April is Stress Awareness Month.
While I think most of us are pretty well aware of stress, I suspect many people might not know just how harmful it can be, especially when it’s chronic and ongoing.
Although the medical community calls high blood pressure the “silent killer,” I think that term better applies to stress, since stress is something we ALL deal with.
Let’s look at what stress really is, all the ways it can harm your health (trust me, you will be shocked) and how you can fight back and minimize its harmful effects on you.
What is stress, really?
Stress reflects our ancient biological “caveman” programming!
Way back in our early days, we dealt with various physical stresses like hunting for food (or maybe our food hunted us!), conflicts with other tribes and dealing with environmental challenges.
When these physical stresses would pop up, our bodies would prepare us for the “fight or flight” reaction—expecting that we would need to run like a gazelle or fight for our lives.
As this happened, the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol would cause various physiological changes getting us ready for fighting or fleeing. These include:
- The liver putting glucose into the bloodstream for energy
- The heart rate and blood pressure rising
- Pupils dilating
- The breathing rate increases
- Sweating increases and the muscles tense up
Once the stress was over, all our bodily functions would return to normal, we’d refuel to replace lost energy, and all would be well.
Enter our NEW form of stress—mental!
Nowadays for the most part we’re not hunting for our food, and we’re (hopefully) not getting into a lot of fights!
Our stresses are more mental in nature—a tough day at work, home/family challenges, money worries, etc.
But your body cannot distinguish between physical and mental stress. So it acts the exact same way!
And this really becomes a problem when your stress is CHRONIC.
Here’s what I mean—here are some examples of how your body’s reaction to chronic stress can ruin your health and even shorten your life!
Stress pulls energy away from your digestion.
Nothing the human body does demands more energy than digestion, so if stress takes energy away from yours, heartburn will become your regular companion. Tum-tum-tum-tum-TUMS!
Plus stress can also cause colon contractions, sending you rocketing to the bathroom with diarrhea.
Pooped out pancreas
Your pancreas carefully monitors your blood sugar level and when it gets too high, it secretes insulin to tell your cells to absorb the glucose.
Well, when you’re chronically stressed and your liver is dumping glucose into your system repeatedly, your pancreas can eventually get pooped out and not be able to secrete adequate insulin for your needs.
Or your cells might stop responding to the “call of duty” from insulin—known as insulin resistance.
Either way, you may be looking at Type 2 diabetes. People with high levels of stress have a 45 percent greater risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Glucose is an abrasive substance, so having lots of it repeatedly flowing through your blood vessels can stir up inflammation and raise your blood pressure.
Plus inflammation in the tiny arteries servicing your eyes, brain or kidneys can lead to retinal problems, stroke or kidney damage.
Stress causes harmful changes to your gut microbiome, giving dangerous microbes the “upper hand” and weakening your immune system functioning.
This can lead to repeated infections and viruses, as well as less protection against serious diseases like cancer!
The stress hormone cortisol is responsible for telling your body to refuel itself. Cortisol doesn’t know that your stress is mental—it thinks you just ran or fought—so it gives you a VORACIOUS appetite for sugars and fats to help you “recover.”
Well, over time with lots of chronic stress, this can cause you to crave carbs like crazy!
In addition, sugar is addictive--it’s been compared to cocaine in terms of addictiveness—so that will cause you to crave even more carbs.
I’m sure you know what that means—that scale number will go up, up, up.
Plus remember that sugar feeds cancer cells too, which makes those carb cravings potentially deadly.
Pregnenolone is your body’s hormone “molding clay,” and your body divvies it up to wherever it’s needed to make hormones. This can include your thyroid, male and female hormones, your digestion, your brain, etc.
You have over 200 hormones that control pretty much all of your body’s processes, and your body divides up your pregnenolone as needed to make those hormones.
EXCEPT when you are under stress!
Stress hormones trump all other hormones, so when you’re stressed, your body directs all your pregnenolone resources to making stress hormones.
Leaving your other hormones running short!
Over time this can lead to hypothyroidism, PMS, digestive problems, insomnia, depression and much more.
How to help!
Clearly, fighting back against stress and minimizing its harmful effects on you is not only a good idea—it’s vital!
Here are some of the most effective ways you can ensure that stress doesn’t get the best of you (or your health!):
1- Get regular exercise
I know exercise is a dreaded word to many people, but nothing beats it in terms of undoing the harmful effects of stress.
The key is picking something you like (or will at least tolerate), doing it for 30 minutes 3-4 days a week, creating doable goals, and getting a buddy if possible.
2- Pamper your liver
Your poor liver is really challenged when you are stressed—it’s responsible for putting glucose into your bloodstream, as well as making cholesterol which is then turned into pregnenolone for your stress hormones.
So it’s important to pamper your precious liver! You can do this by drinking a large glass of water every morning to which a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime has been added. Also, incorporate onions and garlic into your meals, as they are helpful to the liver.
And of course, watch the booze. Don’t rely on alcohol to relieve your stress.
3- Help your gut recover
Your microbiome takes a hit when you’re stressed, so it’s crucial to help support your intestinal good guys with a full-spectrum probiotic blend like Super Shield.
Super Shield’s carefully designed blend of 13 well-studied and proven probiotic strains help maintain a healthy intestinal flora balance, which will in turn help pave the way for strong immune function, more regular BMs, less gas and bloating and better nutrient absorption.
4- Get enough sleep
Make sure you are getting at least 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Proper rest is crucial for your mind and body to regenerate.
Even if you’re very stressed out and can’t fall asleep right away, just lying in your bed in a dark room is helpful and encourages melatonin production.
And if you need a little help in the melatonin department, our Soothing Zzzz’s Blend can help pinch-hit where your body may be running short.
Soothing Zzzz’s Blend is a vegan, non-GMO gummy formula that provides the 5 mg dose of melatonin recommended by health professionals to support proper sleep and has a tasty blackberry flavor!
5- Other stress relievers to try
Here are some other stress relief measures to try:
- Adopting a pet
- Counseling or therapy
- Deep breathing
Don’t let stress ruin your health and possibly shorten your life!
Fight back and minimize its harmful effects safely and naturally.
To your health,