Is Stress Making You Sick?
In a world where many things seem out of our control, there is a lot to be said for keeping our stress under control because of the impact it can have on our health and longevity.
In holistic practices we recognise that prolonged stress can be precursor to chronic disease;
- Stress suppresses the immune system leaving you more vulnerable to illness
- Stress shuts down your digestive and reproductive systems
- Stress increases the risk of heart attack and stroke
- Stress can rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression
- Stress increases cellular inflammation
- Stress releases the hormone cortisol from the adrenal glands
- Stress speeds up the ageing process
Stress can create pain, spasms, sore muscles, flare up arthritis, skin conditions, digestive disturbances, hair loss, fibromyalgia, as well as a host of other symptoms that can lead to chronic health conditions.
Did you know that 75% to 90% of human disease is related to stress and inflammation, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases and neurodegenerative disorders?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACUTE AND CHRONIC STRESS?
Acute stress is short-term that only lasts for a short period of time, like a traffic jam, an argument etc, whereas Chronic stress is long-term stress that creates a sense of pressure and overwhelm leading to symptoms that disrupt your lifestyle like insomnia, constant pain, chronic fatigue, depression, changes in appetite, high blood pressure, indigestion, rashes, and allergies.
When left unchecked, inflammation chemicals called cytokines are released by stress and the more stressed you are, the more you’ll release these chemicals, and the more likely inflammation will occur. This can lead to endocrine and immune system dysfunction wreaking havoc on the body and the mind.
HOW STRESS AFFECTS YOUR GUT
How many times have you felt nervous or excited and had to quickly visit the bathroom? This is an example of how closely linked the gut and brain truly are and how dysfunction often unites them. Stress can adversely impact our microbiome balance and gastrointestinal function to a point where it can develop into chronic digestive inflammatory states like irritable bowel, colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
In turn this digestive dysfunction can influence psychological responses via the gut-brain axis. Mind-body interventions like meditation and mindfulness have been gaining recognition for their ability to down regulate inflammation, alleviate depression, reduce stress, and benefit immune system function.
HOW CAN YOU MANAGE STRESS?
We can’t eliminate stress from our lives completely, but we can certainly learn to manage it.
There is growing evidence that suggests exercise is one of the most beneficial changes you can make to prevent or improve the metabolic and psychological comorbidities brought about by chronic stress, and these changes can begin with something as simple as a daily walk, swim, or bike ride.
Trials have demonstrated that yoga and meditation showed improvement in biomarkers of cellular ageing, which are associated with oxidative stress and lifestyle diseases like depression, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
It’s easy to connect and incorporate these daily mindfulness exercises into our lives through social apps like soulalive.com.au, a meditation app in the palm of your hand, designed to make you stress less and feel good every day.
Remember the food you eat can also cause stress, especially when we consume processed foods and alcohol that contribute to inflammation. A healthy whole food diet combined with sunshine and loving relationships that calm our heart, blood pressure and stress hormones should become the new lifestyle prescription for stress relief and healthy ageing.
There is a saying that defines depression as stressing about the past and things we cannot change, where anxiety is stressing about the future that hasn’t happened yet. Both scenarios can seriously affect your ability to enjoy life now, to feel gratitude and happiness in this moment. The take home message is that life is short, don’t let stress sabotage your health and your future.
Written by Mona Hecke
Mona Hecke is a degree qualified Naturopath, nutrition specialist and health and wellness writer.
With over 20 years in the health industry, beginning with a focus on children and families, and a bestselling book ‘The Lunchbox Revolution’, Mona is now empowering women through education and conversation to take action and embrace change. Gut health, mindfulness, nutrition, hormones, and menopause are the topics that women want and need to know to create their healthy future.
Mona holds certifications in Lifestyle Coaching, Kinesiology, holistic herbal medicine, and nutrition.
A recognised leader in the health industry, Mona’s strong social media presence and passion for influencing change will continue to be a catalyst for health reform for the benefit of every Australian.