Thursday, April 30, 2009

Stress and Your Health

Stress can just wear us down. And not just the big stress events - weddings, illness, kids' grades, finances, overbearing boss, etc., but daily little frustrations and aggravations they can really wear down your body. There's a growing body of research showing that stress doesn't just wear us down mentally, it actually activates lots of negative biochemical functions in our body. The main culprit we'll talk about today is cortisol.

What is cortisol? In its normal function, cortisol helps us meet the challenges of life by converting proteins into energy, releasing glycogen and counteracting inflammation. For a short time, that’s okay. But at sustained high levels, cortisol gradually tears your body down, leading to sustained or chronic inflammation. Sustained high cortisol levels destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, co-opt biochemicals needed to make other vital hormones, impair digestion, metabolism and mental function, interfere with healthy endocrine function; and weaken your immune system.

Because cortisol is secreted from our adrenal glands, some call saturated cortisol adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue suppresses the immune system, creates insulin resistance and it may also produce a host of other unpleasant symptoms - fuzzy thinking, acne, weight gain, even hair loss.

Ways to Reduce Stress and Cortisol in Your Body

  • Dietary changes to enrich your nutrition and reduce carbohydrates and stimulants. Specifically, fish oil or flax seed - rich in omega-3's - can be effective as well as a diet consisting of anti-inflammatory foods - ginger, cinnamon, olive oil, fish, etc.
  • Stress reduction, including moderate exercise and taking more time for yourself. It’s helpful to make a list of your stressors, especially those that are constant.
  • Get more rest. Your body needs time to heal.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and deep breathing during the day
  • Let go of emotional burdens that are shadowing your life.
  • Use prayer and meditation daily.
  • Find ways to enjoy life - work is a gift, family is precious, create legacy in your life.

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