Stress is a major factor in nearly every degenerative disease in America and we bury ourselves in it every day.
Not many people know, however, exactly how stress will destroy your body. The process will both shock and alarm you.
The Stress Response
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “fight or flight” response (also called the stress response) at some point in your life. It is a natural and healthy reaction to sudden threats.
Imagine it’s a thousand years ago and you’re down by the river fishing for some dinner. Suddenly, you glare off into the distance and spot a 300 pound tiger creeping toward you, drooling, and licking its chops.
Some very specific and necessary changes occur in your body to prepare you to either run away or defend yourself. Among other things:
- Your heart rate and blood pressure increase.
- Sugar stores are broken down for energy.
- Stress hormones like adrenalin are dumped into your bloodstream.
- Digestion and immune functions shut down.
- Basically, all body process that are not required for survival are stopped.
Who needs to be able to fight off a cold when you’re about to be eaten for lunch?
Once the stress is removed, such as when the tiger catches up with your little sister instead of you, the stress response will cease and the body will return to normal. This process is hardwired into our genetic makeup and is absolutely necessary to our survival.
The stress response is the same whether you are in physical danger, under emotional strain (worry, fear, anxiety), or under toxic assault (unhealthy food, cigarettes, drugs).
When a person is under constant physical, mental, and toxic stress however (like we all are these days), the body is never able to shut off the stress response and isn’t able to calm down.
- Blood pressure stays high.
- The immune system remains shut down.
- Stress hormones remain in the bloodstream.
- High sugar levels remain in the blood.
Major Health Killers
What are the major killers in our society?
- Heart disease
- And the drugs prescribed to treat them
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that an estimated 220,000 deaths per year can be attributed to properly prescribed drugs!
What are the major chronic health problems?
- Chronic pain
- Lack of sleep
- Decreased sex drive
- Decreased fertility
- Accelerated aging
These are virtually all correctable and preventable!!! They are illnesses of stress and lifestyle.
Effects of Stress on Health
What is the medical response to all these problems? Drugs and surgery.
We are committing suicide by our sedentary lifestyles and by what we eat, think about, drink, and smoke, and using drugs to cover up the way in which our bodies naturally respond to the assault!
The following is a break-down of the stress response as it occurs in the body. See if you recognize any of these so-called “diseases” which are actually natural effects of stress:
1. Increased Cortisol
You’ve heard about cortisol from TV weight loss commercials.
It is true that cortisol is released when you are under stress and leads to weight gain. Over a prolonged period, increased cortisol also leads to type 2 diabetes, immune deficiency, and decreased bone density (osteoporosis).
2. Increased Stress Hormones (catecholamines)
These act on the heart to increase your heart rate when the fight or flight response is triggered. Along with vasoconstriction (tightening of the blood vessels), stress hormones like adrenalin will increase blood pressure.
Stress hormones also inhibit factual learning, memory, and the ability to focus (can you say ADHD?)
3. Increased Blood Sugar Levels
The body needs energy to respond to threats, so sugar stores in the liver and muscles are broken down and released into the bloodstream.
4. Drop in Serotonin
Along with an increase in adrenalin, this will cause:
- Tension headaches
- Decreased sex drive
- Changes in appetite
- More rapid aging
5. Increased Fat (lipids) in the Blood
This condition is caused by a decrease in thyroid function, which results in low metabolism. When the body is stressed, lipids are stored in the fat cells for future use.
6. Increased Cholesterol in the Blood
When the body is under stress, cholesterol is used to repair damaged tissue. It is then carried through the lymphatic system to the liver where it is converted back to bile acids. This process causes the buildup of cholesterol in the blood.
7. Insulin Resistance
If the body has been exposed to too much stress, insulin resistance will occur. The pancreas will produce less insulin, causing glucose levels to rise.
8. Increased Sensitivity to Pain
Pain is one of the body's warning signals. If the body becomes more sensitive to pain, it may not send out the appropriate warning signal to stop the action being performed. For example, if someone suffers from fibromyalgia, they may have trouble stopping their hands from typing because the brain doesn't realize that the hand is hurting. In addition, chronic pain can lead to depression.
9. Heart Disease
Increased heart rate and blood pressure, along with increased fatty acids and blood sugar, is heart disease and stroke just waiting to happen. Add a depressed immune system and the effects of cortisol and virtually every major health issue in America has been addressed here.
Reversing the Destructive Effects of Stress
The following is a list of ways we can help reverse the effects of stress on the body and decrease our risk of disease.
1. Eat real food. The further it gets from the way nature made it, the worse it is for you.
2. Get rigorous exercise every day. Your body produces chemicals and hormones you need to be healthy that it does not produce when you don’t work out.
3. Drink clean water. Don’t EVER drink water from the tap. Distilled water or water purified by reverse osmosis is best.
4. Spend time every day in prayer or meditation.
5. Engage in activities that are fun and make you happy.
6. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep triggers the stress response and will depress your immune system.
7. STOP consuming toxins! Everything you put into your body that is not made by nature is a poison to your system.
8. Be positive. Studies prove that happy people get sick much less often than unhappy people.
9. Instead of asking what you must do to treat your symptoms and diseases, ask instead what you must do to increase health. This one question alone will take you in the right direction.
This topic is a complex one, but hopefully now you understand how stress will destroy your health.
Take the necessary steps to incorporate all the above into your life.
Gary has many years experience as a healthcare writer covering different types of medicine. His work is published by many different companies including the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACA).