There is a lot of talk about Stress impacting health. Does it have a significant effect, or can we skirt around it by eating right, taking supplements, and doing yoga?
Let’s say, “I’ve been there, done that”.
Many years ago, as a nutritionist going through a few years of compounding stress, I believed that if I ate right, exercised, took supplements, drinking plenty of water, went to counselling etc, I could manage it. The rude awakening came with the arrival of my pathology results. There it was before me in scientific black and white! There was no denying that the impact was real and that I was not ‘managing it’.
We cannot always control the amount of Stress; we can only control the amount we take on as our own, and then we need to outsource advice (even as a practitioner) on how to deal with it best.
The term ‘fight or flight’ is well known, and we know that while it is protective during a short term of Stress, long term, it downgrades many of our organs and systems.
Initially, it affects our cortisol levels, Vagus nerve, Adrenals and HPA axis; in turn, as with all ill health, it will follow your path of least resistance. This path is whichever part of your health is the first to fail, generally when you are run down.
The Vagus Nerve’s role is to send information from your gut to your brain, significantly linked to gut reaction, Stress, fear and anxiety, then assisting the body to return to homeostasis or recover from the “stress state”. It is vital to the functions that keep us alive, such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure, digestive, liver, immunity, and lung function. There is now an abundance of information on ways to calm your Vagus Nerve (We will include an article on this soon)
The Adrenal glands produce Adrenaline and nor-Adrenaline. The stimulus for the production of Adrenalin and nor-Adrenalin comes via the Hypothalamus. These two hormones act on the autonomic nervous system instigating the ‘fight or flight’ response. At the same time, the adrenal cortex produces Cortisol which converts nor-Adrenalin to Adrenalin, essential for the stress response. Over a prolonged period, excess Cortisol affects many aspects of body function, including but not limited to HPA axis dysfunction, weight gain, insulin resistance, immunity and mental health problems, headaches, hormonal problems, gut, thyroid, blood pressure and skin issues.
We don’t control Stress; it tends to control us.
We can, however, recognise it, treat it, minimise it and its effects.