What Is Stress And How To Cope With It
We deal with stress every day and we would be better off, physically, and mentally, if we could control it.
It impacts our body and health, like a bad diet or lack of exercise. Almost all common health conditions are related to our stress levels.
What Is Stress?
It is defined as a state of mental or emotional tension, resulting from challenging or adverse circumstances.
It is an undesirable emotional experience, accompanied by harmful biochemical, physiological, and behavioural changes that negatively affect our body and health.
It is our body's response to mental or emotional pressure, and it is closely related to irritability, nervousness, frustration, bad mood, anxiety, worry, fear, hatred, feeling overwhelmed and other negative emotions or mental health issues.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Acute stress can be easier to manage than chronic stress. Uncontrolled chronic stress can be the result of adrenal fatigue.
Every time we get irritated, afraid and worried or whenever we experience physical trauma, or a distressing life event, our adrenal glands (found on top of the kidneys) start producing stress hormones (Cortisol, Adrenaline and Noradrenaline). This is known as the stress response.
If we are constantly producing Cortisol, Adrenaline and Noradrenaline, we become exhausted, triggering symptoms such as;
Chronic fatigue, lack of motivation and enthusiasm, poor memory, problems with concentration, insomnia, feelings of apathy, irritability, anxiety, depression, hypoglycaemia, hair loss, sugar cravings, weight gain, decreased sex drive and insulin resistance.
What Causes It?
Lack of probiotic bacteria in our intestines, unhealthy refined diet, frequent use of stimulants, and deficiency of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, selenium, iodine, and other nutrients, which our brain and nervous system can’t function properly without.
Also, a sedentary lifestyle, insufficient sunlight exposure, lack of sleep and tryptophan (the strongest antidepressant) make it hard for the body to produce enough serotonin.
Our body increases blood sugar levels, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood circulation to oxygenate and energise muscles and stimulate the brain, to improve our ability to respond to dangerous or challenging situations.
If this happens occasionally, it won’t cause much harm. The problem is that most of us experience this regularly.
Chronic uncontrolled stress contributes to many health problems including hormonal imbalance, adrenal fatigue, digestive disorders, diabetes, obesity, mental disorders, weakened immune system and conditions including cancer and autoimmune diseases.
It speeds up the ageing process, by increasing the production of harmful free radicals that damage our cells.
It contributes to heart attacks and strokes as it increases blood pressure and damages blood vessel linings, allowing bad cholesterol to build up in those damaged areas.
Stress affects the blood-brain barrier which normally prevents unwelcome substances from affecting the brain. Researchers found that it increased the permeability of the blood-brain barrier.
It can lead to a variety of digestive problems, including bloating, stomach cramps, gastric ulcers, constipation, or diarrhoea.
It also contributes to acid reflux, spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
Can it Lead to Nutritional Deficiencies?
Cortisol production leads to a build-up of glutamate, which produces harmful free radicals that damage cell membranes, DNA, mitochondria, brain, and immune cells.
Many vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, selenium, and magnesium work as antioxidants to prevent free radicals from damaging our cells.
Other antioxidants include glutathione, coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid.
When these antioxidants are constantly used to fight free radicals, instead of supporting various vital body functions, it can lead to deficiency.
Deficiency contributes to all kinds of health problems, including fatigue, increased rate of ageing, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, poor brain and nervous system function, neurological damage, inflammation and weakened immunity.
This increases the risk of cancer, frequent infections, allergies, and various autoimmune diseases.
Many people under stress have tendencies to use stimulants, such as alcohol and caffeinated products or consume “comfort foods” that are high in sugar and contain refined white flower.
It then leads to even more deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals.
Does it Promote Obesity?
Exposure to chronic psychological stress has been associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.
Stress increases the production of the hormone cortisol, which, when combined with calorie-dense foods, promotes the development of obesity.
Specific chemical messengers are released by the body as a result of negative emotions. Whenever these are released, it causes fat cells to multiply and grow bigger.
