We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic). Acute stress won’t mess too much with your health. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances and can even be life-saving. Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

The problem is chronic stress. Your body has specific stress reactions. If these reactions are triggered every day, or many times a day, that can screw with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”

Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Anything that increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress promotes chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Immunity

Do you notice you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (called cytokines) secreted by immune cells. Consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

“Leaky Gut”

Stress contributes to leaky gut (known as “intestinal permeability”). These “leaks” allow the body to absorb partially digested food, bacteria or other things.

The stress hormone cortisol opens tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Confused. Picture this:

Have you ever played “red rover?” In this game, a row of children holds hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to pass right through. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in this gut “red rover” game!

Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree?

It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you lack enough sleep, it affects your energy level, mood, memory, energy level and ability to think.

Recent research shows just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favors.

Stress-busting Tips

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step. Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Say “no”?
  • Finally make THAT decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things to try:

  • Deep breathing
  • Meditation
  • Walk in nature
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
  • Connect with loved ones

Conclusion

Stress is a huge and underappreciated factor in our health. It impacts your physical body much more than you realize.

Stress increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and affects your immune system, digestion and sleep.

There are things that help reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it. You can ditch that stress mess!

Recipe: A Relaxing Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

1 cup steeped chamomile tea; cooled
1 peach; diced

Blend both ingredients into a blender until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended or implied to be a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a qualified, licensed medical professional. You are encouraged to confirm any information obtained from or through this article with other sources and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician.

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