Stress: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The human body is an amazing thing. It’s awe inspiring when you think of all of the metabolic processes that are simultaneously occurring millions of times over on a daily basis. We even have a built-in biological response to danger… which is a good thing. You may know of it as the fight or flight response.

When danger or extreme stress is sensed, the brain sends signals to release various hormones in preparation for immediate and violent muscular action; accelerating heart and lung action, inhibiting stomach and intestinal action, and sending nutrients and dilating blood vessels for muscles. These are just a few of the simultaneous physiological responses that no doubt served early man well in his attempt to survive in a hostile environment; call it a survival instinct.

The modern world is also a hostile environment… and our hard-wired survival instincts are killing us.

We stress over so many things… the economy, work, or relationships. But all that stress can take a terrible toll on your health. In fact, research suggests that chronic stress is responsible for 80% of all major illnesses… including heart disease and cancer. Occasional stress is something the body’s metabolic system can generally cope with. But prolonged, unrelenting stress opens the door to disease.

When we experience long term stress, the “fight or flight” reflex can’t be switched off… so our bodies increase the production of adrenal hormones. That’s what causes most of the negative effects…. fatigue, chronic headaches, irritability, high blood pressure, insomnia, osteoporosis, memory loss, GI disorders, and depression. The on-going cortisol release ages brain cells and leads to the accumulation of belly fat, and also results in huge amounts of toxic free radicals that interrupt immune function.

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