Stressors

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Stressors


What does stress mean to the body? And what impact does it have? Stress to the body is the response & adaptation to a stimulus. The stimulus can be physical, emotional, metabolic or inflammatory which demands a response, adjustment, or adaptation by the body. We need a certain level of stress to respond & adapt to our environment appropriately, to control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation or control blood pressure.

The stress that is damaging is chronic stress, setting off a runaway train of hormonal cues that demand a response from our multiple body systems. These systems (digestive, hormonal, cardio, detox, immune & neuro) combined with our genes collectively provide us with a resilience for optimal health & wellbeing. Imagine resilience as your internal battery pack & and every time a stressor demands a response, the battery life goes.

What happens goes something like this:
➡️  The brain registers a stressor instigating the release of nerve & hormonal signals prompting immediate release of adrenaline, followed by cortisol
➡️  Adrenaline helps you react to the threat rushing blood to your brain, heart & muscles by increasing heart rate & blood pressure & boosting energy to survive: “fight & flee”
➡️  Cortisol curbs functions deemed nonessential in a fight-or-flight situation: alters immune responses, suppresses digestive + reproductive systems & growth processes.

When stressors are continual the result is a decreasing resilience & as a consequence symptoms occur. The effect of stress on the body:

  • Reduced ability to concentrate 
  • Inability to maintain steady energy levels throughout the day: reliance on carbs/caffeine
  • Fatigue and grogginess
  • Weakening of your immune system,  high incidence of colds and flu; chronic infections (bacterial, viral, yeast)
  • Weight gain in the mid-section – because the “belly” has 4 x more cortisol receptors
  • Digestive disorders and symptoms- ulcers, bloated, cramping, constipation and diarrhoea 
  • Trouble sleeping: irritability & fatigue result
  • Depression symptoms, such as feelings of helplessness & lack of control
  • Reduced sexual desire & erectile dysfunction in men
  • Menstrual changes, worsening PMS & irregular periods
  • Dry, unhealthy skin with excess pigmentation, and/or adult acne

The goal of achieving optimal health then is to keep our internal battery pack of resilience topped up and not to become chronically depleted. Continually assessing what stressors are running high (circadian disruption, nutrient depletions or inflammatory burdens) is key to maintaining strong resilience. & moving you away from chronic stress activation, hormonal imbalance, suboptimal immune function, pain & ill health. 

This requires work for sure, but there is a growing movement towards this more thoughtful and personal approach vs a pill for an ill. Let’s build up that battery pack resilience to be at full capacity!

Not all stress is “BAD”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

"Good stress," is the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we go on a first date, compete in a sport or fly down a ski slope (shoop shoop shoop).
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We all also need a certain amount of stress, in the form of cortisol to drive normal functions such as:
✅  Maintain effective blood supply of oxygen and glucose to brain, heart, skeletal muscle
✅  Maintain blood pressure by augmenting the constrictive effects of adrenaline on blood vessels
✅  Modulate perception & emotion
✅  Has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy actions

To facilitate this, we have a built in cortisol dinural rhythm - that is highest in the morning - termed the Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR) and gradually tapers off throughout the day, to reach its lowest ebb in the evening giving way for melatonin production, rest, sleep and repair.

The problem is when stress or stressors become continual, the result is a decreasing resilience (see post last week) & as a consequence symptoms start to occur, many of which are chalked up as “oh you’re just a bit hormonal“!

See three examples of how chronic stress affects your menstrual cycle, thyroid axis and blood sugar control leading to PMS, PMDD. FERTILITY ISSUES, WEIGHT GAIN, HAIR LOSS, MOOD SWINGS AND ANXIETY.

So, are you hormonal? Or, can we work on emptying your stressor burden?