We can, to a certain extent, use our minds and bodies to reduce the effect of environmental stressors.

    Stress contributes greatly to Type 2 Diabetes; some would say stress causes it. I talk about this a lot in my upcoming books, "The Politics of Diabetes" and "Diabetes as a Turning Point." Stress is not evenly distributed through our society. Money protects you from stress, as does education, social support, love, and self-confidence. While we can't always do much about the money, my book does explain how we can use the power of other people and positive emotions to manage both stress and diabetes. I will be quoting extensive from Sapolsky's work and am very grateful to him for writing about Zebras and Ulcers. I strongly encourage you to read this book.

    David Spero RN, author of The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002)
    Nurse at davidsperoRN dot com
    ...more info
  • Educational, Entertaining, and Important
    I'll spoil the ending right at the start. Zebras don't get ulcers because
    a) when they're stressed (like by a lion), they run like hell, and
    b) when they're not in danger, they don't worry about the next lion. They relax.

    But it's still worth reading this book. It's full of fascinating stories and offbeat humor. It's filled with a spirit of compassion for all people and animals who deal with too much stress. And it gives the best explanation I've ever read of how prolonged, chronic stress affects our bodies and minds. I wish I had read it before writing my first book, The Art of Getting Well.

    Sapolsky explains that stress is not the enemy. Without the stress response, none of us would be alive. But when it goes on too long, and when we aren't able to relieve stress by physical action, it raises our blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, tends to make us fat, damage our memories and derange our immune systems.

    Unlike most pop science writers, Sapolsky acknowledges the social and economic causes of stress. He doesn't just say, "Relax!" But he does point to some ways people can cope with stressful environments. Since most of our stresses don't involve hungry lions, we often have a choice in how we interpret threats and how we respond. We can, to a certain extent, use our minds and bodies to reduce the effect of environmental stressors.

    Stress contributes greatly to Type 2 Diabetes; some would say stress causes it. I talk about this a lot in my upcoming books, "The Politics of Diabetes" and "Diabetes as a Turning Point." Stress is not evenly distributed through our society. Money protects you from stress, as does education, social support, love, and self-confidence. While we can't always do much about the money, my book does explain how we can use the power of other people and positive emotions to manage both stress and diabetes. I will be quoting extensively from Sapolsky's work and am very grateful to him for writing about Zebras and Ulcers. I strongly encourage you to read this book.

    David Spero RN, author of The Art of Getting Well: Maximizing Health When You Have a Chronic Illness (Hunter House 2002)
    Nurse@davidsperorn.com...more info
  • readable neuroscience
    readable neuroscience, with a sense of humor! Thorough overview of neuroscience and the newest understanding of the human brain. ...more info
  • A good book, but not an easy read
    This book is sort of betwixt and between. It's trying to be a layman's guide to the physiology and psychology of stress, and it does a good job, but you'll need to dig out some of your high school biology to understand it.

    Sapolsky clearly understands the subject very well, and he writes well, but there's really no way to minimize the complexity of stress physiology. So buy the book, by all means, but don't expect to breeze through it like a typical self-help book....more info
  • why zebras don't get ulcers third edition
    I wish I could give a positive or a negative review of this book, but I placed an order with (field6)in March, and here it is a day away from May, and after four emails to this seller, I still have not received this book!!! I will place another order for this book with another seller, after I receive a credit on my account! I am a very dissatisfied customer....more info
  • Sapolsky is the best!
    I had the wonderful opportunity to take a couple of Dr. Sapolsky's classes at Stanford U., where he never failed to make people bust a gut. Not only is this book a good introduction to the fascinating world of stress, it is simply an enjoyable read. It will definitely help to improve your lifestyle and your health. A must buy!...more info
  • A lively scientific report on stress
    Your body is a sophisticated machine. If it were an automobile, it would be a top-of-the-line, luxury-class vehicle with all of the latest options. There's just one problem: Your body was designed for the savannas of Africa, not the streets and sidewalks of some urban metropolis. This is a major issue due to one of your body's great fail-safe systems: the stress-response mechanism, also called the "fight-or-flight syndrome." This mechanism provides your body with its best chance to get away safely from sudden peril, such as when a lion attacks you. It immediately floods your muscles with robust energy. Thus strengthened, you are far more able to evade the hungry predator. Unfortunately, this same stress-response also kicks in during psychological stress. In much of modern city life (even without stalking lions), such stress is often chronic, making your stress-response mechanism work dangerously overtime, and putting your body at risk of numerous stress-related disorders and diseases. Robert M. Sapolsky, a leading neuroendocrinologist, explains it all in this lively and entertaining, yet highly informative book. He writes with delightful, ironic verve and dry, irrepressible wit. He details how chronic stress can undermine your health, and explains what you can do about it, even in the urban jungle. getAbstract feels calmer just suggesting that anyone experiencing stress could benefit from reading this book....more info
  • Smart, witty, helpful
    This book has helped me understand the science of stress and some unpleasant results that I've been experiencing. I'm someone who always wants to know WHY certain things are happening, and finds that helpful when figuring out how to fix them. I really like the author's tone: He's a scientist, but one with a great sense of humor and also a lot of compassion. This book, while not exactly New Agey/touchy-feely, is also not cold and clinical as it explains the biology behind stress and how it affects body and mind. Once you reach the point where you say, "OK, now I understand how stress is affecting me ... Now what do I DO about it?," you'll probably need resources other than this book. But if, like me, you like to start out with a good understanding of what the problem is, then this book is a great place to find that foundation. ...more info
  • Understanding Stress
    This is an extraordinarily well-written book about stress. The information contained is quite technical, but the author does a superb job of illustrating these technical concepts with everyday things the average person can understand. Garden hoses, toilets, the banking system and, of course, zebras, are all employed at one point or another to explain the physiology of stress. There are not really any practical ideas here for managing stress; the focus is more on how stress affects the various systems of the body. You will, however, have an amazing understanding of all of these intricate mechanisms by the end of the book! Copious end notes flesh out some concepts which are over-simplified in the main text.

