Getting stressed isn’t just a state of mind. It can also seriously harm the body.
You probably think you’re doing everything you can to stay healthy: you get lots of sleep, exercise regularly and try to avoid fried foods. But you may be forgetting one important thing. Relax! Stress has a bigger impact on your health than you might realize.
Stress makes our immune systems less effective because it actually elicits an immune response itself. Stress causes the body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines, immune factors that initiate responses against infections. When the body produces these cytokines over long periods of time—for instance, as a result of chronic stress—all sorts of bad things can happen. Not only does it hamper our body’s ability to fight infection and heal wounds, but chronic inflammation also increases our risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and autoimmune diseases including type 2 diabetes.
What’s more, because regular stress causes a chronic immune response, it can also increase a person’s risk for allergies, which occur when the body elicits a chronic immune response against something that’s not really dangerous (like pollen).
Important: The adrenal glands are directly affected by stress. The adrenal glands responded to stress in three distinct stages. In the initial stage, the adrenal glands enlarge and the blood supply to them increases. As the stress continues, the glands begin to shrink. Eventually, if the stress continues, the glands reach the third stage, which is adrenal exhaustion. During the exhaustion stage the adrenal glands begin to fail to meet the demands placed upon them. During this stage, the individual begins to have a variety of symptoms including fatigue, digestive problems, obesity, depression, dizziness, fainting, allergies and many other problems.
To effectively treat the adrenal glands, you must eliminate as much stress from your life as possible. Emotional stress is the kind of stress most people think of when stress is mentioned, but there are many different kinds of stress. Thermal stress results from being exposed to extremes of temperature; physical stress from heavy physical work, poor posture, structural misalignments, lack of sleep and being overweight; and chemical stress from ingestion of food additives, exposure to pollutants and consumption of sugar and alcohol. Changes in blood sugar are also a form of chemical stress. Eating frequent, small meals is often very helpful, since people suffering from hypoadrenia are often hypoglycemic (having low blood sugar).
Situations are not always controllable, but stress is. Stress is cumulative. Emotional, structural, and chemical stress all affect the body the same way. Your adrenal glands do not know the difference between an IRS audit, treading water, or excessive sugar consumption; excess sugar consumption will add to the stress of the IRS audit.
If you reduce the stress that you can control, stressful situations will not have as much of a physical effect on you. For instance, eating frequent meals and avoiding sugar will reduce stress on the adrenal glands. Also, how you think of the stress will make a difference in the health of your adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands simply don’t know the difference between imagined danger and real danger. Focus on positive!
Ironically, stress often makes you crave the foods that are bad for you. Eating sugar and skipping meals are two things that are especially stressful to the adrenal glands, which work to maintain your blood sugar level. Eating sugar causes a temporary increase in blood sugar, which soon drops. Skipping meals also causes the blood sugar to drop. The adrenal glands then have to work to increase the blood sugar. Hypoadrenia and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) usually exist together. Adrenal imbalance causes a number of issues, including an expanded waistline. The science behind it is quite interesting. Normally when we feel begin to feel hungry, our blood sugar drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol activates glucose, fats, and amino acids to keep our body fueled with energy until we eat. Cortisol maintains blood sugar levels, and insulin helps our cells absorb glucose. When we have longterm stress, both insulin and cortisol remain elevated in the blood, and the extra glucose is stored as fat–mostly in the abdomen.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Scientists have discovered that fat cells actually have special receptors for the stress hormone cortisol, and there are more of these receptors in our abdominal fat cells than anywhere else in our bodies! In addition, scientists have shown that belly fat is actually an active tissue, acting as an endocrine organ that responds to the stress response by actually welcoming more fat to be deposited! This is an ongoing cycle until we take steps to correct this adrenal imbalance.
Call today to get your adrenals checked: 818-707-9355
Dr. Norling can help to restore your adrenals and put your body back on the healthy cycle.
Meanwhile, here are some ideas for stress relief:
- Meditation: Meditation, Prayer, Yoga, Tai Chi, or simple deep breathing exercises can help you bring stress under control. Much of the damage that stress does to your health is not due to any external factors, but rather how your mind interprets those factors. Meditation and other techniques help to reduce the harm of stress by quieting the mind.
- Sports and hobbies: Most hobbies are relaxing; your mind has to focus on a simple task rather than on sources of stress.
- Exercise: Moderate aerobic exercise is good. This is exercise that uses large muscles repetitively and is mild enough that you can carry on a normal conversation during the activity. Anaerobic (exercising so hard that you can’t carry on a normal conversation) exercise can be stressful and should be limited while the adrenal glands are recovering.
- Diet: There are many types of stress. Chemical, physical, thermal, and mental stresses can all cause harm to the body. Stress is cumulative. A stressful job situation is compounded by a poor diet. Eat small, frequent meals; avoid chemical additives and sugar, refined carbohydrates and hydrogenated oil. Eat plenty of vegetables and make sure that you get enough protein. At mealtime relax and focus on enjoying your food; don’t eat on the run.
The next time you feel guilty about enjoying a lazy weekend, or taking a day off from work for the heck of it, think again. Your body will thank you for it.