Your stress response is a complex series of interactions between your nervous system and adrenal glands, which signal the release of cortisol and adrenaline into the blood stream.
Our stress response was activated in order to increase our chances of survival by increasing our heart rate and circulation to large muscles, along with our mental focus to ensure we can flee from predators. However, many of us are activating our stress response on a daily basis by try to meet work deadlines, stay fit and workout, squeeze in an extra meeting, catch public transport, reply to emails, constantly answering our mobile phones etc. We are burning ourselves out by constantly trying to accomplish more and keep up with this fast-paced 24-hour world.
Five impacts of chronic stress
1. Risk factor for developing anxiety, depression and low mood
2. Suppresses our immune function, which increases our susceptibility to infections and disease.
3. Promotes oestrogen dominance by suppressing progesterone leading to PMS symptoms.
4. Shuts down our digestive system by decreasing blood circulation to the stomach resulting in IBS symptoms – bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea and poor digestive function.
5. Slows down our thyroid function and metabolism, leading to weight gain and low energy.
Chronic stress leads to higher cortisol levels in the blood, which in turn causes the pancreas to pump our insulin in response to the amount of sugar present. If you do not need the sugar, and your muscle and liver stores are full, then the sugar is stored as fat, leading to weight gain and abdominal fat. The more fat cells you have, the more oestrogen that is released into the body.
Tips for Supporting a healthy stress Response
1. Limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol and sugar that can all deplete your adrenals of the vital nutrient it needs
2. Increase your intake of vegetables (dark leafy green veg & cruciferous vegetables)
3. Eat slow, and chew your food properly.
4. Don’t eat on the go or at your desk. Take 15-20 minutes to sit outside and eat when your Nervous system is calm so that your digestive system is activated.
5. Happiness activates our parasympathetic nervous system which supports relaxation and calm. Do things that bring your joy and laughter.
6. Increase your intake of antioxidant rich foods that can be exhausted when stressed.