It often seems like there’s no escaping from the stress of day to day living, and with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s only gotten worse for most of us.
Unfortunately, stress does far more than affect your mental state. It can also damage your health.
Here are five ways stress affects your body.
- Stress Makes You Gain Weight
You’ve probably heard of the stress hormone cortisol.
Unfortunately, in addition to the role it plays in your fight or flight response, it also affects your metabolism and fat storage. Yes, being stressed for too long can cause you to pack on the pounds, especially if you combine stress with a lousy diet or overeating.
That’s especially concerning right now, considering that doctors are reporting a significantly increased COVID – 19 danger for obese patients.
- Stress Raises Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. And stress could be the driving force behind your blood pressure problems.
That’s because according to the Mayo Clinic, although researchers are still searching for a conclusion on whether stress and long-term high blood pressure are linked, they do know that stress causes your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow.
It can also lead to behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and eating an unhealthy diet that increases your high blood pressure risk.
And a study by researchers at Emory University found that psychological stress causes your body to pump out immune cells that raise systolic blood pressure. Your systolic pressure (the top number in your blood pressure reading) gives doctors the best indicator of your heart attack and stroke risk.
- Stress Damages Your Brain And Memory
Scientific research has proven that stress could be the cause of your memory issues.
Harvard Medical School says that stress is not only a common cause of memory problems, but it can also block the formation of new memories while impairing the retrieval of already formed memories.
And research reported in the Journal of Neuroscience found that chronic stress leads to brain inflammation and memory loss.
- Stress Worsens Low Back Pain
If you live with low back pain, you might think that it’s already as bad as it can get. Think again!
A 2019 study that involved a one-year follow up with 284 patients suffering chronic low back pain found that added stress resulted in worsening pain and a higher chance of pain-related disability.
- Stress Lowers Your Immune Function
Finally, and possibly most notable, as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the U.S., is the fact that stress could leave you more vulnerable to viral infections.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, short-term stress can boost your immune system, but when stress becomes chronic, it has just the opposite effect. Instead, long-lasting stress promotes inflammation and reduces the number of lymphocytes available to fight off viruses.
Now that you know how damaging stress is to you physically, what can you do about it?
Luckily, there are some easy and natural answers besides taking prescription medication.
First, despite all the craziness in the world right now, it’s essential to maintain a routine. This can help you to feel in control and limit your daily stress.
Second, be sure to stay active since regular exercise is a powerful stress-buster and immune booster.
Third, simply eating a healthy diet, limited sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and getting the eight hours of sleep you need can help lower your stress levels.
Fourth, breathe. Deep breathing exercises slow down your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and calm your mind.
To perform these stress-relieving techniques, sit up straight and close your eyes. Slowly inhale through your nose, hold for a count of four, then breathe out for a count of seven through pursed lips, kind of like you’re blowing up a balloon. Repeat this at least four times several times a day. You want to focus on filling up your entire chest with air. It also helps to close your eyes and meditate while you are doing deep breathing exercises.
And finally, the effect stress has on the body is similar to the effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome. A variety of mood-boosting foods and supplements can help you keep your stress levels in check:
- L-theanine. This amino acid has the power to lower your cortisol levels (your stress hormone), reduces anxiety, and helps with mental focus. So taking 200 to 400 mg per day could help you better manage your stress to allow time for those lifestyle changes to make an impact. It would be best if you considered adding it to your daily supplement schedule. L-theanine is also found in one of our top stress-busting formulas – Cortisol Soothe.
- B Vitamins. Foods high in B12 like grass-fed beef, eggs, salmon, sardines, chicken, and cheese since low levels of B12 are also linked to depression.
- Foods high in omega-3s like salmon, walnuts, olive oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and spinach. Several studies have shown that omega-3s can alleviate symptoms of PTSD like anxiety, depression, and increased heart rate.
- Foods high in vitamin D like salmon, trout, eggs, and mushrooms. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression and PTSD.
- 5- hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. This product helps to replenish the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Stress depletes serotonin, so it is imperative in any stressful situation to make sure your body has enough of this vital nutrient.
- Kava. This is perhaps the most well-researched and documented herbal relief supplement for anxiety. There are no side effects (provided you don’t take it with alcohol) and no addiction. It merely relieves some of your anxiety so that you can relax, ultimately reducing some of the pressure you put upon yourself to avoid anxiety symptoms. You should avoid kava if you have liver problems.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in inhibiting brain cell activity and helps banish unwanted thoughts that lead to stress and anxiety.
If the stress of everyday life is getting you down, call Doctor’s Nutrition today at 1-800-824-0194 and talk to us about all the natural ways to deal with this problem.
- Stress and high blood pressure: What’s the connection? – Mayo Clinic; Emory University.
- Chronic stress leads to brain inflammation and memory loss – the Journal of Neuroscience.
- Effects of stress on the immune system. – Immunol Today.
- Neurotransmitters as food supplements: The effects of GABA on the brain and behavior. – Frontiers in Psychology.