Stress. We’ve all felt it. Long workdays, rush hour commutes, raising kids, not enough sleep. Stress does have some advantages, like helping with motivation and producing the flight-or-fight response. Feeling stressed is perfectly normal; however, too much stress can result in both mental and physical symptoms and can be damaging to your health.
Too much stress can make it difficult for you to control your emotions. When you are stressed, you may experience anxiety, irritability, trouble sleeping, an inability to focus, anger, depression, and restlessness or lack of motivation. Not only do these symptoms leave you more vulnerable to actual mental disorders, like anxiety, depression, and personality disorders, they can exacerbate preexisting ones. The metal effects of stress can also produce physical symptoms leading to a vicious cycle since physical symptoms of stress can also lead to mental symptoms.
The connection between mind and body is often underestimated. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat and frequent stress means that your body is in a constant heightened state. Chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body and can cause new problems or make existing problems worse. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in the body.
The high demands that stress puts on the body can weaken the immune system and leave you more vulnerable to colds and infections and slow down healing. Stress promotes disease and can cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease.
Stress can wreak havoc with your sex hormones. Stress increases the amount of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), the hormone responsible for distributing testosterone and estrogen around the body. When SHBG levels are increased, testosterone and estrogen decrease affecting your sexual desire or level of enjoyment. Chronic stress can also increase the production of cortisol leading to something called “cortisol steal”where fewer sex hormones are produced.
Stress can impact the function of your gut. Too much stress can damage the lining of the small intestine and create a leaky gut. A leaky gut causes undigested food particles, toxic waste products, and bacteria to leak though the intestines into the blood stream. A leaky gut can lead to food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid issues.
Stress can also have an impact on your appearance. Nobody wants to look old and too much stress can actually make you look order. Stress has been found to shorten the structures on the end of chromosomes so that new cells can’t grow as quickly and can lead to signs of aging like wrinkles, weak muscles, and poor eyesight.
Stress can make existing problems worse. Chronic stress can inflame underlying conditions because of mental and/or physical changes in the body. Behavior induced by stress, like overeating and smoking and other bad habits that people use to cope, can also contribute.
Recognizing the signs, identifying the causes, and making healthy lifestyle changes can help you manage and prevent stress. A functional medicine doctor will be able to determine whether you have any physical symptoms of stress, like increased SHBG or cortisol levels or a leaky gut through a series of blood tests. If you are suffering from physical symptoms of stress, a functional medicine doctor will actually treat the cause rather than just the symptom leading to better overall health and wellness.
Unfortunately, stress is an inevitable part of life. Contact a functional medicine doctor like Dr. Gruber at J. Gruber Health Solutions to help bring your body back into balance. Call or text us today at 303-746-1964.