We all hear about the effects of chronic stress talked about but do we actually know just how many different things stress can effect?
I think the answer is no.
I know I never really thought about it. I mean I knew stress wasn’t a good thing, I never liked to be stressed. But it wasn’t until I started learning more about hormones and the endocrine system that I started believing just how many ways stress could effect my body and heatlh. So today I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned with you 🙂
Let’s start at the beginning.
The reason why stress effects the body so much is because of stress hormones, predominantly cortisol, along with adrenaline, epiphrine, norepiphrine and others. But the key stress hormone is cortisol.
When under stress our cortisol levels rise and under chronic stress they stay high and that influences the body in a variety of ways.
1. Disruption of Endocrine Balance
The body always tries to maintain a state of balance so when stress pushes the hormones out of balance it can affect other hormones in the endocrine chain. This might include:
- Thyroid function being suppressed
- Insulin being over produced
- Ovarian function being suppressed
- Production of estrogen and progesterone inhibited
- And perhaps many other key hormones being affected
2. Gut Health
Have you ever felt sick when you’re nervous? That’s stress having it’s affect on your digestion and having chronic high cortisol might not make you feel sick directly but it does have an impact on digestion. It can:
- Shut down digestion
- Cause inflammation and tissue damage in the gut
- Contribute to irritable bowel
- Contribute to digestive issues
3. Brain Health
We’ve all felt the affects of a stressful situation when we just can’t think clearly anymore. Well under prolonged stress:
- Memory and cognition start to decline
- Prolonged exposure can shrink the brain and interrupt function
- Get increased inflammation in the brain
4. Bone Health
Yes, stress hormones can even effect our bone health. High cortisol:
- Slows down bone remodelling – that is when your body deposits new bone
- Promotes faster resorption of bone – this is a natural process because your body draws calcium out of bone to maintain calcium status in the blood. But accelerated bone resorption is not good.
- Interferes with calcium and magnesium absoprtion from the gut – 2 key minerals needed for strong bones
5. Emotional Health
We are a whole and what goes on with our hormones goes on with us and the one place we are bound to feel it is our emotions.
Some of the ways stress effects emotional health include:
- Can lead to depression
- Increase incidence of anxiety and panic attacks
- Increase incidence of phobias
- Contribute to mood swings
6. Impaired Immunity
Cortisol is a very active hormone in helping the body’s immune system switch on and off. But when under chronic stress the immune system doesn’t switch off and we can experience increased inflammation throughout the bodies tissues. Increased inflammation suppresses the immune system so that it’s harder to fight disease. Increased inflammation throughout the body can also contribute to the development of many diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, obesity, and dementia.
7. Accelerated Aging
With the various effects that stress hormones have on the tissues and organs throughout the body, this unfortunately leads to accelerated aging. Everything about us ages faster when we are under chronic stress. We may see the effects in our skin with more wrinkles but it also ages our organs too and many of our cells deteriorate. So if we stress less, we age slower. It’s a true fact!
The effects of chronic stress are real and we’re not just talking about work stress or something like that, but think of ALL the different stressors in your life, physical, emotional and mental. Usually there are many stressors. Some we can control, some we can’t. For most of us the biggest contributing stress factor that is entirely within our control is, diet.
Most of us eat a very poor diet and this the primary thing that drives all of the things I’ve just mentioned above. Sure it’s not the only thing. But if you get the diet right, clean it up, you will notice the effects of stress are much less than before.
It’s definitely the best place to start first because changing your diet can have such a profound effect on your health and help to heal the effects of chronic stress too 🙂
I hope you now know and understand exactly how many ways stress can effect you
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