Stress… We have all experienced it (maybe you are feeling it right this very moment). Without surprise, it seems as if our collective stress levels have seemed to hit an all-time high throughout this past year. While stress seems like an inevitable, natural response in our everyday lives at this point, it is important to know that it is actually wreaking havoc on your overall health and wellness.
In honor of April being Stress Awareness Month, Dr. Vikki Petersen, Certified Clinical Nutritionist, Chiropractor and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, highlights the detrimental effects that stress can have on our overall health and wellbeing.
“The word ‘stress’ is discussed often: ‘I had a stressful day,’ or ‘‘I’m under stress,’ etc. Stress is unique to each individual. What evokes stress in one person could have no impact on their close friend or partner. What’s vital to know about stress is that it impacts pretty much every organ and system in your body. From longevity to weight, from emotional stability to energy levels, and from digestion to detoxification, all aspects of your physical and mental well-being are affected by your stress levels,” says Dr. Petersen.
Here are Dr. Vikki Petersen’s top 5 facts to know about stress and its effect on health:
Fact #1: Stress Causes a Major Imbalance in the Sympathetic & Parasympathetic Nervous System
You may have heard about your “fight or flight” nervous system – they are the same. While being in fight or flight is great for adrenaline and alertness, if it is activated chronically thanks to stress you miss out on the ability to rest (sleep well), digest and repair your body, the job of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Fact #2: Stress Prevents Production of Sex Hormones
Not feeling in the mood for love? Your hormones are likely to blame thanks to stress. Stress is a reaction to imminent danger that increases adrenaline and heart rate in an effort to help you “escape” the dangerous situation. However, when stress is internal and there is no imminent danger, the effects on your hormonal and emotional balance are profound. Your body will literally shunt away from making sex hormones that balance your mood and help regulate stress itself.
Fact #3: Stress Inhibits Melatonin Production
When you are under stress you likely feel more fatigued and need a good night’s sleep. Stress hormones inhibit the body’s ability to produce melatonin, the sleep hormone) and get the good night’s sleep you so desperately need.
Fact #4: Under Stress, Your Body Eats Up More B Vitamins and Nutrients
Stress begets more stress. When the body depletes the nutrients it needs, this deficit causes the body to crave a “quick fix” and you find yourself reaching for sugar, refined carbohydrates and caffeine, all “empty” calories that perpetuate your cravings, aggravate stress even more and cause weight gain.
Fact # 5: Stress Lowers Your Immune Response
Have you ever been under a lot of stress and then got sick? It is not a coincidence, but rather a weakening of your immune defenses that allow an opportunistic bacteria or virus to take hold of your body. Stress makes it harder for the body to ward off infection, making you more prone to illness in general.
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