    Some readers will want to be aware that a lengthy paragraph of erotica is employed at one point as an illustration (it is not superfluous; it is a very effective teaching tool), and that, as is common with modern scientific works, there is a distinctly evolutionary bias....more info
  • Wonderfully informative
    This is a wonderfully informative book, and Sapolsky, a practicing scientist, is an extremely capable writer, with an fine sense of humor, and a humble, endearing personality. Yet I was not totally satisfied. Sapolsky attempts a lot, going into the physiology of the various stress responses, as well as their consequences for health, and even briefly writes about implications for self help. Frequently, the findings recounted are not without controversy or ambiguity, and Sapolsky is careful to point out the possible limitations or problems with the studies on which they are based (although he does take the "metabolic syndrome" for granted; the concept is endorsed by the American Heart Association, but viewed with skepticism by the American Diabetes Association). Sapolsky has a special gift for summarizing the necessary scientific background to understand his book, in whatever detail is required.
    The source of my dissatisfaction is that while I found all the material understandable, I don't think I retained enough. Now when a book has this much content, one reading is not going to do it. Still, it would have helped if Sapolsky devoted more effort to summarization of his own material (a bit ironic in view of his talents for summarization). He is careful to remind the reader of earlier, relevant material when embarking on a new discussion, but this is not sufficient. Also, it might have helped if Sapolsky relegated to Appendices some of the material on the studies themselves, particularly the less important or less convincing studies. I guess what I am saying is that when a book has this much content, some ideas used in good textbooks are worth borrowing.
    ...more info
  • Very clear and interesting
    Suddenly I found out that my co-workers needed medicines to go on with their lives, a friend of mine is a workaholic and she has terrible stomachaches, another one took her life after a long depression following a very stressful time, ...
    My life is great but sometimes I have to fight against anxiety that comes from I do not know where...
    I read this book and now at least I have an explanation, a scientific model for certain behaviours.
    The language is so clear that anyone can understand what stress is, how it affects our bodies, why some people develop ulcer and others do not. And it is funny, entertaining, telling little stories as well as technical data.
    It is exactly what a scientific book for the masses must be. I highly recommend it....more info
  • Phenominal
    From my background as a biologist, this book really covers the topic with strong support and detail. From my perspective as a reader, it's a true page-turner that doesn't just accomplish its point, but goes well beyond. Sapolsky brilliantly makes incredibly complex systems seem simple and mechanistic by breaking them into manageable pieces and using strong analogies, making a prior knowledge of neuroscience unecessary. Humorous, witty, and easy-to-understand, this book is a must for anyone remotely interested in the topic of stress!...more info
  • A fascinating tour of how stress impacts the body
    This new edition of why Zebra's Don't Get Ulcers is extensively revised and exceeds earlier additions in terms of explaining the effects of stress on the body. This is a very detailed exploration, but well worth the sometimes difficult reading. If you don't have some sort of background in biology, you may find that you have to read it a bit more slowly.

    Sapolsky as always explains his topics very clearly and uses humor and good examples to illustrate important points. I particularly liked his analogy of two elephants on a teeter totter for the ways in which the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system can become imbalanced under chronic stress from being activated to frequently and where each is trying to compensate for the massive activation of the other in a vicious cycle.

    Sapolosky also develops the implications of long term stress and explains the mechanisms involved in a lot of detail. He also explores how mechanisms that evolved to save our lives in actual life and death struggles can hurt us by being activated over things like traffic jams or missed deadlines.

    An example that he uses in the book is that if you are a zebra with your guts dragging on the ground while you are being stocked by a predator, then maybe it's useful not to experience pain under stress. If you may not be alive in an hour, then shutting down long term building processes and depressing short term immunity makes sense as does a narrowing of the attention.

