We all feel it, but what are the real effects of long-term stress?
Stress has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, it’s something we all say, something we all experience and something most of us ignore; believing it’s the norm. Everyone is stressed, so it’s not doing any real harm right? Wrong, if not dealt with, excess stress can affect your health in many different ways. But if we’re to deal with stress then surely we need to understand exactly what it is?
When your body is put under any form of stress, the adrenal glands (which are responsible for balancing hormones) release adrenaline so you go into a flight or fight mode. Flight or fight causes a rush of blood to flood the brain, heart and muscles so you are ready to fight the threat causing the stress; as well as releasing other hormones to slow down things you don’t need in an emergency situation, such as digestion or your immune system response. Great when confronted by a wild animal, not so great when you’re confronted daily by an annoying boss. In the short-term, flight or fight certainly has its uses, but when you put your body under that much stress day in day out, it will start to take its toll and you may start to suffer from problems such as adrenal fatigue or insufficiency.
Wellness doctors and practitioners believe that an episode of acute or chronic stress can cause the adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective, eventually leading to adrenal fatigue. So what exactly happens when the adrenal glands stop producing hormones efficiently? Every single bodily function is affected, and as adrenal hormone levels shrink, even the normal “get-up-and-go” you get from them disappear meaning it becomes difficult to get up in the morning, you start to gain weight, experience fatigue and become more irritable.
So, what can you do? Well diet is a huge factor in healing adrenal fatigue and including things like adding good fats, cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish, lean proteins and nuts to your daily diet can help. Likewise, avoiding things like caffeine, refined sugars and hydrogenated fats will also help. Taking good care of your mind and body is also really important, so remember to rest, adopt a regular sleep regime, try to minimise controllable stress, eat regularly, exercise and most importantly laugh!
Ola El-Garawany and her daughter Sally El-Banna are practicing pharmacists, diet counsellors and the team behind Lilly’s Pharmacy and Health Store and the Pharmacy & Farmacy Health Blog. For more information visit pharmacyandfarmacy.com