Many of us are living in a constant state of stress, which keeps us marinating in destructive hormones around the clock. Understanding how stress works can help you figure out ways to combat it and reduce its negative impacts on your health.
Stages of Stress
Our body reacts to stress in 3 stages – known as ‘The General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS for short).
The alarm reaction. The body releases adrenaline and a variety of other psychological mechanisms to combat the stress and to stay in control. This is called fight or flight response and is completely normal. The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, the breathing and perspiration increases, the eyes dilate, the stomach may clench. Believe it or not, this is done by nature to protect you in case something bad happens. Once the cause of the stress is removed, the body will go back to normal.
If the cause for the stress is not removed, GAS goes to its second stage called resistance or adaptation. This is the body’s response to long-term protection. It secretes further hormones that increase blood sugar levels to sustain energy and raise blood pressure. The adrenal cortex (outer covering) produces hormones called corticosteroids for this resistance reaction. Overuse by the body's defense mechanism in this phase eventually leads to disease. If this adaptation phase continues for a prolonged period of time without periods of relaxation and rest to counterbalance the stress response, sufferers become prone to fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy as the effort to sustain arousal slides into negative stress.
The third stage of GAS is called exhaustion. In this stage, the body has run out of its reserve of body energy and immunity. Mental, physical and emotional resources suffer heavily. The body experiences "adrenal exhaustion". Blood sugar levels decrease as the adrenals become depleted, leading to decreased stress tolerance, progressive mental and physical exhaustion, illness and collapse.
The destructive effects of prolonged stress
Science has established that stress can lead to cardiovascular disease, but did you know it also takes a toll on you brain and adds inches to your waistline? Here are a few other ways that prolonged stress effects your body:
- Destruction of healthy bone and muscle
- Slowed healing and cell regeneration
- Impaired digestion
- Impaired ability to make sex hormones (PMS, infertility, miscarriage etc)
- Depression and anxiety attacks
- A weakened immune system
Nutritional advice for stress reduction
- Stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Avoid sugar and products high in sugar.
- Eat good quality protein with each meal.
- Eat regular snacks.
- Avoid alcohol and stimulants.
- Consume at least 7 portions fresh fruit and vegetables each day.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Take supplements that support adrenal function (magnesium, vitamin C, and B vitamins).
Lifestyle recommendations for stress reduction
- Find ways to reduce stress levels (avoid excessive TV, computer, traffic, stressful situations).
- Add relaxation methods to daily routine (reading, listening to music, massage).
- Exercise 3 times weekly plus daily activity of some kind.
- Eat in a relaxed manner and chew food properly.
- Eat small regular meals to maintain energy levels.
- Ensure regular sleeping patterns.
Following this advice will help you combat the destructive spiral of prolonged stress. And we can show you exactly how.
Take the foodwise Energy and Mood nutritional program and discover what’s wrong with your current diet and the straightforward changes you can make to your eating habits and lifestyle to normalize your stress reactions and improve energy levels, enhance your mood and improve your overall health and wellbeing.