How Chronic Stress, Inflammation & Illness Affect Your Health
User Friendly Solutions For Getting and Staying Healthy
An unemployed spouse…layoffs at work…the mounting responsibilities of an aging parent….each life situation on its own can be a chronic stressor, each one layering upon the other. These stimuli, like many programs running in the background of a computer, all drain energy and slow the speed of the hard-drive as it attempts to multi-task these various processes. The feedback loop is complex, the wear is cumulative and sets up a cycle of stress and inflammation..
The association between stress and illness is common knowledge nowadays, and though we’re more aware than ever of the connection, there is more and more evidence linking the biochemical processes of stress, illness, and lifestyle choices. Biochemical links to stress are studied with sophisticated laboratory analysis. We’re learning the importance of holistic and multi-faceted responses in dealing with life’s stressors in more healthy ways..
What I’ll address here is an investigation into how much the pervasiveness of modern illness is predicated on modern stress, habit and/or lifestyle. And where we can actually effect change.
Q: What Is This Bio-Chemical Correlation Of Illness To Stress?
A: Stress both causes and undermines The Body’s Capacity To Deal With Inflammation.
Q: What’s Inflammation Got To Do With My Health?
In a study done by Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie Mellon University, members were subjected to a cold virus as well as being measured for stress levels with a prior questionnaire. Not surprisingly, the higher the subjects’ stress scores, the greater the likelihood of catching a cold.
Further studies revealed that the longer the stressful events lasted, the greater their susceptibility of getting a cold.
So How is This Important?
Cortisol, a steroid commonly referred to as a “stress hormone”, is produced by the adrenal gland in response to (too much)stress. The original view of cortisol was straightforward: more stress prompts your body to make more cortisol, and the higher the level of cortisol in your circulation, the worse the outlook for your health.
But it’s not as simplistic as that. So if it isn’t just, “the more cortisol the worse the effects”, what does the link of cortisol and health mean? We know that the body produces cortisol in response to stress, particularly chronic or high levels of it.
Think of it like a similar and more familiar process: the body’s response to the constant intake of sugar. If you are eating a lot of sugar, particularly on a regular basis, the pancreas has to produce insulin over and over, trying to balance the body’s blood sugar levels. Eventually the body’s natural balancing act is interrupted, as the pancreas no longer responds to high levels of sugar ingestion.
In the case of cortisol, it isn’t the hormone itself that stops working but rather how the body responds to it.
As Cohen tells it: “Cortisol molecules exert their effects on the body’s cells via a set of specific receptor sites, or Glucocorticoid Receptors. When a cortisol molecule attaches itself to a receptor, it triggers a chain of chemical events within the cell. Stress changes the sensitivity of these receptors; they become resistant to the activating effects of cortisol”.
Like Hydrocortisone or Prednisone, one of cortisol’s key roles in the body is the suppression of inflammation. If the Glucocorticoid Receptors on the cells of the immune system fail to respond, as they should to the presence of cortisol, due to Glucocorticoid Resistance, the body is no longer able to keep inflammation in check.
Although Cortisol has its own deleterious effects, like breaking down resistance to colds and other viruses, we also need cortisol to do its job in bringing down inflammation. Without its actions, due to GR, our bodies live in a constant cycle of high inflammation.
Inflammation is the low level elevation of chemical processes that are there all the time. Stress, experienced acutely and chronically, increases the inflammatory process. Ongoing stress, and hence constant production of cortisol, reduces the sensitivity of the receptors, or chemical switches that are supposed to control the level of inflammation in the body. Hence:
WITH CHRONIC, AND/OR EXTREME STRESS THERE IS AN INCREASE IN GLUCOCORTICOID RESISTANCE.
Prolonged stress is correlated with higher levels of glucocorticoid resistance, where receptors respond inadequately to cortisol levels in the blood. What counts is not the amount of cortisol circulating in the body, but how much our cells respond to it.
The regulation of inflammation plays a big role in the progression (or not) of inflammation based symptoms, and eventually illnesses.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Marmot, who has spent many years studying peoples’ health, in relation to their socioeconomic class and their status at work, has identified clearly attributable differences in peoples’ material circumstances and behavior, as well as health outcomes. People fare less well when they find themselves unable to determine their own actions and make their own choices.
EFT for Stress Relief
EFT is a perfect stress reliever. It’s a convenient tool that once (quickly) learned, can be used as a first-aid kit for immediate symptoms of stress, and can eventually be used to unwind old and un-useful patterns of handling life’s ongoing momentum.
