What is Stress?
We all experience stress when we are challenged or overwhelmed. It is more than an emotion, it is a primitive response that should only be used to alert us temporarily of any perceived threat, but if it stays around too long, it can begin to change the biological response of many organ systems which are normally involved in the ‘Fight or Flight’ response, as we know it.
What can trigger a stress response?
- The loss of a job
- Persistent worry
- Relationship concerns
- Family matters
- Death of a loved one
- Financial concerns
- Work environment
- Peer pressure
Which systems can become affected by stress?
The Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and are one of the organ systems deeply affected by long term stress. They produce the hormones cortisol, epinephrine otherwise known as adrenaline and norepinephrine.
- Epinephrine (adrenaline)- causes the heart to beat faster and raises your blood pressure.
- Cortisol- affects the lining of blood vessels, exposing them to potential damage.
Scientists now know, that this continuous overproduction of cortisol and epinephrine may begin to compromise the health of the Cardiovascular system.
How stress can affect your body:
Have you ever wondered why you get butterflies when you feel stressed? In a stress response, the Brain communicates with the Autonomic Nervous system, which then communicates to the Enteric nervous system (Digestive nervous system).
This natural Brain-Gut connection is responsible for the butterflies you feel when stressed. This Stress connection between the brain and gut can also begin to disturb the natural contractions that help move food through the digestive tract, potentially affecting our metabolism and absorption of nutrients.
Elevated levels of Cortisol may also increase our cravings for more energy dense foods, such as carbohydrates. Lovingly known as ‘Comfort eating’, Cortisol not only increases our appetite, it also encourages the accumulation of belly fat, otherwise known as visceral fat.
Visceral fat actively releases hormones and immune system chemicals, which may weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to poor health.
What now?If you feel that your are suffering due to stress, it's time to take action. Take care of yourself by speaking to your health care professional or practitioner and start ridding your mind and body of unneeded stress.