We can define stress as a physical response to adverse or demanding circumstances. Our entire body responds to influences (stressors), perceiving them as a threat, or even attack.
Affected by these treats, we activate the “fight or flight” mechanisms, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals, such as adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine.
‘Fight or flight’ mode
These hormones rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, blood pressure rises, muscles tighten, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and endurance, speed up the reaction, and enhance focus—preparing you to either fight or flee from the immediate danger.
Through the entire history, the stress response was important to our self-preservation, either to prepare our ancestors to strongly fight back or to jump and run.
Even the stress is our natural mechanism developed to help us survive, it became the source of many health problems. Stress can help us act faster and think clearer, but the overall conclusion is that stress can cause many health problems because we don’t shut it off after the immediate danger is eliminated. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body.
We said that adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol are the hormones that tell certain parts of your body to prepare to fight or run from danger. When those stay at a high level for a long time, they can weaken your bones and immune system, disturb sleep patterns.
During the stress period, you may have nausea and may experience stomach pain. This is natural because your body slows down the digestion process during the “fight-or-flight” response to help you focus.
If stress affects your digestive system too often, it can cause diarrhea or constipation. It can also affect your body’s ability to use the nutrients. There seems to be a link between stress and irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause belly pain and cramping, as well as constipation and diarrhea.
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
People who are under a lot of stress might eat more, or eat more unhealthy food. They also may drink more alcohol or smoke. All of this can lead to heartburn (acid indigestion).
Acid reflux is when stomach acid comes up into your food pipe. If it’s not treated, it can cause ulcers (open sores).
Stress is the most commonly recognized trigger of headaches. When you’re stressed, the muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders tighten up. This can lead to tension headaches and migraines. Also, certain chemicals are released that provoke the vascular changes causing a headache.
Stress can make a woman’s cycle irregular and cause missed or painful periods. It also can make premenstrual syndrome (PMS) worse.
It is understandable why stress can make men and women less interested in sex. Chronic stress can cause man’s erectile dysfunction (impotence), and affect quality and quantity of sperm.
When you’re stressed, you may breathe harder and faster, which can be a problem if you have a condition like asthma or a lung disease like emphysema, which makes it difficult to get enough oxygen into your lungs. It can also cause hyperventilation.
The hormones that get into your system when you’re stressed, if they stay at high levels, can raise your blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. They also may cause inflammation of the blood vessels that supply blood to your heart, which can also lead to a heart attack.
When you’re stressed, your liver releases glucose, a simple sugar that circulates in the blood, which fuels your fight-or-flight response. If the stress prolongs, it can lead to diabetes if you’re obese or you are prone to higher sugar levels. Therefore, managing your stress can help control your blood sugar.