Are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life and are you concerned about what it might be doing to you? Let's talk about the Top 2 Physical Effects of Stress that will help you get motivated to reduce excess stress in your life.
The Physical Effects Of Stress
We all hear about the effects of chronic stress talked about and we might have a joke about how ‘stress is a killer’ but do we actually know just how many different things stress can effect?
I think the answer is “no.”
High levels of stress affect more than we could imagine:
- Blood sugar levels
- Gut health
- Brain health
- Bone health
- Emotional health
- Overall endocrine balance
- Metabolic health
- And levels of inflammation
Perhaps you’ve experienced difficulties in some of these areas and wondered why?
Well, it could be stress, and remember stress can come from several different places.
All of these physical effects are important, but to me the top 2 physical effects of stress that you need to be aware of are:
- Decreased immune function
- Increased inflammation
Because these 2 things can influence everything else.
1. Decreased Immune Function
Here’s an excerpt directly from the Adrenal Fatigue Handbook:
The immune system is your body’s natural defence system against attacks from the outside world, foreign materials, bacteria, food toxins, pollutants, food proteins, viruses and so forth. Every single day our body is under attack and goes about its work silently dealing with a whole array of foreign materials and bacteria that enter our system.
We have three important barriers that maintain the first line of defence in our immunity:
- The skin
- Mucus membranes
- And the gastrointestinal tract (the small and large intestine)
These parts of our body do a great job in warding off invaders but sometimes they fail and the secondary line of defense comes into action. The secondary line of defence involves a whole range of cells, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and immune organs.
Effects of chronic stress on immune function
- Natural killer cell activity declines – these cells are very important to maintain the immune system and protect us against infections and cancer cells.
- Secretory IgA (SIgA) activity decreases – SIgA plays an important role in the first line of defense in our immune system, involved in the mucus secretions of our digestive system to protect against toxins and pathogens.
- Decreases in beneficial micro flora – the micro flora are also called gut bacteria, intestinal microbes, microbiome, or microbiota. There is a vast amount of research that now points to the importance of healthy gut bacteria for optimal immune function and health.
2. Increased Inflammation
I did my Masters thesis in the area of nutrition and inflammation and since then I have become fascinated by just how problematic increased inflammation can be. Scientific research now shows that increased systemic inflammation is the key initiator in almost every condition from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, insulin resistance, autoimmune conditions, and the list goes on.
On the other hand, it also fascinates me that we are capable of reducing inflammation through diet and lifestyle in a matter of weeks (even days). Trust me, I’ve looked at copious amounts of research and it’s amazing what can happen with simple changes to your diet. I mentioned some of these in a previous post in this series.
When they hear “inflammation”, most people think of things like chronic back pain, arthritis, or something similar. And while these are forms of inflammation that can also be helped through diet and lifestyle, the chronic systemic inflammation we are talking about here is inflammation throughout your body’s tissues and cells.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response to an internal or external stressor of some kind. It’s a normal process that occurs to help protect the body.
For example: Think about a time when you cut or injured yourself. The area swells, and gets hot and red. That’s because your immune system has sent more helpers (cells) to the area to enable faster healing.
Under normal circumstances inflammation is a positive thing as it helps the process of healing. But under prolonged stress and stimulus the body has so many things to fight that the immune response is constantly in action and this can result in chronic systemic inflammation in the body.
Here is a diagram that helps explain it.
In todays' modern world we have ample stimulus and this is a major reason we are seeing many more health conditions arise. If you want to learn more about inflammation, check out my very popular Inflammation 101 post.
So decreased immune function and increased inflammation are 2 important reasons to try and minimize your physical stress as much as humanly possible.
Sure there are some things we can’t control. For example, we might not be able to change our job right now, and we can't really stop paying bills 🙁
Things such as these are out of our circle of influence, so if we can't influence them. Therefore we need to focus on things we can influence. I wrote about some helpful stress relief techniques here, including the concept of working in your circle of influence – a method I personally love.
Work On What You Can Influence
We do have an influence over what goes into our own mouths. And with simple changes, this can make an amazing impact on the immune system and on reducing inflammation. You can find some adrenal diet tips here .
Like I mentioned in the last post, 5 key things to avoid are:
- Sugar and sugar substitutes, including sodas and sugary drinks
- Refined carbohydrates (the white stuff), processed food and junk, trans fats
- Caffeine (especially with adrenal issues and high stress)
If you can at least eliminate those you’ll be well on your way to better energy, immune function, and hormonal control.
Your health is your wealth,
Jedha Dening is the Nutritionist and Health Coach behind Good Food Eating. She’s also a Mom, passionate writer, and lover of good food that’s also good for your waistline. Jedha is host of the Good Food Eating Podcast and creator of various other nutrition and health programs. With over 10 years experience in health and wellness, Jedha is passionate about taking care of people’s nutrition and health so they can feel fantastic everyday. When she’s not cooking, researching or writing about nutrition, she can usually be found in the great outdoors gardening, bushwalking, or kayaking.
What are the major kinds of stress in your life?
In what ways do you notice stress affects you?