We all experience stressful periods in our lives, and this is completely normal and inevitable. Managing and dealing with stress before it wreaks havoc is most important.

Feeling stressed is a natural process that your body experiences when you find yourself in situations where you need to be alert, focused and organised. It’s very common to experience stress daily: meeting work project deadlines; managing family commitments; paying bills etc…

Thankfully our bodies know how to help us cope with these every day ‘stressful’ situations by activating the sympathetic nervous system and releasing our three main stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones cause a ‘fight or flight’ reaction within our bodies and symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased alertness
  • Muscle tension
  • Anxiety
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dilated pupils
  • Affected digestion
  • Sleeping problems

A survival instinct that comes from long human history is the ‘fight or flight’ reaction which was necessary to alert and sharpen the senses when once human beings had to run from that predator.

In this modern fast-paced life stress is becoming increasingly problematic.

Stress can become chronic, raising our cortisol levels and begin to affect our:

  • Digestive system – long term secretion of high levels of cortisol reduces blood flow to the digestive tract, causing symptoms such as digestive bloating and pain, diarrhoea and/or constipation, reflux and nausea.
  • Weight – high levels of cortisol will cause glucose to increase in our blood stream to give us the energy for our ‘fight or flight’ response the instinctive trigger designed for running away from that predator! Because we generally don’t run away from vicious animals anymore, and instead we are sitting at our office desk, this glucose is not burnt and converts to fat storage.
  • Immune system – long term high levels of cortisol will decrease the production of immune cells, and thus will reduce our immune system’s ability to protect us against pathogens. This may manifest in colds, flus, cold sores, fungal and bacterial infections.
  • Nutritional status – your adrenal glands require magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and essential fatty acids, to name a few, to function optimally. High levels of cortisol will expend these nutrients – manifesting in deficiencies.
  • Endocrine system – high cortisol production will reduce reproductive hormone secretion which will in turn affect the menstrual cycle, fertility in both males and females. In addition, thyroid hormones and neurological hormones will also be affected.

In order to assist the body in coping with stress and the above imbalances, it is essential the following treatment strategies are undertaken:

  • Assessing the underlying cause of stress – such as any external factors that are contributing to the stress and the level in which the stress is experienced.
  • Providing tools to cope with stress – most often ‘avoiding’ the stress is simply not an option. It is then paramount to implement stress management techniques.
  • Addressing biochemical contributing factors to stress – such as neurological imbalances which may increase our level of perceived stress.
  • Addressing biochemical imbalances that stress has caused – such as managing digestive health and balancing other hormones.
  • Enhancing the body’s ability to adapt to stress – this usually involves psychological techniques, nutritional and herbal medicines, dietary intervention and lifestyle changes.

Where to now? If stress is negatively impacting you, we would love to help.