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How Stress Affects Your Health

Written by Dr. Group, DC Founder
A woman sitting at her desk at work.

Everyone feels stress from time to time, but many of us are unaware of the fact that many commonly-experienced imbalances in health may actually be our body's way of responding to physical and mental stress.

Recent scientific studies have indicated that the human body's reaction to stress could be one of the main causes of many life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and cancer.

When we feel that we are in danger, a stress response surges through us and our bodies under-go an explosion of stress hormones that, over-time, are hazardous to our health.

Ways Stress Negatively Affects Your Health

1. Increased Heart Rate

When we enter into the fight or flight mode, the heart-rate naturally speeds up. While this is helpful at times, when your body goes into fight-or-flight overtime-mode, this can tire out the heart and lead to cardiovascular diseases, increased cholesterol and even excess belly fat.

2. Digestion Slows

When we go into a state of stress, the energy required for digestive processes is immediately sent to external areas of the body, such as the head, heart and limbs. This leads to a whole host of chronic stress-related digestive conditions. Chronic constipation and irritable bowel conditions are directly related, in many cases, to chronic stress. In fact, estimates show that as many as 20 percent of Americans experience chronic constipation and symptoms of IBS. Changes in appetite are also a stress-related condition. When we experience mental and emotional stress, we often reach for comfort foods to give us the false sensation of being calm. Similarly, some people react in the opposite way, losing their appetites when stress or anxiety levels are high.

3. High Blood Pressure Concerns

Studies show that when we are under stress, blood flow to the brain and muscles increase up to 400 percent. While this may be useful if we are planning on leaping into a tree, over time, chronic stress creates the scene for high blood pressure conditions or even a stroke.

4. Weight Gain

Evidence shows that increased cortisol hormone levels caused by prolonged stress can lead to overall weight gain.

5. General Muscle Tension and Chronic Fatigue

Muscles become tight when we are stressed. Because the muscles are constantly in a "gripping" state, they later become over-worked and leave us with a general sensation of body fatigue. Studies show that generalized back pain may also be a response to chronic stress-related muscle gripping along the spine.

6. Insomnia and Other Sleep-Conditions

When the mind is continually spinning and stressing on the concerns of life, it can be hard to unwind when the day is over. Insomnia is a sleep condition that is directly related to mental stress.

7. Reduced Happiness and Quality of Life

Stress causes negative mental and emotional reactions. When we are stressed, it can be difficult for us to establish healthy social relationships, as we are constantly working to preserve personal stasis.

8. Immune Conditions

Stress negatively affects the blood cells that aid in your body’s ability to ward off infections, leading to greater likelihood of developing colds, flu and degenerative disorders.

9. Other Conditions

Many modern studies are now linking the experience of chronic stress with a multitude of conditions. In fact, estimates show that up to two-thirds of all medical visits are for stress-induced conditions. Other stress-related conditions include depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, lack of sexual desire, chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, immune disorders, memory loss, reproductive disorders, cold and flu conditions, skin imbalances such as acne, stunted growth and hair loss.

On a Personal Note

We all get stressed out at some point. It's inevitable and part of life. However, there are a few things you can do to help manage stress, as well as stop it from coming in the first place. I recommend the following for stress relief:

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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