By: Dr. Tammy Lang
Stress, a normal part of life, constantly subjects us to pressures, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental. Stress can show up as fatigue, increased heart rate, irregular breathing, loss of sex drive, aches and pains, anger, anxiety, forgetfulness, loss of sleep and many more. Some of us will turn to food for comfort and others will experience a loss of appetite.
While we believe it to be inevitable at times in our life, chronic stress can have real and lasting consequences. The constant production of stress hormones can affect your immune system, hormones, digestion, heart, brain and of course your weight. Chronic stress is a major problem, but just how bad is it?
Let us first take a look at what happens to our body when we experience a stressful situation. We enter a “fight or flight” response. The brain sends a danger signal to the adrenal glands and our system is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline. The direct result is our digestion is slowed/halted to provide energy and strength to our muscles, our heart rate and blood pressure increase, our mind is stimulated, and senses are heightened. Our body was designed to respond in this manner to save our lives. A form of self-preservation. But what if the stress does not go away and we remain in this heightened state? Today’s lifestyle does just that. It does not have to be a big event like an injury, divorce, or death of a loved one.
The stress response can be initiated by our daily obligations, lack of sleep, poor diet and just worrying about finances. While stress itself is not necessarily problematic, the buildup of cortisol in the brain and gut is. With chronic stress, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to use. Cortisol is inflammatory and high levels wear down the body’s ability to function properly. During this time, digestion is altered, and your body will decrease and suppress your immune system by as much as 70%.
Chronic stress can damage and alter the balance of good and bad bacteria in your gut. The gut and brain have a two-way connection of communication. Altering the gut may affect the brain regarding anxiety, depression, mood, cognition and vice versa, worrying, depression, anxiety can disrupt the gut causing signs and symptoms of gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain and ulcers. Chronic stress is linked to numerous other health conditions like heart disease, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, diabetes, and many others. Prolonged high levels of inflammation and a suppressed immune system are the triggers for autoimmune disease.
Stress is a chain reaction in the body
Taking time to decrease and manage your stress is vital not only to your health but the quality of your life. I recommend to all my patients to eat a balanced diet and incorporate the use of exercise, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, and a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep into their daily routine and do everything possible to not over schedule themselves. But often, this just is not enough to get you back on track. Especially if you have been under prolonged stress, experiencing significant fatigue and other health challenges. Most of my patients will require a combination of vitamins and herbs like B, C, magnesium ashwagandha, licorice, bacopa, ginseng or rhodiola. Everyone’s needs and recovery time will be different. Using a tiered approach to address the underlying health challenges like gut dysbiosis, inflammation and hormone imbalances are key to a successful resolution.
Dr. Tammy Lang takes a functional approach to achieving your health goals utilizing the power of food and nutrition coupled with and identifying lifestyle habits and root cause(s) to help you achieve optimum health. For more information, visit her website at https://drtammylang.com/#, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the South Jersey Center For Nutrition and Wellness Facebook page.
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