You might think that stress only affects your nervous system; after all, that’s where you feel it the most. But stress also compromises your immune system, major organs and reproductive organs, too. Here’s a quick summary of how stress makes its way through your body and the damage it can leave behind.
Being under constant stress has an effect on serotonin transmission within the brain, putting you at major risk for developing depression. Living in a constant stressful state also triggers the production of substance P, a neuropeptide in the brain and spinal cord that dilates blood vessels and releases allergic compounds used by body when processing pain and intense stress. Too much substance P can affect your sleep, stress level tolerance, cause fatigue, and bring on skin issues and digestive inflammation.
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) can result when inflammatory cytokines released during the body’s stress response reduces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels and affect the conversion of hormones T4 to T3, which are needed to maintain a healthy, functioning thyroid gland.
If you want to steer clear of heart disease, reducing your stress levels might be a good place to start. Adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones released during the stress response, can cause elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate and lead to a greater chance of developing heart disease down the road.
Stress might sometimes cause butterflies in your stomach but that’s not the only effect it has. Being under constant strain is linked to prolonged and decreased blood flow to the stomach lining, which can result in erosion when exposed to the acidic pH of the stomach. A combination of stress and the emotions that come along with it can disrupt communication signals between the brain and gut and bring on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and acid reflux.
Want to guard against type 2 diabetes? Then minimize your exposure to stress. Stress hormones can raise blood sugar levels by making your cells resistant to insulin, which in the long run may increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity. Being stressed also tends to lead to poor food choices, causing you to consume more sugar when you eat refined carbohydrates.
When your cortisol hormone levels are high, progesterone can be prevented from binding to cells, favouring estrogen dominance which then leads to PMS symptoms or even worse, infertility.
Cortisol naturally suppresses the immune system as a protective mechanism. Being under continuous stress may predispose you to infection and make you more susceptible to disease.