EFT interrupts the stress response first by relaxing the entire energy system. Then it transforms old, no longer useful beliefs and responses, pairing them with new and more expansive intentions. It does this by removing the inherent power of psychological negative feedback loops. EFT can add fuel in the process of making positive change.
Everyone responds to life in very different ways. Some responses are predicated on how we protect ourselves from difficulties in our families of origin. We also learned by how our families coped. We may have developed energetic blocks that still impede our perceptions and responses today. These blocks can use up the vital energy that we need to be present with and respond to the daily situations our lives offer.
EFT not only works “on the spot” with feelings of overwhelm, frustration and upset, it’s also unparalleled in changing old, unproductive strategies that get in the way of responding calmly and confidently to situations. In clearing the fears and doubts held in place by old blocks, moving toward a more peaceful and fulfilling life becomes an achievable goal.
EFT is simple to use on an ongoing basis. Most of our lives have a multitude of potentially stressful situations occurring on a daily basis. Life gets more and more complex every day and we find ourselves doing more and more in less and less time.
By using EFT daily to clear overwhelm and frustration, you can more skillfully meet life’s twists and turns, and prevent a build up of unresolved blocks that can eventually lead to illness or depression.
Articles worldwide have been written about EFT, particularly addressing its use with stress. Due to its efficacy, more and more people are learning to use this tool, both for themselves as well as with others.
Articles On Emotional Freedom Technique for Stress
When we’re under a lot of stress, we often make lifestyle choices to help us cope. We may find ourselves in a loop that doesn’t afford us the time or the energy to figure out where to begin making healthy changes however. We may reach for fast foods or foods high in sugar, use cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine or even drugs to stay alert or cope with the stress in our lives. These Choices can easily become habits that are hard to break. Eventually the bad habits become stressors themselves. Sleep can become elusive and often exercise goes by the wayside. Our choices can either help or hinder the already physical and emotional responses taking place in response to outside stimulus.
Things we can control
Take time to take stock of your life. Get to know the things that can contribute to inflammation, food allergies and even chronic illness.By learning the basics of healthy nutritional and recreational influences you can choose to make changes that will strengthen your body and mind. :
What is your level of stress? What are the foods you nourish yourself with? Do they contain high amounts of additives, processed fat, high sugar, fructose/corn syrup? Do you suffer from lack of sleep, lack of exercise? Are you living in an abusive relationship?*
The following are some guidelines for healthier eating and living:
Eat Whole Foods, high in fiber and at least 70% plant-based. Avoid packaged and fast foods, particularly with ingredients that are unpronounceable. Choose organic foods if you can afford them. If possible choose foods without additives, sugars, processed fats or chemicals. Prepare as much of your own food as possible.
Eat healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and avocados. Get plenty of Omega-3 fats from wild caught fish and wild salmon.
Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods -berries, dark chocolate (over 72%) spinach, artichokes, etc.Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are reactive compounds that can damage body cells and contribute to chronic inflammation. Avoid allergens, find out what you’re sensitive to and stop eating those foods. Gluten and dairy are two common allergens that can create many different symptoms from subtle to life compromising.
Help your Digestive System, take probiotics to help digest your food, balance the good bacteria in your gut, and get the most nutrition out of what you eat. All this helps your body do its job, and reduces inflammation. Drink plenty of water for good digestion and elimination.
Take Supplements, Multi-Vitamin/Mineral, D3, Omega-3 oil, all help to reduce inflammation. Research the web for more options.
Get Regular Exercise, to reduce inflammation, improve immune function, strengthen cardiovascular system, lower blood sugar, correct insulin resistance, and improve your mood. The latter is an enormous help in erasing the effects of stress.
Learn Relaxation Techniques, take yoga classes, practice mindfulness meditation, and practice deeper breathing. All of these stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system by engaging your vagus nerve, a powerful nerve that can relax your whole body and ultimately lower inflammation. A hot bath can also do wonders!
Practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed at least 8 hours before you want to awaken, giving yourself time to relax into sleep. Leave at least 2 hours after eating before going to bed. Sleep in a dark room (remove or cover electronic devices with lights). Try not to be on devices with a lit screen within 2 hours before going to sleep as the light tells your brain that it’s time to awaken.
*If you or someone you know are living in an abusive relationship or feel unsafe, please know there is help available. Call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233