When stress causes the brain to goes out of balance,the body necessarily follows.
The first system to be affected is the spine. The spine is the protector of the spinal cord and the lower parts of the brain. It gives both flexibility and structure to the body. Because of its role, it has an inseparable relationship with the nervous system. When an individuals vertebral relationship with the surrounding nerves changes and alters the nerve flow to the muscles, organs and senses of that nerve, this is called a Subluxation. This is the single most detrimental effect of brain stress and can lead to several problems throughout the body. Lets break it down by systems, but, keep in mind, everything is connected to each other and this interconnectedness is all under the control and command of our brain.
How does the body change from stress?
YOUR BRAIN BECOMES HARD WIRED FOR STRESS.
The nervous system has several divisions: the central division involving the brain and spinal cord and the peripheral division consisting of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has a direct role in physical response to stress and is divided into the sympathetic nervous system (SNS, fight or flight), and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS, rest and digest).
When the body is stressed, the SNS generates what is known as the "fight or flight" response. The body shifts all of its energy resources toward fighting off a life threat, or fleeing from an enemy. The SNS signals the release of hormones called adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones cause the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase, blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, digestive process to change and glucose levels (sugar energy) in the bloodstream to increase to deal with the emergency.
Stress-related disease emerges predominantly out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies. Instead of this response being short-lived, as it was meant to be, we turn it on for months on end worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions.
In a study, dental students volunteered to receive small cuts on the roofs of their mouths on two occasions: once during summer break and again six weeks later, during exams. The students' wounds took 40 percent longer to heal when they were under the stress of exams. In addition, the students' levels of a protein called IL-1, which summons other immune cells to battle, were found to be two-thirds lower then students whose exams were in the summer.
If you're stressed out, you're more likely to get sick. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine actually found that higher psychological stress levels resulted in a higher likelihood of catching the common cold. The researchers concluded that higher stress was to blame for lowered immunity and higher infection rates.
When the body is stressed, muscles tense up. Muscle tension is almost a reflex reaction to stress the body's way of guarding against injury and pain. With a sudden onset of stress, the muscles tense up all at once, and then release their tension when the stress passes. Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. This can lead to many aches of pains. Have you ever suffered a tension headache? Thats a result of the subluxation causing the muscles to tense up for an extended period of time in the upper neck.
Acute stress, or stress that is momentary or short-term, such as meeting deadlines, being stuck in traffic or suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident, causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle, with the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol acting as messengers for these effects. In addition, the blood vessels that direct blood to the large muscles and the heart dilate, thereby increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body and elevating blood pressure. This is also known as the fight or flight response. Once the acute stress episode has passed, the body returns to its normal state.
Chronic stress, or a constant stress experienced over a prolonged period of time, contributes to problems of the heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate, and the elevated levels of stress hormones and blood pressure, can take a toll on the body. This long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Chronic stress can also contribute to inflammation in the circulatory system, particularly in the coronary arteries, and this is one pathway that is thought to tie stress to a heart attack.
When the brain is stressed, the hypothalamus signals the autonomic nervous system and the pituitary gland. This process is the start signal for our bodies to produce epinephrine and cortisol, the "stress hormones."
When cortisol and epinephrine are released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for "fight or flight" in an emergency. The body then starts to store this excess sugar (unless you ran around the block) and this can lead to gaining weight, diabetes and obesity. This occurs without eating in excess and is why so many people on a diet can still find it difficult to lose weight. Hormones have a lot to do with weight gain and stress has everything to do with hormones.
Stress gets you ready to fight or flight, not rest and digest, so your body shunts blood away from the digestive system towards your leg and arm muscles and your heart. This is why so many people under chronic stress have digestive issues and are malnourished. If you eat a meal when you are stressed, how well will you absorb the nutrients and properly digest the food? Not very well. This leads to conditions like heart burn, gas, bloating, and un-digested food.
Stress can affect digestion, and what nutrients your intestines absorb. It can also affect how fast food moves through your body. You may find that you have either diarrhea or constipation.
For men, chronic stress can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation, and even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence.
For women, it can have devastating consequences. Because survival (acute, short-lived stress) is so important, it will override all other systems. If the stress is ongoing, the chronic production of cortisol will result in a decrease in other hormone production so the body can make more cortisol. The body will convert progesterone to cortisol in this situation. This will effect menstruation, reproduction, menopause, and sexual drive.
Your body is smart. It installed an amazing warning system to let you know when its out of balance. The question is: are you listening, or ignoring?
Most of us are programmed to think symptoms are bad and do everything possible to get rid of them. A simple example is pain: Our first thought is to reach for a pain reliever like aspirin (covering up the symptom). This would be the equivalent of covering the dashboard light in our car with a piece of black tape - the light that is warning us that we need oil. If we ignore the oil light, our car will not run for long. Yet, we cover up symptoms every day. Its easy to see. Just walk down the aisle of any pharmacy and you can see the massive amount of symptom-relief medication. Antacids, gas relief, stool softeners and anti-diarrhea medications are a number of ways to relieve symptoms of brain stress that are affecting the digestive system. What damage could be occurring (think of the oil light warning and you are still driving the car) if you continue to cover-up those warning signs? We are in an epidemic of un-balanced brains and our dashboard of lights are blinking.
Its time to get checked and see if your symptoms are a result of brain stress. If they are, we will coach you on natural solutions to help neutralize it.