Stress and the Body (part 1)

By now the link between stress and some diseases has been well documented. However, not all stress is bad and you do not get ill overnight from the stress you are experiencing.

Some kinds of stress can be very useful. For example, you have a job interview. There is a certain amount of stress associated with it but it mobilises you to think quickly and clearly and give appropriate responses to the questions. Or, if you are an athlete and you are running a race, your stress response enables you to mobilise all the systems in your body for the best performance. In these cases stress is temporary and it lasts no more than a few hours. Once the stress is over, all the body systems can recover and your hormones return to their base levels.

The problem begins when you are experiencing chronic stress. Some people report that they can never relax. Even if they are sitting doing nothing, they fell tension in their body around the stomach area.

In a stress situation your body produces so called stress hormones, mainly adrenaline and cortisol. These stress hormones influence a number of the systems in your body. Do you suffer from frequent headaches? In response to adrenaline, muscles contract and over a period of time this causes tension, which you then experience as headaches.

No sex drive or difficulty conceiving? This can also be a result of stress. In ancient times our stress response was mainly due to danger to life and health. When you were running away from a dangerous animal, it didn't matter whether you could reproduce. What mattered was saving your life. Therefore, the stress hormones shut down the reproductive system. We still have the same response today even though we are no longer running away from a hungry animal. Moreover, the stressors of today can last for days and months, which throw the reproductive system out of balance.

These are just a couple of examples of how stress can affect your health. More in the next episode of this blog.

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