Prolonged Stress, the ultimate poison
It is worth noting that many if not most chronic diseases can be somehow linked to stress, be it physical or psychological. In fact, about two-thirds of doctor’s visits are for stress-related issues.
How does stress make us sick? The body responds to stress by making the adrenal hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol, all of which put us in a “fight or flight” response. This response raises blood pressure, increases the heart rate, and rushes blood to the limbs in preparation for an anticipated action. Do you recall the sweaty palms, fast breathing, and jitters before a test, job interview, or first date? That’s these hormones in action.
A healthy body quickly returns to a normal state within a reasonable amount of time after a stressful trigger. The problem with life today is that stress has become part of our daily protocol, and many people just don’t get to return to “normal” state. Persistent financial worries, a stressful job, or a bad toxic relationship keep us locked in a fight-or-flight zone.
Stress isn’t only related to emotional triggers. In fact, physical stressors to the body can creep up and can be more damaging. Physical triggers include a diet high in sugar, junk food, gut problems, food intolerances, high or low blood sugar peeks, diabetes, anemia, autoimmune disease, and environmental toxins and many more.
What’s the extent of the damage?
Prolonged stress causes continual production of the infamous stress hormone cortisol as well as other “stress chemicals” (adrenaline and norepinephrine), which eventually will wear us down. Chronic high cortisol is linked to:
- increased belly fat
- insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- low energy
- suppressed immunity
- reduced libido
- bone loss
- heart problems
How the body calls out for help?
You might think this is a no-brainer — a symptom of prolonged stress is just feeling “stressed out.”
This is true, however, other lesser known symptoms that indicate stress is robbing you of your health include: constant fatigue, energy crashes, difficulty recovering stressful events, headaches, trouble falling and staying asleep, trouble waking up, emotional mood swings, sugar and caffeine cravings, irritability, lightheadedness between meals, eating to relieve fatigue, dizziness upon standing, gastric ulcers, joint and muscle aches and pains, headaches, irregular periods and many more.
Neutralize the damage
The most important step in addressing and managing prolonged stress is obvious: remove the stressor.
It also means adding in activities that lower stress and release chemicals and hormones that lower inflammation and improve overall health of the body and brain.
These include plenty of sleep, meditation, daily physical activity, hobbies, and socializing and forming genuine connections, self-reflection/appreciation/love, laughter, a healthy whole foods diet, avoiding junk foods, and more.
Supplements that can help
Since stress is sometimes infused in our day to day living, avoiding may not be so simple. In that case, there are supplements that can help.
Adrenal adaptogens are herbs that help tame inflammation, sustain energy, boost brain function, and regulate sleep patterns. They include panax ginseng, astragalus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, and licorice root.
For more information on how to identify and manage adrenal stress, contact our office at (323)798-5158.