Sunday, November 2, 2014

Good Morning Let The Stress Begin

Do you feel stressed? Do you know when you get up in the morning you are going to spend the majority of your day multitasking or feeling out of control?
Many things have an impact on our health - diet, exercise, sleep, social patterns, environmental exposure, work, and stress play a crucial role in our health.  Over the last two weeks I have seen several patients in my clinic who are physically ill from stress.  Stress can cause, headaches, stomachaches, memory loss, and obesity, just to name a few common symptoms associated with stress. Today I want to try explain how stress impacts your health.
What is stress?
Stress is something we cannot put our finger on, we cannot measure it, and often we dismiss stress as not being real. But, in reality our bodies are driven by the nervous system which tries to maintain a perfect balance.  The body is a miraculous creation, we have many built-in options to try to keep us healthy and safe.  But, just like an automobile if we do not take care of our bodies, the options wear out, switches get broken, and safety features fail.

For instance: Your central nervous system has two branches, the parasympathetic (think: peace) nervous system and the sympathetic (think: stress) nervous system. The two work like a switch — when one is turned on, the other is off.

The sympathetic nervous system is associated with the rapid release of stress hormones, slowed digestion, and faster breathing and heart rate. This is the state you are in when you are speeding through your day stressed out and multitasking like crazy to get everything on your to-do list done. I know this feeling, for many years this is how I l have functioned every day.
What happens when we are stressed?
1. Stress changes gene expression.

The chemicals your body produces when you are under stress turn on or off of genes that change everything from how much fat you store, to how well your immune system works, to how fast you age, to whether or not you will develop cancer.

2. Stress causes brain damage.

High levels of stress hormones damage critical parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, the area responsible for memory. One reason people experience “adrenal burnout” after long term chronic stress, is because the brain, in order to save itself, turns off the adrenals.

3. Stress shuts down the immune system and increases inflammation.

From slowing wound healing, to diminishing the protective effects of vaccines, to increasing your susceptibility to infections, stress is the ultimate immune-modulator. Stress can also reactivate latent infections — people who get cold sores know this from experience.

4. Chronic stress damages the energy powerhouses of your body, your mitochondria.

These energy factories produce ATP, the currency through which all cells and organs in your body do their work. The good news is this damage is reversible over time, as stress goes away.

5. Stress reduces your ability to metabolize and detoxify.

Studies have shown that the activity of hundreds of genes responsible for enzymes that break down fats and detoxify prescription drugs, are negatively impacted by stress. Stress can also increase your toxin burden by increasing your desire for high fat, high sugar foods.

6. Your cardiovascular system responds to stress, increasing cardiac output if you have to run away from a tiger.

But chronic stress has been shown to increase the thickness of the artery walls, leading to high blood pressure and heart disease.
7. Stress messes with your sex hormones.

Stress increases the amount of something called sex hormone binding globulin, the school bus that ferries testosterone and estrogen around your body, meaning fewer of these hormones are available to your cells. Chronic stress also increases the production of cortisol, leading to something called “cortisol steal,” where fewer sex hormones are produced.

8. Stress is bad for your bones and muscles.

There is evidence that higher stress levels are associated with lower bone mineral density, and many studies show that people under chronic stress experience more physical pain.

9. The gut and stress are intimately intertwined.

You may have heard that 95% of your serotonin is in your gut, and you may remember a time when you were nervous or sad, and your belly was in knots.

But more research is showing how stress impacts the function of your gut every day. It slows transit, leading to constipation and the re-circulation of hormones like estrogen through your liver. It increases the overgrowth of bad bacteria. And it loosens the barriers between the cells that line the intestines, creating something called leaky gut, which then leads to inflammation, food sensitivities and even autoimmune disease.

Next week I will start a series on how to help minimize the effects of stress on your health.

~ Connie ~