The term stress is tossed around freely in this modern age and has become a casual buzzword for just about any predicament that we find unpleasant. Yet how it truly effects health and well-being in substantial ways is rarely acknowledged. Linked with a range of degenerative diseases from cancer to diabetes to stroke, stress is a silent poison, sapping us of vitality and, oftentimes, spirit. Weight-gain, mental illness and hair loss are common indicators of a life filled with too much stress. Taming this unruly beast should be a top priority for anyone who values solid mental, physical and emotional health.
Three stress hormones that wreck havoc on the body
When we are stressed, the body pumps out three hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. Each is produced by the adrenal glands and all three trigger a sequence of:
– Suppressed neurotransmitter activity
– Endocrine system breakdown
– Poor immunity
– Sluggish digestion
These hormones also influence the body’s response to stress. If we feel the urge to fight the perceived danger, aggression, irritability, rage and violence will be displayed. Flight will trigger avoidance, mental confusion, withdrawal and fatigue. And fright will lead to states of anxiety, apprehension, depression and panic.
Mood swings, obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorders are aggravated by stress-induced hormonal imbalances as well. These hormones also cause hair loss and fat accumulation, especially in the abdominal region.
The connection between insulin resistance and stress
As the incidence of chronic stress becomes more frequent, so does insulin resistance. When we are constantly in a state of ‘threat’ or ’emergency,’ the body releases glucose to provide fuel for fight or flight actions. Unfortunately, it isn’t truly needed so the pancreas creates a surge of insulin to deal with the onslaught of glucose. Over time, this cycle exhausts the pancreas and creates insulin resistant cells. Ultimately, more stress is placed on the body which perpetuates the pattern. Tiredness, fatigue and exhaustion set in.
When glucose metabolism becomes inefficient, other organs like the brain, liver, adrenals, thyroid and gut begin to malfunction due to insufficient fuel. The development of disease follows, including high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney failure, neurological problems and ulcers.
With such a slew of health issues rooted in an overstressed system, balancing the body to break this harmful cycle is extremely important for well-being.
Calming and replenishing the body
Beyond lifestyle changes to minimize stress such as yoga, t’ai chi and breathing exercises, several supplements are helpful to properly align the hormonal system and reduce the occurrence of disease.
Progesterone – Encourages the production of dopamine, a feel good neurotransmitter linked with positive mood, motivation and normal sexual response. Potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics. Prevents water retention which reduces blood pressure. Balances estrogen and testosterone hormones.
Vitamin D – Stress depletes this vitamin significantly. Maintains proper blood pressure. Strong antioxidant properties.
Glycine and GABA – Two important calming neurotransmitters.
Tyrosine – Diminished by stress. A precursor to dopamine. Hinders inflammation.
Zinc and chromium – Important for balanced glucose levels.
B vitamin complex – Calms the nervous system while providing energy.
Inositol – Helps to decrease insulin resistance. Soothes depression, mood swings, anxiety and bipolar disorder. Also prevents stress related hair loss.
Additionally, the herbs lemon balm, valerian root, passionflower and St. John’s wort along with the amino acid L-theanine show promise in reducing stress as well.
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