    The author goes on to further explain in the example above that the real problem comes when the flight or fight response is triggered chronically and long term repair and important building projects like bolstering immunity are depressed for long periods of time. This example helped me to understand the logic of why our stress reactions work the way they do. The way I explained it was paraphrased from memory, but Sapolsky tells a story that makes sense and helps you to remember important points.

    While I was reading this book, I could viscerally sense the kinds of things stress was doing to my body. The information and evidence presented here is very compelling. Sapolsky also looks at how stress is linked to cancer and other controversial topics. He sensitively explores all sides of the arguments and why direct causal links are so difficult to prove for things like cancer. On the other hand, he doesn't back off from looking at the implications of stress with respect to cancer or other difficult areas to research.

    Sapolosky is not only a good scientist with excellent credentials, he is a very fine writer. I recommend this book without reservation to anyone who wants an in-depth knowledge of how stress affects the body.

    ...more info
  • Fascinating and disturbing
    Having just finished Robert Sapolsky's very funny A Baboon's Memoir, the funniest autobiography by a naturalist I've ever read, I thought I'd look up his other popular books, the other one being The Trouble with Testosterone. Sapolsky is considered the country's foremost authority on stress. I have some background in stress research myself, and once heard the originator of the stress concept and of stress research, the great Hans Selye, speak at a convention many years ago, who Sapolsky mentions in his books.

    Most of us know we should do a better job of managing stress in our lives, including myself. This is the sort of book I plunge into with a combination of morbid fascination and hypochondriacal paranoia. This is because the book itself was rather stressful to read, since I found out in manifold and gory detail about all the damage I'd been doing to my brain and body with all those high-paying but high-stress jobs I've had all my life. Although I made good money, I found out that I'd probably aged myself about 10 years in the process. However, as I said, the book makes for fascinating if somewhat morbid reading. For those with the adrenal cojones to handle it, this is the best book on the nature of stress and its effects that I've read. It's more a book on the physiology of stress, and so there isn't much on practical coping strategies, so if you're interested in information on that, you'll have to look elsewhere.

    That having been said, I thought I would mention the best strategy I've ever encountered, of which I'm sure Sapolsky would approve, since it's based on some sound research in the area, and relates to one of his main points. Sapolsky makes a convincing case that we evolved for a very different stress regimen than our current lives and civilization provides. Instead of occasionally facing serious, life-threatening situations as we did thousands or millions of years ago, such as a predator attack, our lives are now much safer but filled with many continual, reoccurring, constant, irritating, but lesser stressors that still build up over time, contributing to such problems as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and even muscular dystrophy. The psychological end result of this is that many people constantly fret and agonize about things until they're worried all the time, or it even generalizes into more serious free-floating anxiety and panic attacks.

    Hence, it's been found that the best way to deal with one's concerns and anxieties is to attack the issue of them getting out of control to the point where they're weighing on your mind all of the time, using a sort of "containment strategy." The best way to deal with this is to set aside some time each day--10, 15, or 20 minutes at most--for worrying. In other words, set aside a dedicated worry period, where if you need to, go ahead and worry yourself sick about it. Then put it out of your mind and enjoy the rest of your day. Another important thing you can do is to not just worry about everything but to put some constructive thought into how to better deal with your problems. Sometimes you won't have a good idea about how to do that for a while, for days, maybe weeks, but don't let that get you down. Persist in your efforts until you succeed. Most of success in life is persistence--not talent or ability--as most successful people will tell you. :-)

    The other principle I learned that was valuable in reducing stress was actually a Zen idea--the idea of living life in the present. According to this Zen principle, one should strive constantly to live in the present, in the present moment, and to enjoy that to its fullest. Otherwise, your other pressing concerns will weigh you down and you will never truly enjoy life to the fullest. There will always be something else on your mind. Someone who's always worried about their other concerns can't truly live in the present, and therefore will never truly enjoy or make the most of whatever activity they're engaged in. Part of their mind is always somewhere else. Therefore, strive to always live in the now, in the present moment.

    The final important thing I'd like to pass on is about attitude. Realistically, life is never as bad as it seems to us during our darkest and most depressed moments--nor as wonderful as it seems during our happiest, most ecstatic moments. It's somewhere in between. The point here is that one should also cultivate the proper attitude--since that's often the only thing one has total control over in one's life. If you're the sort of person for whom even little things get you down--which is more of us than we would like to admit--then strive to be more objective. The little things can't really hurt you. They're just annoying psychologically because they bruise our egos a little bit. Save your emotional energy for the really big problems in your life, instead--because there will be more than enough of those. Cultivate a positive, upbeat attitude so that the little things are practically beneath your notice. Let them slide off you like water off a duck's back. This is also another important Zen principle--that too much ego impedes our progress in life.

    Well, that was all by way of providing some practical advice for coping with stress in addition to all the scientific neurological and endocrinological information Sapolsky provides in his book. Good luck and happy stress-free reading and living!...more info

 

 
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