The Effect Stress has on the Body
We’re all very aware of COVID-19 and the stressful feelings it’s causing. This stress can be a huge driver towards feelings of anxiety or depression. Practising physical distancing from your loved ones, hearing negative news on every channel, and not knowing what will happen, is unsettling.
Some people are more susceptible to the impacts of stress, and can be more sensitive to complications associated with it. Learning to identify symptoms and exploring stress-reducing strategies can help you manage stress and reduce its effects on the body..
Stress and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia
Stress can greatly exacerbate CFS or FM symptoms. Understanding the importance of this relationship can provide extra motivation for better stress management. Some doctors believe that CFS or FM may be caused by the effect of chronic stress, or that stress adds significantly to the initial onset.
Stress is the enemy when you have fibromyalgia (FM) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Most people with CFS agree that stress makes their symptoms worse, sometimes triggering debilitating flares.
What is the Limbic System and how does it relate to CFS and COVID-19?
Stress activates the limbic system in the brain, which is associated with fight or flight. This is a survival process which is extremely demanding of energy, which ends up depleting the individual in a substantial way.
The limbic system can become impaired by an event to a very big stressor like a car accident, serious infection or animal bite, vaccinations, mould exposure, or emotional trauma. This emotional trauma can be past experiences such as domestic violence, being bullied at school or work, or…… a global pandemic!
The Effects of Stress will vary from Person to Person
Stress is a common feeling of not being able to cope with specific demands and circumstances. Nevertheless, stress can become a chronic condition if a person does not take measures to handle it.
Some may feel psychological effects from feeling stressed, while others may also experience physical symptoms, like headaches and heartburn. Stress can affect important systems in the body. Take a look at its effects on various systems and the identifiable symptoms:
Stress affects the synergistic relationship between the brain and the gut. Some of the changes may affect:
- regular muscular movements (peristalsis) of the digestive system
- stomach acid secretion and enzyme production
- cell reproduction and blood flow in the gut
- the balance of bacteria in the microbiome
These changes lead to or worsen several digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn, ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disease. But it can also cause issues in people without pre-existing symptoms.
Central Nervous System
Stress can cause tension headaches and migraines in some people. Around 70% of people who encounter migraine headaches state stress as the trigger.
Depression & Anxiety
Many experts suggest a link between high levels of stress and the onset of depression and anxiety. Most people have experienced this first hand.
Stress may cause a reduction in the function of the immune function. When we’re stressed, we produce less lymphocytes and T-cells which are needed to fight pathogens. This causes us to be much more susceptible to invaders.
Stressful experiences can lead to insomnia or cause worsening of sleep habits. This happens because the body activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, causing the sympathetic nervous system to release hormones that stimulate attention and arousal. Not what you want when you’re trying to sleep!
Long-term stress can cause an increase in heart rate, and elevated blood pressure, which can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke
Also, when people are stressed, they’re more likely to engage in unhealthy habits like eating more sugar or general overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking.
Stress can negatively impact both the male and female reproductive systems. For men, stress may affect sperm production and the maturation of sperm. In women, it can affect menstruation, sexual desire, pregnancy, PMS, menopause or diseases of the reproductive system. If one or both partners are experiencing a stressful life event, they may have difficulty conceiving.
When to see a Functional or Nutritional Practitioner?
When you start to notice complications of stress, such as heartburn, digestive problems, menstrual irregularities, depression, insomnia, or an increase in your FMS or ME/CFS symptoms.