From Dr. Mercola:
Stress often starts in your head with a worry or a fear, but those feelings of anxiety, and perhaps even panic, don’t stay there. When you feel stressed, your body ramps up production of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine.
This triggers the start of the stress response, and, like a snowball rolling down a mountain, it gains traction and speed until you’re ready for the proverbial attack.
Adrenaline, for instance, increases your heart rate, causing your heart to beat faster and ultimately raising blood pressure. Cortisol can interfere with the function of the inner lining of your blood vessels, triggering plaque buildup in your arteries, and increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Meanwhile, you brain communicates with your gut, sending the news that you’re stressed, and your gut responds in suit, altering what it would normally be doing so your body can collectively work to fight off this imminent stressor (whether it’s really an imminent stressor or not).
This stress response can be quite beneficial if you need to run from a predator, or even quickly cram for a big exam. Things get messy, however, when you feel stressed all or most of the time.
While an occasional stress response is normal and even healthy, ongoing, constant stress is not. On the contrary, it’s the recipe for sickness, from chronic diseases to acute infections.
What Happens When You’re Chronically Stressed?
In the video above, Emory University professor of medicine Sharon Bergquist shows what happens in your body when you’re under chronic stress. Let’s say, you lose your job or are struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from abuse you suffered as a child.
Excess stress hormones are released far too often. Your stress response becomes imbalanced; it’s not shutting off. Your immune system suffers as a result, and epigenetic changes are rapidly occurring.
The stress is triggering systemic low-grade inflammation, and suddenly your blood pressure is up, your asthma is flaring, and you keep getting colds. That cut on your leg just doesn’t seem to want to heal, and your skin is a mess.
You’re having trouble sleeping and, on an emotional level, you feel like you’re nearing burnout. That’s when you notice that you’ve put on some weight, and you’re having digestive troubles too. Even your intimate life is suffering.
Stress clearly affects your whole body, but according to neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress:
Cardiovascular disease Hypertension Depression Anxiety Sexual dysfunction Infertility and irregular cycles Frequent colds Insomnia and fatigue Trouble concentrating Memory loss Appetite changes Digestive problems and dysbiosis How Stress Messes with Your Gut
Chronic stress (and other negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and sadness) can trigger symptoms and full-blown disease in your gut. As Harvard researchers explained:1
“Psychology combines with physical factors to cause pain and other bowel symptoms. Psychosocial factors influence