In my last blog post ’Surviving Stress Part 1’, I wrote about different present-day stressors and how easy it is to set-off a stress response in our bodies. Now it is time to tell you what can happen when you suffer from chronic stress - and believe me, most of us do!
It’s important to begin by understanding that our body’s primary function is to protect itself from potential danger. As much as we might dislike the way it goes about doing this, these responses to stress (such as elevated blood pressure, headaches, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, digestion issues) are often designed for its own survival. However, when our body is chronically triggered by any particular stressor, its defence mechanism can get confused - and that creates a problem.
For example, let’s say you’re stressed because you just got fired from your job. When you go home to eat your dinner, you are almost guaranteed to not properly digest your food because stress-hormones are flooding your body - preventing digestion (or rather, prioritizing survival over digestion). Now let’s say the pressure of having to pay the bills and finding a new job keep your stress hormones high for a few weeks. Due to the body prioritizing survival in the face of chronic stress, it may not attend to its usual ‘maintenance work’ like repairing cells, getting rid of viruses and bacteria, absorbing nutrients, etc. Your inflammation level will rise and you will start getting those nasty symptoms I mentioned above.
Now, this has become a chicken and egg scenario - since you lost your job, your body reacted by creating stress hormones which caused symptoms like tension headaches - which, in turn, stressed you out even more… and the cycles continues.
I, myself used to vastly underestimate the negative impacts of stress on my body for a long time. I did not pay attention to the warning signs of chronic stress until I developed allergies and food intolerances as a consequence of not making the connection between stressors, my gut health and immune system.
However, everyone is different and stress manifests in different ways. In my case, it lead to a wear-down of my gut lining. Unfortunately, the gut is where our immune system and ‘filter of bad things’ sits. It acts like a portal between the ‘outside’ and the ‘inside’ world. With a weakened immune system and an overactive immune response, my body inadvertently started ‘attacking’ good things like pollen or food protein that looks like pollen protein in order to protect me. It did not have the time to filter and assess properly because it assumed my life was in constant danger due to my high stress-hormone levels. In a way, it tried to protect me by attacking everything - just in case something harmful entered my body.
The good news is, there is a way out. It is more simple than you think but also way more time consuming.
I have worked on repairing my gut lining for the past five years with great improvements mostly through nutrition. However, it was not until recently that I fully understood that I was merely fixing a symptom. To get to the root cause of the problem, I had to address my response to stress in my life.
To put it simply, our inability to properly deal with stress is masked by other symptoms and until we find ways to do this, we will only have partial success in our recovery.
Health and Fitness have always played an important role in my life.