Stress can be defined as the way you feel when you’re under too much pressure. Research suggests that a moderate amount of pressure can be positive, making us more alert and motivated, which helps us to perform better. However, too much pressure, or prolonged pressure, can lead to stress, which can cause physical and emotional problems as well as illness.
When we are stressed, our bodies produce more of the ‘fight or flight’ chemicals, which prepare us for an emergency. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are released to raise blood pressure and increase heart rate. Blood is also redirected to the vital organs and muscles so there is reduced blood flow to the skin and digestive system. In addition, another stress chemical called cortisol releases fat and sugar into your bloodstream for energy. All of these changes make it easier for you to fight or run away, which was extremely useful to us in times gone by.
Unfortunately these changes are less helpful if you are stuck in a busy office or on an overcrowded train. You cannot fight or run away, so the chemicals your own body has produced to protect you become detrimental. When our bodies are in ‘fight or flight’, resources are not focused on other functions such as digestion and repair, so being in this state long term can damage our physical and mental health.
- Decreased mental and physical energy
- Difficulty getting up in the morning
- Drowsy during the day
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor sleep
- Low or fluctuating mood
- Anger or irritability
- Emotional instability
- Food cravings
- Hungry all the time
- Difficulties in maintaining weight
- Digestive difficulties
- Alcohol and food intolerances
- Rapid heartbeat
- Poor memory/concentration
- Frequent colds/infections
- Menstrual difficulties/irregularities
- Lowered sex drive
- Skin problems
People cope with stress in different ways, and each person will have a level of stress that is tolerable and a level that is not. The problem with stress is that on the outside we can appear to be coping quite well even though our bodies are struggling to keep up. One way of finding out just how well our bodies are dealing with stress is to have an adrenal stress index test. The test uses saliva samples to measure the levels of the different stress hormones throughout the day. This can help to pinpoint any imbalances and identify stress before it becomes a problem. Smart Nutrition could use the results from a stress test to write you a specific diet, supplement and lifestyle protocol to support you through times of high pressure. This will help reduce your symptoms and decrease the chances of the stress causing a more serious problem. Adrenal Stress Test.
Imbalances in blood sugar – One of the functions of the stress hormone cortisol is to increase the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. This is a prehistoric mechanism designed to ensure that there is plenty of fuel available for the muscles so we can run away from danger or fight. However, in our modern lives stress very rarely actually involves these responses so the sugar is not used up. Consequently, blood sugar levels rise and the body reacts in the same way as it does when we eat a sugary snack. A big surge of insulin is released to take the sugar into the cells and the blood sugar then drops too low. These peaks and troughs in blood sugar are can lead to uncontrollable mood swings, cravings and weight gain. If you experience these symptoms as part of your stress picture, Smart Nutrition can give you expert advice on the practical diet changes to balance out your blood sugar levels as well as dealing with the underlying stress. Book a Consultation.
Nutrient deficiencies – Being in a stressed state uses up a lot of nutrients very quickly. In addition, when we are stressed we often don’t have time to eat properly or look after ourselves. This means we can easily become deficient in key vitamins and minerals, predisposing us to illness and making it even more difficult for our bodies to functions under pressure! If long-term stress is a feature in your life you might like to consider a health MOT test to see if you are lacking in any of the essential nutrients. Then, if you find out that you do have a deficiency, Smart Nutrition can advise you on dietary changes and supplements to help get you back on the road to health. NutrEval MOT Health Test.
Digestive problems – When you are stresses you digestion shuts down so you may find that digestive problems such as wind and bloating may accompany your stress levels. Eating slowly and chewing your food and eating away from you desk will all help your digestion but if this problem persists you may like to have a consultation to investigate what else may be causing your problems. Book a Consultation.
Hormones imbalances – Most of the complex array of hormones in our bodies are made from a small handful of starting materials. This means when one hormone pathway is being used to the maximum there is often not enough starting material to make sufficient hormones for other functions. This can be the case in long term stress. The body’s resources are directed into producing stress hormones so other hormone groups such as thyroid and sex hormones get sidelined. This can lead to problems such under active thyroid, menstrual irregularities and low libido. If you feel that your hormones may have been affected by stress there are specific test that can be used to determine whether hormone levels are optimal. For example female or male hormone panels and thyroid hormone tests.