Self-stress management

I hope this information can shed some light on what happens in our body when we are stressed. I think when we understand what the processes are and how they occur then we can put the right things in place to prevent it from happening and therefor support and improve our body’s well-being . Most of us do experience some sort of stress during our lives. Acute episodes that are short lived are not so harmful to our body, it’s when it becomes chronic that it has very negative effects on our bodies. Do you experience some of these symptoms; Tired, fatigued, cranky, moody, often sick, headaches, panic attacks, feel anxious and sometimes even depressed? You might be suffering from chronic stress.

Stress hormones and the effects on our bodies

Above our kidneys we have our adrenal glands which secrete our stress hormones. One of them is cortisol. Elevated Cortisol levels suppress the white blood cells ability to work effectively in your immune system. It can actually act as a signal that stops immune -system cell activity dead in its tracks. When we have short bouts of stress, Cortisol stimulates the immune system which is good. When the stress is severe and prolonged, Cortisol creates havoc. When immune cells are stimulated for long periods of time, they begin to break down, becoming ineffective in fighting off disease. These compromised, immune fighting cells then begin using their destructive abilities on healthy tissue, instead of pathogens.The other stress hormones are adrenaline and noradrenaline, these are the hormones that initiates the fight and flight response in our bodies. This response is a primal response of our body, preparing the body for fighting and fleeing. When they are released you generally feel an increase in your heart rate and breathing rate. Now this would have been fine if it was for a short period of time but if it becomes chronic, it can have very negative effects. Each organ system and how it is affected by chronic stress will be discussed.

Cardiovascular system

When there is an increase of stress hormones it can cause an increase in our blood pressure. Long term high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks or strokes. It can also cause our blood vessels to narrow and we can experience an increase of clotting factors in our blood. Blood clots can form in the bloodstream which can then lead to strokes. What can we do to keep our cardiovascular system healthy?

  • Exercise for 30 – 60 minutes at least 5 times per week

  • Increase your water intake up to 2 litres a day

  • Consume a moderate amount of saturated fatsIncrease the good fats = omega 3 in your diet

  • Decrease you salt intake

  • Avoid smoking

Digestive system

One of the functions of cortisol is to increase blood sugar levels; this is for energy in a stressful situation. If there is an extended time of increase blood sugar levels it’s not good for our bodies. When there is a spike of blood sugar levels our pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin causes receptor cells in the liver, skeletal, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood. When there is too much insulin in our bodies all the time these receptors become numb and resistant and our bodies can’t take up the glucose the way it’s supposed to. This can cause insulin resistance; which can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.When we are stressed and on top of that consuming big quantities of refined carbohydrates and sugar there is a complete overload of glucose in our blood. The liver produces cholesterol from glucose and the more glucose in the blood the more bad cholesterol the liver will produce. We all need cholesterol for the membranes of our cells, but an excess of it can lead to heart disease.What can we do to keep our digestive system healthy?

  • Increase good fats = omega 3 in our diets (olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds)The body won’t make bad fats if it has enough good fats.Our body gets 30% of our cholesterol from our diet the rest is manufactured by the liver.

  • Decrease or avoid refined carbs.

  • Decrease coffee intake around meal times as it diverts blood away from the gut which can affect your digestion.

  • Decrease alcohol intake. Research has shown that one unit of alcohol can cause the body not to burn fat for 1-3 days.

  • Decrease your sugar intake.

We often don’t get enough of the following elements in our diet and supplementation may be necessary. Fish oil (omega 3) is very important for decreasing inflammation and for optimal brain function. You don’t need to take omega 6 as we get a lot of it in our diet. Vitamin D is a very important element for a healthy immune system. As we know now if there is an increase of cortisol in our bodies when we are stressed it will decrease the function of our immune system. Therefor vitamin D supplementation can play a vital role in regulating this. We often feel tired when we feel stressed this is caused by our bodies using vitamin B quicker, a good multi B vitamin supplement can provide the boost you might need.

Nervous system

Our spine is the root of our nervous system. Messages are transported from the brain and spinal cord to our organs and muscles. Chronic stress causes muscle tension and contraction of the muscles. This muscle tension creates uneven pressure on the bony structures often leading to misalignments of our spinal column. Chronic stress can also cause nerve irritation. Chiropractic care is a safe, non-invasive type of therapy. Chiropractic adjustments decrease muscle tension which helps the body return to a more balanced and relaxed state. Adjustments also reduce spinal nerve irritation, and improve blood circulation. These changes may be enough, in many cases, to convince the brain to turn off the fight or flight response; beginning the process of healing. A healthy and balanced spine is key to effectively managing stress. Part of a healthy body is a healthy mind. We can achieve this by being pro-active, regular meditation and enough sleep.

Here is a quick summary on how we can improve our health today.

  • Keep the heart ticking with avoiding the bad fats and increasing the good fats in your diet!

  • Do regular exercise!

  • To improve digestion stay away from sugar and refined carbs.

  • Keep your spine stress free with regular chiropractic care.

  • Calm your mind with being pro-active, meditation and enough sleep.