‘Stress – A Modern Epidemic’ by Trudy Cadoo published in Great Health Guide (Sep 2015). Stress is extremely common in our busy lives and our modern lifestyles may be contributing to many health complaints. Nine out of ten Australians report being stressed and 41% of people feel they experience unhealthy levels of stress. Read how stress can affect our overall general health.
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NUTRITION: Stress – A Modern Epidemic
written by Trudy Cadoo
Stress is a natural, evolutionary body response that is part of a larger response known as the General Adaption Syndrome (GAS). This is a term used to describe the body’s short and long term reactions to stress and was originally described by Dr Hans Selye in 1936, an Austrian born endocrinologist and physician. Dr Seyle’s research found stress caused many changes in various organs including enlargement of the adrenal cortex, atrophy of thymus, spleen, lymph nodes and other lymphatic tissue, stomach bleeding and ulceration of the stomach and duodenum. Later the role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system was thought to be responsible for the cascade of hormones released during short and long term stress.
In describing the body’s reaction in simple terms, Dr Seyle proposed three distinct phases on GAS: 1. Alarm, 2. Resistance and 3. Exhaustion. The biochemical aspects of GAS have been the researched extensively and only in recent years have some new substances been detected, measured and tested for their effect on the body. It is beyond the scope of this article to elaborate on the biochemical and metabolic systems in the body, but reference to some hormones and their effects is made to understand GAS.
1. Alarm Phase is the first response to threat or danger: Thousands of years ago, we were faced with the threat of a wild animal while hunting and our immediate response of fight or flight would occur. The body produces cortisol to increase blood glucose for increased energy for immediate fight or flight, and adrenalin to increase blood pressure and heart rate. During this phase cortisol is redirected away from immune system with wound repair and healing less important than survival. This cascade of hormones will return to normal levels when the threat has been eliminated or stopped.
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2. Resistance Phase is the second response after the body has responded to the initial threat. Muscle tissue must be repaired and energy storage replenished with glycogen storage from sugars with increased insulin production. However, if the body stays in the alarm state, cortisol will continue to be produced, heart rate and blood pressure will stay high, insulin will be continuously produced to store energy, the immune system will continue to operate at a lower level of efficiency.
Are you stressed?
Do you find it difficult switching off at night?
Do you wake in the morning rarely feeling refreshed from your sleep and need coffee to get you going?
Do you often feel overwhelmed, anxious, irritable or worried?
Do you feel forgetful?
Do you feel unmotivated?
Do you suffer sore muscles or joints, tension headaches?