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Never before has stress been considered such a normal way of life than in the 21st century. Yet, research is revealing the numerous ways that stress critically affects our health – physically and mentally. 

In this current era, we are regularly finding ourselves with:

  • exploding calendars
  • overloaded to-do lists
  • never-ending work
  • family and health concerns
  • social media influencers
  • and multiple financial demands and burdens

It feels like there’s just never enough time in the day to do the things we want to do!!

Strangely, it’s become the norm to glorify the term “busy”, almost using “being busy” as a way to justify our self-worth, being enough and desirable to others.

Take exhibit A:

Person A: How are you? How’s work? We should catch up soon!!

Person B: “OMG I’ve just been sooo busy! Work’s been full on, I’m constantly on the run. I’m sorry but I just don’t have time atm.

Person A: Cool…

Sound familiar?

 

The problem with being “busy” all the time is that we’re not giving our bodies the rest it needs. We also put ourselves in a state of constant stress and overwhelm, which severely affects our health long term.

Back in caveman days, our fight / flight response was only activated in times of imminent danger. For example, when we were in fear of our lives.

These days, with our demanding jobs, constant distractions, self expectations and social pressures we’re finding ourselves activating this flight / fight response for longer than our bodies can handle.

In most instances, this can lead to chronic stress which can have a significant affect on our health. People can become sick – mentally, physically and emotionally.

This is why it’s important to talk about stress, what it is and how stress affects our health in a negative way.

If you’re someone who regularly feels stressed out, it’s time to understand what this constant stress is doing to your body and take action to reduce it.

 

 

What is Stress?

Stress relates to the body’s reaction to a specific stimulus that requires an adjustment or response. This biological response can be physical, mental or emotional and can often cause physical or mental tension.

The stressing stimulus “stressor” can be external (within our surrounding environments, psychological or social) or internal (health, illness, etc). For many, stress can be caused by things such as work demands, financial pressure, poor health, family conflicts, self-expectations and more.

BUT stress is not all bad.

As an example, acute stress can help us to perform at heightened levels for a short period of time or even respond more rapidly when in danger (eg. A car accident).  However, exposing our bodies to stress over prolonged and extended periods of time creates havoc in our bodies (eg. Chronic stress).

Chronic stress can negatively impact our digestive system, sleep, weight and our reproductive systems. It can also lead to stress or emotional eating and deplete our systems over time.

We must decrease the stress in our bodies for optimal health.

 

3 Ways Prolonged Stress is Bad for Health

Chronic stress is bad for our health because it can cause us to:

  • Be more susceptible to illness
  • Have less energy
  • Struggle to get good sleep
  • Experience headaches
  • Judge things poorly
  • Gain weight
  • Develop anxiety and depression

Chronic stress also impacts the functioning of our central nervous system and autonomic nervous system.

 

1) How Stress Affects Our Health: The Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system is designed to keep us alive and is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight / flight response. It releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to prepare our bodies for a quick response if required.

Whereas, the parasympathetic nervous system is designed to bring our bodies back to homeostasis. It is responsible for calming and relaxing our bodies so we can rest, digest and repair.

Having a balance between these two systems is crucial a healthy life.

One of the downsides of the autonomic system is that it can’t differentiate between an actual threat and a perceived threat. That is why, when we are stressed about something (regardless of what it is), the body’s natural response it to activate the sympathetic nervous system.

This drains our energy and also activates the release of numerous stress hormones into our bodies which can be detrimental to our health long term.

The Impact of Stress Hormones

The release of adrenaline actually signals danger to every cell in your body stating that you’re not safe causing the following natural reactions to occur:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • You start burning glucose rather than fat, so naturally start to crave sugar
  • Blood is directed away from vital organs, to the arms and legs so you can run if needed
  • Blood directed away from your digestive and reproductive systems
  • Start to sweat

Having large amounts of adrenalin circling around in your body is bad, because it creates inflammation. This inflammation can lead to chronic health conditions, illnesses and also shorten our life span.

If adrenalin levels remain too high, the body will start to release cortisol.

Cortisol is our long-term stress hormone and is designed to keep us safe when food is scarce. It deposits fat around the body as a resource to be used to maintain survival.

This used to be really effective when we were cavemen. It would allow us to survive if we were in a famine with food not readily available. This is because cortisol helps to prompt our bodies to store and preserve fat for energy.

