Chronic Stress - Effects On The Body and How To Overcome It
What happens when we are faced with stress: we release adrenaline, noradrenaline (same as epinephrine/norepinephrine) and cortisol. These allow us to get away from the stressor as quickly as possible.
They allow our fight or flight response and start a cascade of inflammation in the body: Increasing our heart rate, blood pressure, dilating our vessels (heart, brain muscles, skin), increasing our metabolism, dilating our pupils + airways and stopping our digestion.
Cortisol pumps the body with additional glucose (sugar) which increases our pain threshold, inhibits our immune response and allows us to be more alert.
Once the stressor is gone, we return back to equilibrium, normally.
What happens when stress is prolonged for more than usual? These hormones are released for too long + our bodies response to cortisol is desensitised (cortisol resistance), symptoms of which include:
- Weight gain, especially around the belly + increased risk of insulin resistance + type 2 diabetes
- Low libido + infertility/suppressed reproductive function for men + women (including causing menstrual irregularities)
- Increased histamine response - aka, much more sensitivity to allergies. You might suddenly develop hay-fever or a reaction to something you were not previously allergic to or an intolerance to high histamine foods.
- PAIN! Increased inflammation everywhere: joint pain, general body aches, maybe particularly in the lower back + may eventually lead to the development of an autoimmune condition like Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis etc. Inflammation has a cause + effect relationship here, it is a stressor itself + is caused by chronic stress.
- Feeling ‘wired’, anxious, a sense of ‘doom’ that won’t go away
- A general inability to cope with even minor stress: often presenting as a sense of fear
- Feeling tired all the time, need more sleep but sleep doesn’t relieve the tiredness (can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome/ME)
- Low motivation, depression, insomnia, migraines, irritability and all the rest of it
- Feeling light headed, especially when standing too quickly & extra sensitive to heat and cold
- Develop a lower tolerance to sugar/carbs/alcohol/caffeine/drugs, even though that might be exactly what you crave.
- An impaired immune system + slower wound healing (why we always get ill when we are run down from being overly stressed/busy)
- Changes in our gut-brain axis: worse/slower digestion, leaky gut (which in itself causes chronic inflammation), IBD, IBS, SIBO, reflux, stomach ulcer development
- Overall, an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, thyroid dysfunction, metabolic syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis
- If you feel any of these things and don’t understand why, it might be because you’re living in chronic stress and didn’t even know it (or maybe you do know it….but haven’t thought about starting to manage it).
So, what can you do if this is you, or your worried it might be soon?
- Get your body moving, even if its just a short walk outside each day. Please note - intense exercise is itself a stressor, if you are worn out don’t run a marathon, you’ll just make everything worse.
- Cold water exposure - swimming in cold water is the best, but if you can’t access that, try starting your shower with cold water even if it starts as just for a second each day and build it up.
- Take epsom salt baths - the magnesium in Epsom salts does get absorbed into the body and helps stress so much.
- Try acupuncture, reflexology, massage, meditation etc. These are massive aids for stress management.
Changes To Your Diet:
- Drink: camomile, passionflower, lemon balm, lime flower, ashwagandha, lavender teas, they are de-stressors, fight anxiety, depression, sleep aids and help with a lot of the other symptoms
- Add basil, oregano, rosemary, to your diet
- Reishi mushrooms - there are many forms you can get these in nowadays - tinctures/teas etc. they help with almost all negative results of chronic stress
- Protein with every meal (preferably plant based or organic animal produce)
- Swap white/refined carbs for wholegrain - quinoa, brown rice, oats.
- Eat dark green leafy veg with EVERY MEAL (yes, even breakfast)
- Eat the rainbow, eat fibre, maybe take probiotics - support your gut bacteria.
- Increase omega 3: eat wild oily fish or take a supplement
- Avoid adding stress onto the body: caffeine, alcohol, smoking, excess exercise, sugary or diet sweets/drinks
- Remove table salt from your diet and buy some proper sea salt/Himalayan salt
- Stop cooking with sunflower and vegetable oils. Organic, extra virgin olive oil instead, please.
Supplements which have been proven to help us manage stress (as always, don’t try without guidance):
Magnesium (citrate form can cause diarrhoea, glycinate is an alternative form)
- B vitamin complex (note this might make your pee fluorescent yellow, this is normal), vitamin E & vitamin C
Lots of love,
As always, for more information or to book a nutrition consultation you can find me at:
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