Dec 1, 2015
The Stress-Sickness Connection
Many of us have heard that stress is bad for us, but fewer of us actually know why this is. Knowing what stress does to your body, and how manifests as sickness and disease may make you more inclined to limit worrying.
When stress is chronic, rather than temporary, it can make you more vulnerable to infection by slowing down your immune system functioning. Under stress, the adrenal glands increase the release of cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. These hormones can cause damage in a number of ways if left unchecked.
Adrenaline raises blood pressure by speeding up your heart rate. Simultaneously, the brain relays stress signals to the gut, allowing your body to focus on the stressor. A change in the gut's normal routine can affect the composition of bacteria in your gut and lead to digestive problems.
Cortisol can prompt the body to put on deep-belly fat or visceral fat by increasing appetite, especially for sweets and refined carbohydrates. This type of fat releases compounds called cytokines which subsequently raise your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Stress is most damaging for people who experience it all the time. Frequently working long hours to meet a dead line, or constantly worrying about things like paying the rent, or getting adequate childcare can contribute most to poor health.
To avoid some of these stress induced consequences, Sharon Bergquist, a professor of medicine at the University of Emery recommends viewing your stressors “as challenges you can control and master.” While it isn’t easy to just make all of your worries disappear, it’s worth putting in the work to limit the amount of stress you deal with on a regular basis.
Deborah Wiancek, N.D. Deborah Wiancek