Don’t Let Stress Affect Your Health

It’s no secret that with a global pandemic affecting the health of thousands and disrupting the economy, most people are facing stress and anxiety like never before. And, while this is a normal part of everyday life, chronic stress can have both a physical and mental impact on the body. Two major areas it can affect are the HPA axis and the immune system, which are both critical during this COVID-19 crisis.

Impacting the HPA Axis

The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is an integration of the endocrine and central nervous systems and is considered to be the “stress response system.” This system regulates your body’s fight or flight response, which prepares the body for a quick response to potential danger. When stress occurs, a series of hormones are released from this axis, culminating in cortisol being released from the adrenal cortex. There is also release of two alarm chemicals, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. With normal stressors, the body will report back to stop releasing cortisol when the source of the stressor has been relieved, and everything then returns to normal.

With repeated or prolonged stress, the HPA axis remains active, releasing cortisol along with epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream. If not addressed, these can lead to major health issues, a poor quality of life, or even death. These health risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Poor memory and concentration
  • Risk of anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Increased fat storage and weight gain

Impacting the Immune System

With this steady stream of hormones pumping into the blood system, the immune system is also greatly impacted. The immune system has both B and T cells (lymphocytes) that help to destroy incoming viruses and bacteria. With stress, the number of these lymphocytes are greatly reduced allowing an individual to be more susceptible to infections. Chronic stress can increase inflammation in the body, further impairing immunity and causing cellular and tissue damage.

Indirect effects on the immune system by stress include unhealthy coping strategies like a poor diet, smoking or excessive drinking, which come with their own health risks. Additionally, disruption of normal healthy habits such as exercise, sleep, and healthy meals can place even more burden on the body. Other factors linked to stress that can negatively impact immune function include mental/emotional factors like depression or anxiety and blood sugar imbalance.

Stress Management Techniques

So now that we know the impact stress can have on the body and immune system, it’s important to know how to handle it. A healthy immune system is essential to combat any virus, especially COVID-19, and it is now more important than ever. Here are just a few ideas to help you manage your anxiety:

  • Try meditation, visualization, prayer, and deep breathing. Helpful apps for meditation include: Insight Timer and HeadSpace
  • Take a Yoga or tai chi class online. Free yoga on youtube: Yoga with Adriene
  • Exercise to deepen breathing and provide muscle tension relief but don’t overdo it. Try Deep breathing exercise on YouTube called Calm Breathe Bubble
  • Connect with close friends and family through phone calls and video conferencing
  • Deep restful sleep at least 7-8 hours for most
  • Find an activity that you enjoy doing that will easily fit into your daily routine

Find What Works

During this unprecedented time in history, it’s not wrong to feel some anxiety or stress about what the future holds. However, it’s important that you don’t let yourself stay in that space. Find and put into practice a few different ways to alleviate your worries, so you feel healthy and confident to face whatever may come your way! 

Find Out How Your HPA Axis and Immune System Are Working

If you are interested in finding out how your HPA Axis is responding to this increased level of stress and get specific recommendations for nutrient supplementation to help support its normal function, then reach out to me at my contact here and ask about adrenal testing I have available at my clinic. I will have a second post on our Facebook page this month to delve deeper into the immune system, but if you are interested in information about my immune function testing promotion for April and May then reach out to me here also so I can provide you with personalized recommendations for immune system support.

 

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Distress or Chronic Stress

Distress or chronic stress is uncontrollable, prolonged, or overwhelming stress. Once stress becomes distress, the body manages to survive though not always to thrive. For example, when faced with periods of chronic stress, the body’s immune system function is lowered, and the digestive, excretory, and reproductive systems no longer function the way they should. In a state of distress, the cells of the immune system (and other body systems) are unable to respond normally and produce levels of inflammation which increase the risk of further health issues.

Homeostasis

Homeostasis refers to your body’s ability to regulate itself and maintain a comparatively stable internal environment despite external and internal conditions and events.

Your body is designed to be in a state of homeostasis, where all the systems within are functioning optimally.

Stressor

Stressor is anything that is perceived by the body as challenging, threatening or demanding.

Health Story

In the context of My Wellbeing Compass, your “Health Story” represents the combination of your dis-eases, conditions, symptoms and the history that binds them together. It is multi-layered and multi-dimensional. Unearthing and resolving the root causes at the core of your Health Story is the only way to truly rewrite this Story.

Natural Self-repair Mechanisms

The body is made up of intelligent, living cells that are dynamically connected. They communicate and just know what to do and when to do it in any given situation. They grow, replicate, repair, and age. Every 90 days, the body has a new bloodstream; every year, it manufactures billions of new cells; colon cells refresh every 4 days; the skin is entirely regenerated every 2-3 weeks; white blood cells regenerate in about 1 year; the liver renews itself at least once every 2 years; and the skeleton replaces its cells entirely every 10 years.

You are an incredibly complex, interactive, and dynamic living organism that is well-equipped with self-repair mechanisms that can fight infections, eliminate toxins, fix damaged DNA, destroy cancer cells, and even slow down aging.

This natural self-healing ability (also referred to as cellular intelligence or body’s innate intelligence) explains spontaneous remissions from seemingly “incurable” diseases.

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