But overtime, too much cortisol and adrenaline in our bodies can lead to:

  • Reduced Sleep quality
  • Poor memory
  • Poor gut health & decreased metabolism
  • Decreased libido
  • Visceral fat storing and fat retention around key organs
  • Muscle break down
  • Inconsistent energy
  • Poor nutritional choices due to emotional/ stress eating (sugar or high carb) or not eating at all
  • Insufficient vitamin, mineral and anti-oxidant intake
  • The body wanting to use only fast burning fuel such as glucose, rather than fat
  • We lose the ability to burn fat because our parasympathetic nervous system remains out of balance.

 

 

2) The Reproductive System

Too much stress in our bodies can impact our sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone.

Oestrogen is responsible for prompting our bodies to lay down the lining of the uterus.

Progesterone is then released into the body when we ovulate. Progesterone is also known to be a natural reliever of anxiety & depression and acts as a natural diuretic. (I did not know this originally!)

As women, we want our body to naturally produce progesterone for these reasons, but being in a state of constant stress can shut down production.

After all, why would it want to bring a baby into the world when there is a perceived danger or threat to our survival?

Our bodies are seriously SMART!!

This is why we must take better care of ourselves!

 

3) The Digestive System

As more research is revealing, our digestion is one of the most important systems in our body. Poor digestion is often a signal that something isn’t right in your body.

Did you know that these days, 1 in 5 people in Australia have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and unfortunately stress worsens these symptoms.

Prolonged stress has the tendency to negatively impact our digestive systems by:

  • Diverting blood away from our digestive organs
  • Limits the resources that the gut has to digest our food
  • Worsening IBS symptoms
  • Altering what we discrete from our digestive system
  • Altering our gut bacteria profile
  • Increasing intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut).

There are some ways you can reduce the impacts of stress on your digestion.

For example, you can eat more mindfully.

Being more mindful when you eat gives your body more time to process your food and also trigger when you are full. This is important because it can reduce weight gain and also prevent you from hitting that “way too full!” feeling. 

Be present when eating your food – savour each mouthful, take time to chew it properly, enjoy the flavours and put your cutlery down between bites.

When you take the time to notice just how much you scoff down food on the go, you’ll understand why mindful eating is becoming a really important thing for our digestion (whether stressed or not). 

 

The Importance Wholefood Nutrition

Given many of us are finding ourselves in a state of prolonged stress state, we must ensure that we are giving our bodies the right fuel and nutrition they need to perform optimally.

This means flooding your body with good whole food nutrition, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants each and every day.

A simple and great way to do this is to take a simple and convenient whole food supplement such as these. They are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and great for pregnant or breast feeding mummas.

I take these babies twice a day. They contain 33 varieties of whole food nutrition, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants which help to combat the negative ways stress affects our health and bodies.

Scientifically proven health benefits of these capsules include:

  • Improved heart and cardiovascular health
  • Strengthened Immune System & reduced severity of colds
  • Maintains healthy DNA
  • Antioxidants from fruits and vegetables fight oxidative stress (eg. from exercise) and help you maintain optimal health.
  • Improved gum health
  • Improves skin health by increasing blood flow and skin oxygenation

And some other benefits people experience include:

  • Decrease systemic inflammation
  • Reduced cravings
  • Increased energy
  • A decrease in gut inflammation and IBS symptoms
  • Improved digestion
  • Healthier nails and hair
  • improved sleep

If you’d like to learn more about how you can boost your health and reduce the negative ways stress affects our health with these whole food capsules, click here. 

When we fuel our bodies correctly, our bodies are able to repair themselves.

 

In Summary,

So as you have read, there are many ways that stress affects our health.

The problem is that rather than responding effectively to stress, many assume that they’re bodies are betraying or failing them. When actual truth of the matter is that your body is just responding to the info it is receiving (Ie. what you are putting into it).

Our bodies are incredibly smart and are usually just doing what they’re programmed to do.

Unless we take the time to stop our bodies from perceiving stress, they will continue to send messages to our brains to prioritise survival.

Overtime, this is what impacts the function of our internal body systems; digestion, reproduction and contributes to fat storage.

It’s your job to look after your body and you can do that by reducing the amount of stress in your life.

You can also get your FREE copy of the Stress & Anxiety Printable here.

With this FREE download, you’ll learn of some simple activities you can implement into your day to reduce your stress and anxiety symptoms.

Enter your details below to be emailed your copy of the A4 printable.

 

Ashleigh Page