Stress has always been a protective emotional response throughout human evolution (it’s what our ancestors used to survive!) but in modern times it’s become ubiquitous, everyone you talk to is stressed. In-fact, the Stress and Wellbeing survey in Australia reported that 72% of Australians said stress affects their physical health.
What do we mean by stress, specifically, though? It’s a combination of emotional, environmental, postural, nutritional and even dental stress. (Surprised about the last one? We’ll get to it.)
When you’re stressed a range of physiological responses occur. Firstly, blood is diverted from the digestion tract to your muscles as our body’s the flight or fight system is turned on. That means, it doesn’t matter how well you are eating, what supplements you are taking, you may not be absorbing your nutrients as you should so that puts you behind the eight ball, and these are the top 5 stressors that, in my opinion, act as triggers.
When you are stressed, you may not be sleeping as well as you should be and so your hormones levels become imbalanced. The thyroid hormone, which is involved in metabolism becomes unbalanced; cortisol, the stress hormone, increases tremendously; and ghrelin, the hormone which tells you when you have had enough to eat or to eat more is also compromised. Leptin, the hormone that metabolises fat goes down, which compromises your system, too, and insulin levels are also affected when you’re stressed, which can lead to major issues.
When you are stressed, you are more susceptible to your immune system lowering. Instead of taking the time to fight microbes and toxins when you are under stress, you fight the immediate danger which you perceive you have so your immune system is therefore compromised and your chances of becoming sick increase.
Another thing to consider when you are stressed and tired and not eating well is that the frontal part of your brain – the part that controls reasoning and logic – isn’t the most active and the reptilian part of the brain is becomes more dominant. This is where your reflex actions occur and take over, and as a result a lot of your judgements are compromised.
Your ability to absorb nutrients is also compromised when you are stressed, which this affects how well you sleep and if you are not sleeping well, you won’t make the best of judgements about what you are eating, how you should be exercising or even have enough energy to exercise.
We often associate mood with food. The foods we eat affect every cell in our body, which includes the skin, immune system, hormonal system, nervous system and brain, so if we are making unhealthy choices, it will manifest in nutritional stress.
Our digestive system gives us feedback every day and it is an excellent indicator of overall health. Symptoms such as gas, bloating, indigestion, bad breath, burping, constipation, diarrhea, intense sugar cravings and brain fog are all signs that the digestive system isn’t working properly.
What you eat has the potential to control chronic inflammation, restore healthy gut bacteria, and affect your physical, mental and emotional health. It is central to building resilience and is more important than ever in today’s toxic, chemical world to make healthy food choices.
Our environment is under stress and in addition there is an alarmingly under-regulated range of chemicals and electromagnetic radiation we are exposed to on a daily basis. As we degrade the environment, we degrade ourselves.
The health of the soils is directly linked to the quality of our foods, our own health, and the health of our planet. While environmental stress may seem beyond our control, by being informed and aware of what we put in and on the environment, we can make a big difference. It starts with soul – we need healthy soul in order to grow healthy plants and rear healthy animals. Unhealthy soul = unhealthy plants = unhealthy animals = unhealthy humans = unhealthy planet.
Our daily exposure to chemicals is another issue we should be paying more attention to. Today there are over 140,000 chemicals in our environment, with 2000 new chemicals added each year. When it comes to chemical exposure in our food, personal care, or home environment, its sobering to realise only a small percentage of those thousands of chemicals have been tested for the links to health – and many of them are toxic.
Dental stress is another important factor for anyone that has a mouth, that is interested in their health and hasn’t already connected the two. If you not taking oral health and dental stress seriously, you should because your body already does.
Dental health involves digestion, breathing, chronic inflammation, chronic muscular-skeletal pain like chronic tension head-aches, neck aches and tension in muscles throughout the body.
The mouth and face are the most sensitive parts of the body, with huge neurological input to both the central and autonomic nervous system. Imbalances in the individual teeth or the way teeth meet, referred to you as your bite, can contribution to facial pain, tension headaches, neck aches, jaw pain and more which is defined as dental stress.
The mouth is the site of two of the most common infection that affect humans – gum disease and tooth decay and because of the two most common infections, it is also the site of chronic inflammation, which is linked to degenerative disease including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Due to tooth decay and the need to repair and restore hole or defects in teeth, or replace missing teeth, there are many foreign materials implanted in the body, in the forms of fillings, crowns, implants, or dentures.
The mouth is the gateway to the respiratory tract and so the shape and size of the upper and lower jaws, and the position of the lower jaw and the tongue, affects your ability to breathe and sleep well. If we are not breathing and sleeping well, our health is being compromised. The mouth is also the first part of the digestive tract, so imbalances in the occlusion or the jaw joints can affect your ability to chew food effectively, and this is the first stage in digestion. If we are not digesting our food properly, we will compromise our nutritional health.
For most of us, we only focus on posture when we are in chronic pain, experiencing backache, neck ache, headaches and so on. But postural stress has a dramatic impact on our health and wellbeing every single day. For example, postural pain restricts our ability to breath, makes ingestion more difficult by squashing the intestines, and places more wear and tear on the body.
Moreover, postural stress affects our ability to maintain homeostasis – the healthy balance our body constantly strives for. Postural stress can be brought on by:
- Head posture – how you hold your head affects breathing and spinal alignment, which not only affects body chemistry but can also strain the muscles of the neck and spine
- Spinal alignment – has the potential to cause imbalances in the nerves, muscles and joints, and the functioning of the internal organs
- Craniosacral rhythm – this relates to the subtle bodily rhythms of cerebrospinal fluid moving through the cranium and spine, which can also be affected by the testing of the heart and the thing of a breath
- Sleeping position – can cause head, neck, jaw, and structural muscles, as well as the ability to breathe well. It is also implicated in digestive problems and poor sleeping can frustrate the healing of muscles and joints
- Work posture – sitting at a screen with your head forward; balancing a phone under your chin while writing or typing on a computer, looking down at a laptop – all place stress on the body.
- Walk – foot mechanics and discrepancies in the leg length can affect pelvic stability, spinal stability and alignment throughout the body
- Over training – training more than your body can recover from to the point the performance declines and injuries persist is stressful on your body
- Being sedentary – sitting for long periods of time can cause harm and is an increasingly significant problem for young and old
- Toilet position – this can compromise your ability to have a full and comfortable bowel movement, which is essential for good health.