Cortisol also raises our blood sugar level which is required for fast energy. This stimulates insulin release, which increases appetite, encouraging us to replace the sugar and fat, used for the fight or flight response.
Typically, overweight, or obese individuals live a sedentary lifestyle and don’t need this energy replacement. This additional sugar is converted into fat.
Supplements to Reduce Stress
- Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous system and brain, promoting good mood and improving our sleep pattern.
Increased magnesium intake helps you to fall asleep faster and to stay asleep until you are fully rested.
Magnesium is involved in the synthesis and function of serotonin, a neurotransmitter known to be most effective in calming the brain and promoting relaxation.
- A study in 2011, found that supplementing with a high dose of Vitamin B helped participants reduce irritability and low mood.
- You can increase serotonin levels by taking 5 Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), Vitamin B6, B1, B3, Folic Acid, Magnesium and Zinc as all of them are required to produce this precious happy hormone.
- Chamomile has been known for centuries as an excellent natural aid in calming the nervous system and easing worry.
Research has shown that Chamomile is relaxing and can be effective in improving mood and psychological well-being.
- The following herbal remedies and adaptogens are known for their relaxing properties and strengthening of our nervous system;
Rhodiola, Siberian and Korean Ginseng, Astragalus, Maca, Damiana, Gotu Kola and L-Theanine.
- Fish Oil, Flaxseed Oil and Chlorellaincrease your intake of omega-3 fatty acids as they are very beneficial for the proper functioning of the nervous system.
- Since almost everyone in the UK is deficient in Vitamin D, supplementation can support our nervous system. But make sure you have enough magnesium too.
- Probiotic formulas such as MoodProbio can improve your ability to control stress.
Beneficial bacteria stimulate the production of B vitamins, serotonin and dopamine, all involved in enhancing our mood.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid and Methylcobalamin (a form of vitamin B12) have frequently demonstrated their ability to prevent neurological damage in our body and even reverse it.
Dietary & Lifestyle Recommendations to Manage Stress
- Boost serotonin levels through regular daily, outdoor exercise to help relieve stress.
- Go to sleep as early as possible. Try to sleep at least seven or eight hours a day.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, foods with high sugar content, refined sugar, and other refined carbohydrates such as white flour products and white rice.
Instead of harmful sweeteners, you can use xylitol, stevia, or organic raw honey in moderation.
- Don’t use stimulants such as caffeine products or alcohol. To increase energy use chlorella, spirulina, B vitamins, ginseng, or other harmless energy boosters.
- Meditation and deep breathing have been known to help deal with negative emotions.
Any information or product suggested on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Consult your primary healthcare physician before using any supplements or making any changes to your regime.
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References and Sources
- Deina Nemiary, MD, MPH; Ruth Shim, MD, MPH; Gail Mattox, MD; Kisha Holden, PhD. 2012. The Relationship Between Obesity and Depression Among Adolescents. Psychiatric Annals. August 2012 – Volume 42 · Issue 8: 305-308.
- Maglione-Garves CA, Kravitz L, Schneider S. “Stress Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight”. University of New Mexico.
- Abraham SB, Rubino D, Sinaii N, Ramsey S, Nieman LK. 2013. Cortisol, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study of obese subjects and review of the literature.
- Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan; 21 (1): E105-17.
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- Nature Medicine 4, 718 – 721 (1998) Role of the Y5 neuropeptide Y receptor in feeding and obesity. Donald J. Marsh, Gunther Hollopeter, Kathy E. Kafer & Richard D. Palmiter
- Heva A, Laitinen J, Miettunen J, et al. Obesity and depression: results from the longitudinal Northern Finland 1966 Birth Cohort Study. Int J Obes. 2006; 30(3): 520527.
- Dallman MF. Stress-induced obesity and the emotional nervous system. Trends Endocrinol. Metab. 2010; 21:159165.
- Segerstrom, S. C. and Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 4.
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