15 Ways Stress Harms The Body Plus Top 10 Foods To Reduce Stress
Not only is stress a horrible emotional sensation, but it can also really damage your body. If you are a sufferer from stress, look out for these symptoms and eat these 10 foods that reduce stress.
Yes, that’s right. But it is okay, don’t stress about it! Below I’m going to list 20 ways that stress harms your body. I also included 10 foods that are known to reduce stress. If you suffer from stress constantly, it is crucial for your health that you see a mental health physician. Having too much stress can be seriously horrible for your body. If you are a stressed out person and you also suffer from health issues, your stress might be causing them.
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. Stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
- Central Nervous System – Your central nervous system (CNS) is in charge of your “fight or flight” response. The CNS instantly tells the rest of your body what to do, marshaling all resources to the cause. In the brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. Stress can seriously damage your central nervous system. You may suffer from headaches or insomnia. Chronic stress is a factor in some behaviors like overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, or social withdrawal.
- Cardiovascular Health – Stress can also seriously damage your cardiovascular health. Too much stress can even lead to a heart attack! When you’re stressed, your heart pumps at a really fast rate. This puts a major strain on not only the heart, but the arteries and capillaries all throughout the body too. Frequent or chronic stress makes your heart work too hard for too long, raising your risk of hypertension and problems with your blood vessels and heart. You’re at higher risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
- Digestive System – Under stress, your liver produces extra blood sugar (glucose) to give you a boost of energy. Unused blood sugar is reabsorbed by the body. If you’re under chronic stress, your body may not be able to keep up with this extra glucose surge, and you may be at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Muscles – Your muscles tense up to protect themselves from injury when you are stressed out. Tight muscles cause headaches, back and shoulder pain, and body aches. Over time, you may stop exercising and turn to pain medication, setting off an unhealthy cycle.
- Reproductive Health – For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. You might have irregular or no menstruation, or heavier and more painful periods. The physical symptoms of menopause may be magnified under chronic stress. If stress continues for a long time, a man’s testosterone levels begin to drop. That can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may make the urethra, prostate, and testes more prone to infection.
- Immune Health – Stress stimulates the immune system. In the short term, that’s a bonus. It helps you stave off infection and heal wounds. Over time, cortisol compromises your immune system, inhibiting histamine secretion and inflammatory response to foreign invaders. People under chronic stress are more susceptible to viral illnesses like influenza and the common cold.
- Emotions – A 2013 study by neuroscientists found that even mild levels of stress can impair our ability to control our emotions. In the study, researchers taught subjects stress control techniques. But after participants were put under mild stress — by having their hands dunked in icy water — they could not easily calm themselves down when shown pictures of snakes or spiders. “Our results suggest that even mild stress, such as that encountered in daily life, may impair the ability to use cognitive techniques known to control fear and anxiety,” lead author Candace Raio, Ph.D., said in a press release.
- Disease – Some people are more prone to certain diseases, and chronic stress can give these conditions the green light. Stress has been linked to illnesses that include cancer, lung disease, fatal accidents, suicide, and cirrhosis of the liver.
- Love Life – A 1984 study found that stress can affect a man’s body weight, testosterone levels, and sexual desire. Numerous studies have shown that stress — especially performance anxiety — can lead to impotence.
- Teeth and Gum Health – Some people respond to stressful situations through nervous tics or by grinding their teeth. While people often grind their teeth unconsciously or when they sleep, it can do lasting damage to your jaw and wear your teeth thin. A multi-university study in 2012 also linked stress to gum disease.
- Weight Gain – Researchers at the University of Miami found that when people find themselves in stressful situations, they are likely to consume 40 percent more food than normal. Those scientists recommended turning off the nightly newscast before eating dinner, to keep bad news — and overeating — at bay.
- Long Term Disabilities – The potential dangers created by even mild stress should not be underestimated. They can lead to long-term disability serious enough to render you unable to work. One in four study subjects in the Stockholm area who had mild stress were awarded disability benefits for physical conditions like angina, high blood pressure, and stroke. Nearly two-thirds drew benefits for a mental illness.
- Musculoskeletal Problems – Muscle tension may eventually lead to muscular atrophy and other stress-related musculoskeletal problems.
- Memory – Exposure to chronic stress accelerates memory deterioration and aging. Drug addiction. Stress can cause changes in the brain similar to those caused by drugs, which makes stressed-out people more vulnerable to drug relapse.
- Menopause – Stress causes the symptoms of menopause to intensify, especially hot flashes, anxiety, and mood swings.
- Heartburn – Stress, exhaustion, and increased use of alcohol and tobacco may result in heartburn.
- Skin Health – Chronic stress worsens psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. It may also cause hives, rashes, and fever blisters.
Thankfully, there are natural ingredients out there that are great for reducing stress. Several fruits and veggies have shown to significantly reduce stress levels. These foods can also reduce or eliminate the bad effects stress has had on your body! Try these 10 foods if you are a stress sufferer.
- Green and Leafy Veggies – Dark leafy greens like spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.
- Fermented Foods – The secret to improving your mental health is in your gut, as unhealthy gut flora can have a detrimental impact your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via your vagus nerve. Women who regularly ate yogurt containing beneficial bacteria had improved brain function compared to those who did not consume probiotics.10 Specifically, they had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.
- Salmon – Found in salmon, sardines, and anchovies, or supplement forms, such as krill oil, the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play a role in your emotional well-being. There are a number of vendors, like Vital Choice, that have documented radiation free salmon.
- Blueberries – Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood. Also, as TIME reported, “”Research has also shown that blueberry eaters experience a boost in natural killer cells, ‘a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity, critical for countering stress,’ says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor.”
- Pistachios – One study found eating two servings of pistachios a day lowered vascular constriction during stress, which means the load on your heart is reduced since your arteries are more dilated.13 Not to mention, you might find the rhythmic act of shelling pistachios therapeutic, as doing a repetitive activity can help quiet racing thoughts in your head.
- Dark chocolate – Chocolate has even been referred to as “the new anti-anxiety drug.” One study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer than those who did not.
- Seeds – Magnesium, which acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, is well-known for its role in helping to regulate your emotions and enhance well-being. Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor, has studied and written about magnesium for more than 15 years. The latest edition of her book, The Magnesium Miracle, details 22 medical areas that magnesium deficiency triggers, including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.
- Avocado – Avocados provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folate, and, according to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you’re overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.
- Asparagus – I know, these slender stalks are known to make your urine smell funny. But they are high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool. I like them steamed, then added to salads. I also love them broiled until crisp. Go ahead and eat as many as you’d like!
- Cashews – Cashews are an especially good source of zinc—a 1-ounce serving has 11 percent of your RDA. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it’s important to get some every day. Trade cashews for other nuts on the plan when you’re in the mood. Coarsely chop a handful and toss them into a chicken stir-fry.