What is stress and why can it be bad for us?

Stress causes the release of stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is a short lived hormone, responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction by boosting blood flow to muscles, increasing heart rate and blood sugar whilst suppressing digestion and the immune system. Then cortisol levels start to rise as adrenaline levels start to reduce, again raising blood pressure, increasing blood sugar levels and also suppressing the immune system. Slowly the levels would decrease and the body returns to normal. However if the stress continues or there is no physical action to utilise the body’s response then cortisol levels remain high and lead to health problems.

Our body cannot tell the difference between the stress caused by a sabre-tooth tiger attack and that caused by worry about money, traffic jams or family disputes. So a lot of people are living in continual stress and develop health problems from continued high levels of cortisol.

For example

  • a tendency to gain fat around the middle
  • inability to lose weight
  • increased appetite
  • suppressed immune system
  • getting frequent colds and infections
  • headaches
  • slower healing and cell regeneration
  • blood sugar imbalance
  • muscle aches and pains
  • depression
  • tiredness
  • back pain
  • and many more

Over time these can lead to diseases like diabetes, coronary heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, increased PMS and many others.