The Stress Mess: How It Messes with Your Health and Thyroid

Uncategorized Jul 10, 2019

I was recently talking to a doctor, the discussion went something like this.

“Men and women react to chronic stress differently; women’s immune system becomes weakened and ultimately leading autoimmune issues like Hashimotos and yet they still keep going! Men when men reach stress levels like women experience in everyday life, they end up having heart attacks and die.”

Now I don’t know how true or if there is even scientific backing to the statement, I can see some truth in the life of the individuals I work with on a regular basis. The women that come into my office week after week are chronically stressed.

They worry about their kids, their career, their house, their friends, the neighbor, finances, and being enough to everyone and do everything.

We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances and can even be life-saving, in situations of car accidents or trauma where additional adrenaline and cortisol are needed. These physical responses help give you additional strength, or the ability to run faster or go into a proactive approach to save someone else’s life.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health, from small issues like weight loss resistance, or a little extra belly fat to chronic illness.

Stress (and stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let's dive into the "stress mess" and what role chronic stress can and will play a role in your life if not managed.

 

Join our 5 day Mindfulness Challenge to help reduce stress and learn new techniques to cope with chronic stress, click here

 

Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for chronic illness like heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Chronic Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin, how fast or slow your digestive system can break down, metabolize and absorb food or the lack of absorption of food.

 

Mess #2 - Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, headaches or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively. Causing the body’s natural defenses to break down and become weak.

 

Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut."

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body through a process called “tight gap junctions.”

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover, causing the “tight gap junction” to become not so tight.

 

Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favors.

 

Stress-busting tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Say "no"?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Finally, make that decision?

 

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones
  • Practice journaling

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize. I am hoping this blog can help bring greater awareness to you and other health professionals to make sure they are doing their due diligence and ask you about your stress and how it is affecting your everyday life.

Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.

You can ditch that stress mess!

Join our 5 day Mindfulness Challenge to help reduce stress and learn new techniques to cope with chronic stress, click here

 

Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

  • 1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
  • 1 peach, diced

 

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

 

References:

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/stress-undermines-health/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/good-stress-bad-stress

https://www.thepaleomom.com/managing-stress/

 

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