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Stress and Health: Stress Cause of Body Distress

by Tatiana Alcazar

July 13, 2021

A woman suffering from stress and health problems.
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44% of Americans report that their stress levels have gone up in the past five years. This comes as no surprise!  The modern lifestyle has forced us into all work and no play.  Even worse, stress forces us to make poor diet choices out of convenience.  But it isn’t just limited to stress itself.  In fact, stress can have a serious impact on our health. 

Failing to manage stress properly can result in burnout or lead to mental issues.  In this article, we'll take a look on what you can do to neutralize it.

What Is Stress?

Stress is a natural process of the body.  Which, by design, help us experience and react quickly in emergencies.

We, humans, process environmental stimulants in our brain, which then signals one of the two autonomic nervous systems: the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system.  In general, we’re supposed to spend most of our time in the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the “rest and digest” system. It signals our body that it’s safe to digest food, make babies, and be creative.

If a stressor activates your sympathetic nervous system, you go into “fight or flight”.  Therefore, this forces all your energy and blood away from the gut and the brain and into your muscles, and it’s your body’s way of preparing you to escape a potentially dangerous situation.

The Danger

Although stress is okay in small doses, we aren’t genetically equipped to handle chronic stress.  Sadly, modern life exposes us to stress all the time, and the negative effects of stress can have a serious impact on our health.

The constant activation of our fight-or-flight system releases a hormone called cortisol into our bodies.  If we keep our bodies in a stressful state, cells in our body would become resistant to this hormone keeping our cortisol levels higher than normal which is bad for our overall health.

On the other hand, moderate stress may be positive; it helps maintain alertness and motivation, and also keep us alert in danger.

There are several symptoms of stress that affect all aspects of life, including emotions, behavior, cognitive and physical.

Emotional symptoms include:

  • Frustrate easily and moody
  • Having difficulty relaxing and no peace of mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself and tend to have low self-esteem, loneliness and worthlessness
  • Avoidance behavior
  • Feeling out of control

Physical symptoms include:

  • Lacking of energy.
  • Constipation
  • Tense Muscles
  • Having difficulty swallowing
  • Palpitations
  • Low libido
  • Frequent fever and colds
  • Teeth grinding

Cognitive symptoms include:

  • Absentminded or lack of concentration
  • Detrimental or tend to have a negative outlook in life
  • Uncontrollable thoughts
  • Inability to make appropriate decisions

Behavioral symptoms include:

  • Poor or loss of appetite
  • Avoiding a lot of responsibilities
  • Increase of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs consumption
  • Showing nervous habits such as biting nails, pulling or twisting hair, rocking and cracking knuckles

Stress is a normal process in our bodies.  In fact, in normal situations, it builds resilience and encourages growth; however, too much and long-term stress can cause many health problems.  For example, chronic stress may lead to inflammation in the body.  This is the body anticipating possible injury, so it up-regulates inflammatory proteins that help repair tissue damage.

But, chronic inflammation is associated with disease progression.  So, it is very important to reduce stress levels that may contribute to inflammation.

How You Can Lower Stress Naturally?

There are a few simple ways to lower stress naturally.

  • Journaling.  It may help you conquer stress mentally.  It’s a way of releasing stress and making sense of it.
  • Exercise.  This is actually one of the most effective way to fight stress. Regular exercise may lower your body’s stress hormones.
  • Take Supplements.  There are several supplements that may lower your stress and anxiety.  For example, ashwagandha is a popular option, commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, which according to many scientific studies, it is an effective alternative treatment.
  • Spend Time With Your Love Ones.  Spending time with family and friends provides self belonging and self worth.
  • Avoid Procrastination.  Avoiding procrastination and knowing your priorities may help you learn to manage delays and make much better decisions
  • Meditation and Yoga.  Practice proper breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which may control relaxation response.
  • Say “NO”.  You may avoid situations that you know add stress to your life. 
  • Healthy diet.  It may help neutralize the negative effects of stress.  By eating antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods, you can prevent inflammation from wreaking havoc on your body.

A Healthy Lifestyle Is Key to Equipping Your Body for Stress

Stress and health are inextricably linked.  Managing stress is important to help you deal with things in a healthier manner.  So, don’t wait for stress symptoms to come before you start equipping your body.  The way you handle stress may make a big difference to your health. 

If you’re looking for tips on improving your health holistically and naturally, check out my blog. You’ll find tips and tricks for living a healthier life to promote wellness from the inside out.

Sources:

  1. "Stressed in America." American Psychological Association, Jan. 2011, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/01/stressed-america
  2. Hirotsu, Camila. "Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions." NCBI, 29 Sept. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4688585/
  3. Mariotti, Agnese. "The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication." NCBI, 1 Nov. 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/
  4. Hunter, Philip. "The inflammation theory of disease." NCBI, 9 Oct. 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492709/
  5. Pratte, Morgan A, et al. "An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)". NCBI, 20 Dec. 2014, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25405876/

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About the author 

Tatiana Alcazar  -  A software engineer, former IBMer, co-founder of Naravis Corporation and a mom, with a passion for finding the solution and root cause to everything that comes across, including health. It has been a long journey since founding Naravis and trying to find solutions to my leaky gut syndrome and pursue natural health. Throughout this journey I have learned an enormous amount of information (acquired knowledge) and I feel it's my duty to share my knowledge and my experience with you.

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