To help you understand the effects chronic stress has on your body, I want you to think of your body as an automobile. When it is gassed up with the right kind of fuel, has the proper amount of oil, lubricants, and all mechanical parts are in good working order – it performs perfectly.
But how far will you get if it runs out of oil? Will the engine turn over if you’re missing a piston or the starter doesn’t activate with the motor? No. The car will either become unreliable and start to stall at the most inopportune moments, or one day it simply won’t operate at all.
The human body functions like a finely tuned machine, infinitely more delicate and complex than your SUV or sedan. And yet, many of us will put more time, effort and money into caring for our car than we do our body.
To function optimally the human body requires the right balance of chemicals (hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, and immune cells), which are made from the food you eat. Without the right supply, your internal communication network starts to breakdown.
Chronic stress alters this balance. It disrupts the internal cell communication network, and it does so in a big way.
Why Don’t More People Seek Medical Help for Stress?
Doctors in the U.S. report that 60-80% of primary care visits are related to stress, yet only 3 % of patients receive help for stress management, mostly because they don’t seek help. Stress is viewed by many as something that either isn’t harmful or is something they should be able to “work through”. Neither of those assumptions are accurate.
The stress response is difficult to turn off or control. First, because it is a natural physiological response that is there to protect us; and second, because in today’s crazy world we are constantly getting bombarded by things that activate the stress response, such as driving in traffic, financial pressures, job stress, and poor diet. All of these things and others are stressors to the body.
So, if you are under constant stress in your job, your internal stress response is likely to be “turned on” all of the time. Your internal chemistry is in disarray, imbalanced, and producing damaging compounds in your body, that over time result in symptoms of prolonged or chronic stress.
Some of the more common signs of excessive or prolonged stress include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent aches and pains
- Lack of energy or focus
- Sexual problems
- Stiff jaw or neck
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
- Use of alcohol or drugs to relax
- Weight loss or gain
Since the average , hard-working, type A go-getter in America doesn’t attribute these conditions as symptoms of chronic stress, they go unresolved and eventually manifest into more destructive problems.
There are 3 stages of the stress response in the body are known as the “fight or flight” response.
Stage 1 is the Alarm Phase – Initial response that triggers ‘fight or flight’. Causes heart rate and breathing to increase, but your body is doing what it should – jolts you with a sudden surge of hormones so you are equipped to “fight or flee”, usually with a rapid recovery period after the stress is over.
Stage 2 is called Resistance Phase – The body shifts into the second phase usually with the source of the stress being resolved and stress hormones return to normal, BUT— your immune defenses are compromised and energy is slightly depleted.
Stage 3 is Exhaustion Phase –
The third stage of stress is the one that is most damaging. This is when the resistance phase has continued for some time. Stress levels go up and stay up. People suffer from chronic, prominent symptoms with poor recovery time, and start to lose their capacity to handle any stress.
Research has proven that prolonged stress reaction in the body can cause:
- Increased heart stress and blood pressure. Leads to heart attacks and coronary heart disease.
- Increase blood clotting. Stress increases sticky platelets in the blood, leading to heart attacks and stroke.
- Decreased immunity. More susceptible to colds or flu , latent viruses are likely to emerge such as herpes, shingles or Epstein-Barr.
- Suppressed digestion. Consistent stress suppresses digestion. 33% or people in the U.S. have acid reflux (according to the American Gastrointestinal Association), 154.7 million people are overweight or obese.
- Increases in blood sugar. Stress increases blood sugar, that leads to diabetes, obesity, kidney failure and vision problems.
- Decreases DHEA hormone. Osteoporosis, low sex drive, elevated cholesterol, decreasing muscle mass.
- Reduction of sex hormones. Stress reduces sex hormones, effecting sex drive, fertility.
- Increase in stress hormones — leads to insomnia, anxiety, osteoporosis, addictions, depression, and has suspected involvement in alzheimers disease and dementia in the elderly.
Is your body under attack by chronic stress? Here are the top 10 signs.
- Not sleeping well.
- Still tired after a good night’s sleep.
- Weight gain, especially around abdomen, in spite of good diet and exercise.
- Catch colds, flus and infections easily.
- Crave unhealthy foods.
- Experience backaches and headaches
- Sex drive is low or non-existent, possible fertility issues.
- Your gut acts up, acid reflux, ulcer or other digestive issues
- You feel anxious.
- You feel blue or depressed.
The chemicals I mentioned above that are out of balance in people dealing with chronic stress, are all chemicals that your body makes from the food you eat. If you don’t have the right supply, it will become increasingly difficult for your body to stay healthy.
Don’t become another statistic in the U.S. , a growing category of people who require serious medical intervention from conditions brought on by stress. With simple, straight-forward diet and lifestyle changes that can easily be incorporated into your busy work schedule, you can minimize the effects of stress, create a healthier internal environment to support your body and mind, and end up having more stamina, mental clarity and energy to be productive and thrive in your career and life.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself.
Life is about creating yourself.”
— George Bernard Shaw
Note: This information is provided as a resource and for educational purposes only. These recommendations are not intended as a substitute for consulting a physician or licensed healthcare practitioner. Individuals dealing with a serious or chronic health issue should consult with your doctor before beginning a nutritional program, taking supplements, discontinuing medications or eliminating foods from your daily diet. This information is not intended to replace medical advice from your doctor or to diagnose any health condition.