What Does Stress Do to Your Body?

By Tracy Gowler 6 years ago
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I have one more of the lifestyle factors required for health left to cover.  So far, I have covered diet, sleep, and exercise.

The last lifestyle factor requiring management is stress.

The pace of lives has changed stress levels.  I know there have been tremendous stress in past generations, but the pace of life was slower, relationships with friends and family were nurtured more and in proximity for the most part, and sensory overload was non-existent.

Times have changed.  Technology changes over the last 100 years have played a significant role in our past times, our social circles, and the way we do business.  Jobs are no longer 9-5.  With businesses going global, business starts earlier and can go into the wee hours of the night with conference calls.  Past times are no longer based around social circles. The TV and the internet rob us of precious time every day.  Families are now scattered to the four winds and people have lost their immediate support.

All of this adds significant stress to lives.

This is what is referred to as external stress.

Internal stress is also a thing and it is also impactful to the body.  Internal stress is the result of illnesses, chronic infections, external stress, dysfunction in the body and it is equally as bad for you.

What happens when the body is stressed. 

I don’t really want to reiterate information that you already know meaning overeating, undereating, weight gain, weight loss, headaches, sleep issues, digestive issues, etc, etc.  I want to diver deeper.

The HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal) axis is at the center of the operation in the systems in our bodies.  When our bodies are under increased stress, the adrenals are overworking, pumping out significant amounts of adrenaline just to keep up with the level of stress.  Overtime they get tired and start to fatigue.  When they fatigue, other systems in the body start to feel the effects too.

Under stress, adrenaline gets released into the blood stream.  The pituitary gland releases a hormone that stimulates the adrenals to release more cortisol.  This increase of cortisol increases blood sugar, heart rate and respiration.  The increased cortisol also suppresses the immune system, digestion, and production of sex hormones as they become secondary in a fight or flight response.

When you have too much stress in your life, this will become your new normal, and you will have chronic stress.  Essentially you are in a chronic state of fight or flight.  This response gets burned in and your body can get stuck in this response.  When you are here, it will contribute to disease and deterioration of your body as it is no longer responding normally.

The immune system is activated increasing inflammation in the body.  Inflammation is at the root of disease and can become chronic with chronic stress.  But that isn’t all.  Cortisol does suppress inflammation in the body for a while.  However, if it has been elevated for too long, the body will lose sensitivity to the cortisol.  With this loss of sensitivity, the inflammatory responses are increased adding to the chronic inflammation.

Chronic stress affects proteins that signal immune cells by lowering the amounts of protein.  The lack of signaling leaves us open for acute illness and longer healing times.  It also reduces lymphocytes which are important in defending against harmful substances in the body, increasing our risk for infection and disease.

In general, a body that is stressed cannot be healthy. 

Under stress, a body cannot operate normally, the way that we require to be disease free.  And if you are already struggling with an illness, you cannot get yourself to a place of health without elimination of the stress.

Stress is a big player and is equally as important as diet, sleep, and exercise. 

You are probably wondering what can you do to improve your stress?  Well, we are going to tackle that over the next few weeks so please stay tuned.  There is so much more to cover.

Have a great rest of your week.


Photo by Francisco Moreno on Unsplash


  Autoimmune Disease, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Health, Healthy Lifestyle, Stress, Tracy's Corner
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 Tracy Gowler

  (167 articles)

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