Whether it’s a hard life event or day-to-day tasks piling up, stress is hard on the human body. In this blog, we discuss what stress does to your body and why the mind and body connection is crucial to a healthy, happy life!
Why is wellness essential to immunity?
Stress is a part of life, but Psychologists say that your state of mind affects your state of health.
The mind and body have a way of interacting. Stress may motivate you to get a difficult task done or overwhelm you (and destroy any chance of motivation). If your anxiety or stress is chronic, it can take a heavy toll on your immune system.
“Eliminating or modifying these factors in [one person’s life] is vital to protect and augment the immune response,” according to Clinical Immunologist Leonard Calabrese, DO at the Cleveland Clinic. Stress impacts your immunity, and taking action to minimize its effect is essential. Mind and body wellness are vital to protect a healthy lifestyle and avoid unwanted symptoms. Let’s take a look at stress and the human body!
What does stress do to your body?
There are several ways that the body reacts to stressful situations, including bills, work, and tending to relationships. Primarily, the body will become feeling overwhelmed or tense. It’s an entirely reasonable and necessary response.
We all feel stress
In the short-term, stress can be useful. It can help you pass a test or get the house clean. Ladies, moderate pressure might even get to propose. However, when this hardwired emotion hangs out for too long or too often, a primitive reaction, known as fight or flight, will have detrimental effects throughout the body – includes damaging effects to organs and cells.
Chronic stress feels a bit different. People may feel emotional effects, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and a lower sex drive. Physical effects may present in muscle tension, frequent colds or infections, low energy, upset stomach, insomnia, or headaches.
The body’s adrenal gland will release hormones to deal with tension:
- Epinephrine (Adrenaline)
When these hormones levels are increased and travel through the body, it can cause unwanted, long-term effects.
Epinephrine and norepinephrine play a vital role in the body’s natural fight-or-flight response to stress. Norepinephrine mostly has effects on the blood vessels, while epinephrine mainly has effects on the heart. Also known as Adrenaline, this hormone will cause the heart to beat faster and raise blood pressure higher, which can lead to hypertension.
Cortisol affects the endothelium (inner layer of cells within the blood and lymphatic vessels) not to function correctly, which triggers cholesterol to build up and increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The brain deals with stress by activating the autonomic nervous system. This system controls body functions like urination, heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, and sexual arousal. Through this connection, the brain “calls up” the intestinal nervous system to communicate its occurring stress.
Stress affects the digestive system
Through this network of nerve connections, your big brain communicates stress to the intestinal nervous system. Besides butterflies, this “call” may disrupt the natural contraction rhythm of the gut that helps food pass through the body. In the long run, this disruption may result in gut hypersensitivity, which leaves an individual with irritable bowel syndrome or feeling more acid than usual, known as heartburn.
Stress affects the waistline
As stated earlier, cortisol is a hormone released when the body is stressed. As a result, it dramatically impacts the digestive system by telling your brain that you need to eat more energy-dense foods and carbs; hence, we crave comfort food when under loads of pressure. We’re blaming the tub of frosting on a rough break up or a much deserved “cheat meal” cheeseburger after a long week of dieting.
High levels of cortisol will increase our caloric intake (due to eating these foods in excess), causing visceral or deep belly fat, which does not help the body much! This fatty organ actively releases hormones and immune system chemicals known as cytokines. Higher cytokines put the hull in grave risk for chronic diseases like insulin resistance and heart disease.
Cortisol and the immune system
It’s easiest to think of the immune system as a billion little cells that travel through the bloodstream. Immune cells move in and out of tissues and organs, looking to defend against antigens (or foreign bodies) like germs, bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.
When you are stressed, the immune system does not stand a good fight against antigens (which is why you may catch a cold easier when the pressure is on.) The stress hormone corticosteroid may suppress the immune system’s effectiveness by lowering the number of white blood cells, known as lymphocytes.
Lymphocyte and phagocyte are two types of immune cells. However, lymphocytes or white blood cells are the primary types of immune cells. There are two different types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. B-cells help produce antibodies to help destroy invading viruses and bacteria. T-cells lock onto infected cells, multiply and destroy it when an invader gets inside a cell.
Unhealthy habits don’t help
The immune system may become compromised if a person chooses to cope with stress in unhealthy behaviors, including smoking or drinking. It’s good to find other ways to deal with stress like exercise or talk therapy.
If you want to live a long life, you will need to want to kick chronic stress to the curb. What does this mean for you? You will always have a life filled with pressure. It’s an essential function of survival, but management matters. What’s important is how your brain tells your entire body to respond to tension – the connection! In the short-term, if you view each obstacle as an opportunity or challenge rather than a threat, you will be better off in the long run. Find something that you enjoy doing to manage your stress. You may like to exercise to release endorphins (feel-good hormones), deep breathing, or talking it out with a counselor. Revert back to our Directory to find some local recommendations. Whatever it may be, manage your stress for a happier, healthier life.
Next month, please look forward to an article about “Monkey Brain,” which explains what happens when your mind and body lack connection after the inability to cope with stress.
Here are other fantastic articles on what stress does to your body here:
- Chronic Stress Can Wreak Havoc on your Body
- Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body and Behavior
- Stress Management: Gaining Control
- Wilco Wellness Read: Immunity and Fatigue