STRESS and your body
Stress, or rather, our perception of stress is such a huge factor in all of our lives these days and i believe it is something we can all relate to.It is so important to understand what stress is, where it is coming from, how it is affecting out bodies and what we can do to take control and balance the stress in our lives.
What is stress?
“Physiological or biological stress is an organism’s response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus. Stress is the body’s method of reacting to a challenge. In humans, stress typically describes a negative condition or a positive condition that can have an impact on a person’s mental and physical well-being.”
How does stress affect your body?
· Heart rate increases
· Breathing could become quicker
· Sweaty palms and body
· Red and flustered – heat builds up
· Butterflies or a knot in your stomach
· Dry mouth
· Pupils dilate
· Increase in blood pressure and muscle tension
· Busy mind and over thinking
These are all examples of how a feeling, thought or emotion (stress and nervousness) can affect our body on a physical level.
When we are faced with a stressful situation, our body is equipped to
deal with it. Our sympathetic nervous system (SNS/fight or flight) switches on
and our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS/rest and digest) is suppressed. This
is all very well and good in the short term but when we feel like we are
constantly in a stressful or life threatening situation, we tend to get stuck
in our fight or flight response, which in turn is very taxing and depleting on
Lets talk a bit more about our stress hormones, which are released in response to a stressful situation. Our adrenal glands, which sit just on top of our kidneys and are about the size of a walnut, release hormones that help us combat stress. The two main hormones that we will be focusing on here are adrenalin (short term stress hormone) and cortisol (long term stress hormone).
These hormones are designed to help us deal with stress. Adrenalin is released in response to an immediate or acute stress. It sends a message to our body saying ‘you are in danger’ and this adrenaline allows us to either stay and fight or to run away. Our body prepares for action and it uses our fastest and most readily available fuel source, glucose (sugar), rather than burning fat. With our modern day lives placing such high demands on us with work, exams, family and finances, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and ‘stressed out’ a lot of the time. This leads to high amounts of adrenalin in our blood all the time and our body is running on glucose, which means we tend to crave more sugar too. Our body also prioritises what it needs most and it reduces blood flow to our core and our digestive system and redirects it to the muscles in our limbs so we can use them to protect ourselves. In the long run, this results in poor digestive functioning and in turn a lack of energy leading to fatigue.
With these elevated levels of adrenalin in our system, our adrenal glands then increase the production of cortisol in an attempt to regain some kind of balance in the body. Cortisol is our long-term stress hormone and it sends a message to the body that it is still in a stressful situation and it needs to store any food that it gets to be used later. This results in weight gain, especially around the mid section (to protect our vital organs) and an inability to lose weight. Cortisol also suppresses our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to infection and it increases our blood pressure and water retention.
When our adrenal glands are working this hard for too long, it leads to adrenal fatigue. About 75-80% of the Western population has adrenal fatigue to some degree, mainly due to the lifestyles we lead. We live in a world where success is valued, being busy is associated with achievement and where we are pushed to always do more and do better. It is no wonder our health is being compromised the way it is. Stress affects our whole life, it affects our relationships, our moods and our diets. If you work long hours, you probably drink a lot of caffeine, you might not have time to go to the shops so you pick up a quick but unhealthy lunch with hardly any nutritional value from the café down the road, at 3pm your energy has dropped so you have a sugary snack, increasing your blood sugar levels even more. You might be able to squeeze in a quick exercise session before picking up the kids from school so you choose to go for a run or do an intense circuit session, just adding to this adrenal fatigue cycle and go go go lifestyle, which never lets us rest.
There are 3 phases of adrenal fatigue:
- Alarm phase – temporary stress resistance/ fight or flight response, increased adrenalin and cortisol
- Resistance phase – just coping, feeling ‘wired but tired’, cortisol levels can still be high
- Exhaustion – cortisol levels now drop completely and there is no resistance to stress,
total burn out
Signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Lack of energy – feeling sluggish in the morning and mid afternoon
- Low immunity – getting sick all the time
- Poor sleep quality
- Needing to go to the toilet during the night
- Low libido
- PMS and hormonal imbalances
- Skin breakouts
- Tendency to gain weight around the abdomen and find it difficult to
- Poor digestion
- Food and environmental allergies
- Generally feeling run down, unmotivated and overwhelmed
- Craving salty or sweet foods
- Lower back pain
- Dark bags under your eyes
- Difficulty concentrating and poor memory
- Feeling more awake and alert after 6pm, but tired during the day
- Dry skin and hair and possible unexplained hair loss
- Intolerance to the cold
What can you do to reduce adrenal stress?
- Whole foods
- Good fats and proteins at every meal
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Good quality celtic sea salt
- Whole grains
- Plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Filtered water
- Processed foods from jars, tins and cans
- Fried foods
- High GI foods
- Try to eliminate the source of stress as much as possible
- Get at least 8 hours sleep a night and try get to bed before 10pm
- Get outside in to the sun and get some vitamin D
- Meditation and mindfulness
- Exercise: try opting for a less intense option, like yin yoga, walking
or tai chi
- Breathing and relaxation techniques - this is super important. Deep breathing allows us to go in to 'rest and digest' mode.
- Slow down, learn to say no and take a break
- Listen to your own body
Our body survives on nutrients, meaning vitamins and minerals. We really need to have optimal nutrition to be able to cope with stress. Like I have said before, I wish we could all eat organic fruits and vegetables and have that be enough but unfortunately with our soils the way they are today and with all the chemicals and preservatives in our food, I find it absolutely crucial to supplement with vitamins and minerals.
Some extra important ones for adrenal fatigue include:
- Vitamin B (especially vitamin B5)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Fish oils (omegas)
- Coenzyme Q10
For more information or to order supplements, please follow this link stepheinhorn.usana.com
These are the supplements that I use and I have had great results to far. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions on stress, adrenal fatigue or kinesiology.
*Book your kinesiology session before July 10th 2014 and receive 20% off your initial consult.