Yes we have heard about how stress makes us sick. But how does an emotion affect us physically (the gut, the heart, the immune system)? Simply it effects the signaling of hormones and other body activities that wreak havoc with our health.
Although we do not always make the emotional/physical connection it is always present.
Libido and sexual function is strongly correlated with stress in men and women. You connect a feeling (positive feelings, physical response, negative feelings, no response) with a physical response almost on a daily basis.
There are other circumstances too, for example, when you are emotionally drained it is hard to physically do daily tasks or just get out of bed and it can even invade your ability to rest and sleep.
Here is a list of what and how stress hormones (mainly cortisol and adrenaline) affects us physically:
- Stress hormones work to contract muscles they become tense. This tension can affect your nerves, blood vessels, organs, skin, and bones contributing to muscle spasms, teeth grinding, headache, erectile dysfunction, chest and back pain.
- Disruptions in the normal function of stomach acid can speed up or slow down muscle movement in the gut causing constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and weight changes.
- Shifting balance from the body’s natural rhythm also affects blood circulation, muscle contraction and clotting factors that raise risk for coronary heart disease, sudden cardiac death, strokes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and trigger arrhythmias.
- Raising cytokine levels, http://www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.short, weaken immune function (via cortisol resistance: consistently high cortisol levels desensitize the body similarly to the way elevated insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance.) and contribute to inflammation. Inflammation is an underlier of many health conditions: cold/flu, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis,…
- Blood sugar imbalance can be caused by high cortisol levels as it seems to cause insulin resistance not only in the muscles and liver, but also in the hippocampus. The reverse can also be true. Diabetics whose blood sugar is poorly controlled also have high cortisol, too. “It’s all a disastrous circle of sugary hormonal bodily terror”, https://ww.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201103/how-stress-makes-you-sick-and-sad.
- Neurochemicals can trigger negative consequences in the brain increasing anxiety and depression as a result of increases in glutamate.
- Shortening telomeres that affect white blood and immune cells. Telomeres are parts of human DNA that affect health and how our cells age, https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/. Stressed moms whose children were chronically ill were found to have shorter telomeres, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92975996. “At least in a laboratory dish, if you put Cortisol with white blood cells, they do not produce the same amount of telomerase as cells that don’t have cortisol in their environment.”
So, the emotional feelings of stress do effect health. Stress creates fluctuations in the body’s balance of glutamate, telomeres, blood sugar, cytokines, muscle function and stomach acid as an underlying factor for many physical health ailments.
You can reduce stress and improve health by training your mind. Mindfulness training interventions can improve mental and physical health, http://cdp.sagepub.com/content/23/6/401.abstract. Try starting with one of these suggestions, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368?pg=2, but there are focused based stress reduction techniques too here’s on for weight loss, https://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/3-secrets-to-shape-up-and-strip-down-for-the-summer-secret-3/.
Lowering stress CAN improve your quality of life and save it.