How Stress Can Affect Your Health



Did you know that stress can have a profound impact on your health? Stress can be sneaky, creating health problems when you are not even sure it's there.

Here are some ways that stress can affect your health:


Digestive Problems

The digestive organs have a tendency to take the brunt of our stress. This is why stress has such a reputation for causing ulcers. While ulcers are said to be caused by bacteria, some experts theorize that stress still plays a role by making an individual more susceptible to bacterial infection.

Stomach pain, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, and other digestive disorders can be the result of stress. The "fight or flight" response, which is a factor in the body's response to stress, affects the digestive organs by temporarily shutting them down. You can imagine what havoc this could wreak on your digestive organs if stress were chronic.


Reproductive Problems

Excessive stress is said to disrupt hormones in men and women. Women may experience menstrual irregularities, acne, problems in pregnancy or difficulties becoming pregnant. Men may experience impotency or other sexual dysfunction.


Heart Disease

The heart is directly affected by stress in that the "fight or flight" response involves its function. The heart becomes stressed itself, which studies indicate can make you more prone to heart disease. Other sources note that stress particularly affects the cardiovascular system by exacerbating or even helping to bring on atherosclerosis (this is a deformation and narrowing of the arterial walls that results in decreased blood flow).


Upper Respiratory Illness

Some experts point out the effect of stress on the immune system. They say it decreases the immune response and suppresses the immune system. A suppressed immune system can leave you open to infections and illness, particularly colds and flu.


Weight

Stress may affect your metabolism due to the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. This slowing of the metabolism can make weight loss difficult, and weight gain can occur even if you aren't eating more. It's also possible that stress makes you crave sugary foods, making weight gain more probable. This is why some people call their eating habits "worry eating."

Some experts even claim that stress affects where you gain weight - excess weight around the abdominal region may be caused by stress.

The excessive weight gain that may be brought on by stress can result in a host of other health problems associated with obesity: diabetes, joint problems, and perhaps even cancer.


Anxiety

Stress might manifest in anxious behavior. Excessive worry or obsessive-compulsive tendencies may be manifestations of an anxiety disorder brought on by stress.


Options for Stress Relief

When it comes to stress relief, there are quite a few options out there. Talk with your health care provider to find the one that may be right for you. Here are some of the more commonly available options for stress relief.


1. Natural

Quite a few treatment options come under this heading. Natural treatments focus on coping strategies like body movements, meditation, and natural supplements.

Yoga has been shown to help relieve stress in those who practice it. Yoga involves stretching and holding the body in postures, and it sometimes includes meditation.

Meditation alone is an increasingly popular means of coping with stress. Deep breathing, relaxed muscles, and an aligned body frame are some of the reported benefits of meditation.

Supplements have been shown to be helpful in dealing with stress. Some natural health practitioners recommend supplementing with flax oil or evening primrose oil, as these essential fatty acids are said to play a role in healthy brain function. (They are sometimes suggested for those who suffer from depression, too.)

Other experts suggest a bioavailable multi-vitamin with a high proportion of B6, or perhaps a B-complex supplement or just B6 alone. Studies show that the B vitamins play a key role in mood and emotional health.

There are other herbs and natural supplements that may help stress. If you can, locate a natural health practitioner or herbalist to help recommend something for you.


2. Medical

There is no shame is resorting to medication, as long as it is under a doctor's supervision. Medication is said to be particularly indicated in helping people cope with sudden life changes or stress such as the loss of a loved one or a car accident. Medications are not necessarily indicated for dealing with everyday stressors.


Some stress sufferers find relief from stress-related headaches when they take medication. The goal of most medication of this nature is to get you to the point where you are able to seek help and deal with the underlying cause of your stress.


3. Dietary

In a dietary approach to stress management, what you avoid eating may be as important as what you do eat. Experts recommend avoiding sugar and caffeine, as these stimulants tend to provide short-term relief with a "crash" later. Caffeine in particular can have a cyclic effect - you consume the caffeine to cope, but then the caffeine keeps you awake or makes you irritable.

Try to include lots of fresh, whole foods in your stress-relieving diet to keep your body functioning in top shape.


4. Research

There can be great solace in learning about a topic that is bothering you. Take some time to research books and articles on stress. Find out how it works, why people experience it, and how you can deal with it. Sometimes, just learning as much as you can about it helps you cope. It might become less mysterious and scary that way.


Stress can have affect both our mental and physical health. Understanding the causes or triggers for our stress can be the first step to making changes to reduce it. Commit to prioritising time for your health and wellness each day to help keep your stress under control. Spending time moving your body, fuelling your body well and shifting your mindset can be integral to getting a handle on stress.

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