In Part 1 of our Stress series we discussed how the body responds when exposed to stress. In Part 2 we are going to dive into a little more detail. To recap in brief, when the body perceives there to be a stressor, it immediately reacts by releasing acetylcholine from the preganlionic neurons, this in turn triggers the release of norepinephrine from the postganglionic neurons and reaches target sites to exert what is know as the flight or flight response. At the same time the adrenal medulla releases catecholamines, and the HPA axis further mounts a response with the release of glucocorticoids. The response to these neuroendocrine reactions include dilating the pupils, increasing heart rate, mobilizing energy, and diverting blood flow from non-essential organs to skeletal muscle. At a certain blood concentration of cortisol a negative feedback loop inhibits the release of CRF and ACTH and there is a return to homeostasis.
This stress response is a primeval response and one that by design is not to be in a constant state of activation. It is for ’emergency use only’ and as such an acute phase response. However, in todays busy lifestyle we are constantly exposed to stressors around us in our environment and for many individuals this system is constantly under fire and therefore a chronic state ensues.
|Body System Under Stress||Physiological Effect|
|Central nervous System (SNS)||
|Gastro Intestinal Tract (GIT)||
With almost every body system involved in the stress response it is a simple conclusion to realise that constant stimulation or inhibition within these systems will have detrimental effects on health:-
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Dysregulation of immune system – TH1/TH2 Cytokines
- Increased risk of autoimmune disease
- Increased risk of infections
- Chronic constipation/diarrhoea
- Oesophageal reflux
- Increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease
- Reproductive issues
- Reduced libido
- Menstrual disorders
- Musculoskeletal health
This is not an exhaustive list and it would be impossible to go into the detail of all of these pathological pathways in the scope of this article, but more shall be detailed later on the individual effects on such disorders and indeed others.
In conclusion, stress is impossible to avoid. However, it is possible to balance and to have your body in as good a condition as possible to deal with the stress. Eating the right foods to support the immune system, reducing sugar and caffeine, counteracting other effects of stress, with exercise such as yoga, or introducing meditation can help with this balance.