Stress has destructive health effects. It can be a triggering or aggravating element for many health problems. And if prolonged and uncontrolled, the threats of stress can be unremitting.
The World Health Organization described stress as the Health Epidemic of the 21st Century. Stress pertains to any noxious stimulus that invokes a biological response. It indeed has short-term positive effects. However, persistent stressors can lead to a myriad of health problems. While stress levels seem to be more heightened in this modern world, there are ways people can do to combat physical and mental strain.
5 Ways Stress Affects the Human Body Systems
Stress changes the brain
Stress atrophies the brain, resulting in structural and functional changes in the brain that involve cognition, mood, learning, and memory. However, physical changes in the brain vary depending on the intensity and duration of stress.
The hippocampus, which is responsible for memory and learning, is the center of the stress response. Exposure to stress loses its ability to do its job. According to the Journal of Experiment and Clinical Sciences, high deposits of stress hormones in the hippocampus can cause spatial and declarative memory disorders.
2- Stress weakens immunity
People who undergo stress have lower immunity by decreasing the activity of Natural Killer (NK) cells and T-lymphocytes. NK cells participate in controlling tumor growth, suppressing infection, and limiting tissue damage.
Study shows that people with low spirits are more likely to acquire cancer and other health problems compared to people who have a positive mindset and have less exposure to stress.
3- Stress has deleterious effects on the heart
The initial response of stress on heart function is a decrease or increase in heart rate, followed by an increase in blood pressure. It triggers the fight-and-flight response. Stress can cause coronary vasoconstriction, and if it persists, it can progress to myocardial ischemia, arrhythmia, heart attack, and even death.
4- Stress has negative effects on the GI system
Stress increases appetite resulting in obesity. It also affects the normal functioning of the GI system by increasing acid secretion and intensifying the inflammation process. Irritable bowel disorders, peptic ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can be stress-induced in nature. Stress and anxiety can also trigger flare-ups, increase inflammation, or worsen symptoms.
5- Stress can influence hormone production
It can interfere with the making of sex hormones, estrogen, and testosterone. For women, stress can lengthen the menstrual cycle, and for men, it can increase the risk of fertility problems. In addition to sex hormones, stress can also disturb the production of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for cellular metabolism and functions. Excessive release of stress hormones like cortisol results in lower thyroid function or hypothyroidism.
How to Ease Stress Naturally
1- Consume stress-relieving foods.
Nutrition plays a role in alleviating stress. The Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) examines the link between what we eat and mood. Eating antioxidants and Mediterranean-inspired diets lower the risk of depression, a common product of stress. Nutritionists suggest to eat a well-balanced diet and avoid fatty foods.
Fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, and grains are the best brain foods that have a protective mechanism against the effects of stress. Also, avoid overconsumption of coffee and sugar-sweetened drinks.
2- Consider the use of health supplements.
Stress harms brain functioning. Study confirms that people who take fish oil supplements have improved mental health scores. Regular consumption of fish oils also prevents memory problems and cognitive impairments.
Neuriva is another supplement that not only boosts brain health but combats the effect of stress. Neuriva review suggests that the supplement does not only enhance memory but also improve focus, learning, and concentration.
3- Stay active.
Physical activity has indisputable beneficial effects on health. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention advocates 30 minutes of moderate exercise for a minimum of five days a week.
Regular physical activity does not only lower the prevalence of chronic health disorders, but also slow down cognitive decline, hinder depression, and prevent the development of mental disorders as a result of psychological stress.
Moreover, physical activity has positive effects on the hippocampus function, which is the main stress responder.
4- Get social.
Manage stress by strengthening your network. Social and emotional support help lower stress levels. Also, brain health supplements can help reduce stress levels, as most of these products contain substances that impact brain functions and lower cortisol levels.
If you cannot get professional help, talking to a friend or going out for a walk will help you feel better. Moreover, steer clear from negativity; instead, surround yourself with positive people. Also, don’t rely heavily on technology; instead, reach out for face-to-face interaction.
The American Heart Association recommends spending time in nature for at least 20 minutes. Connecting with nature either by strolling, sitting in a place, or catching fish helps reduce the stress hormone levels.
5- Calm your mind and body.
One of the effective measures to manage stress is a relaxing mind and body. One way to do this is by deep-breathing exercises. By breathing in and out deeply, the muscles are more relaxed and less tense. Another way to calm the mind and body is meditation.
Meditating at least 20 minutes a day leads your mind to a deep state of relaxation. It also helps release crowded thoughts that cause mental stress. Listening to music, having a warm bath, taking a walk, and getting a massage are other things you can do to help you recharge, relax your mind, and vanquish stress.
Stress is a constant threat that is present in human existence. Stress has short-term and long-term effects, and this affects the body’s functions. Nevertheless, as human beings, we can adapt to these changes and not allow stress to impose danger to our health. Eating healthily, taking brain supplements, seeking social support, staying active, and calming the mind and body are ways to cope with stress.