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How does stress impact the body?

Stress can eventually affect physical health such as cardiovascular health and many other parts of the body.

By Bio Island Nutrition Team

Stress is a common factor in most peoples lives. It can be due to money, family, work or any number of things. Stress is a process the body will experience when there is an imbalance on us emotionally, mentally or physically and when we don’t have the resources to cope with the demands.

An internal or external stimulus that causes a biological response is known as stress. Stress is considered a threat in the body and therefore the body then goes into hyper drive and altering your stable state to a negative one. Which may include your body to have accelerated heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure. The longer stress is felt the longer the demand on the body. A response is dependent the individuals perception and attitude to the situation, the more they care, the more stress will build. It is different for everyone, as everyone has their own opinions and thoughts about situations differently.

In a clinical sense, stress is when discomfort or distress is experienced by an individual which can lead to mental health problems, anxiety and depression. Stress can eventually affect physical health such as cardiovascular health and many other parts of the body.

Stress and the effects on the nervous system have also been studied for 50 years. Research is a continuous factor, but we have seen that stress can put a huge drain on the brain and cause structural changes, which may result in poor cognition or memory. The central nervous system is the control centre for the body’s “fight or flight” response. The hypothalamus tells the adrenals glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are released when your body feels a threat or danger or otherwise stress.

Stress has many effects on cognition that all depend on the intensity, duration, origin and magnitude. Research shows that stress can activate physiological systems, such as the autonomic nervous system, central neurotransmitter, neuropeptide system and hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis. These systems have a direct effect on neural circuits in the brain involved with data processing. Stress releases glucocorticosteroids and due to the lipophilic properties, it can then diffuse through the blood brain barrier and apply long term effects on processing and cognition. On the other hand, in special circumstances stress can improve memory. The circumstances include non-familiarity, non-predictability and non-life-threatening form of stimulation.

Other symptoms can include some of the below:

  • Emotional; anger, depressed, anxiety, difficulty relaxing and avoiding people
  • Physical; headaches, weight issues or digestion problems, tension, clenched jaw, chest pain, nervousness, weaken immune, fatigue, muscle tension and menstrual problems or missed menstruation
  • Cognitive; poor concentration or forgetfulness, poor judgement, racing thoughts and worrying
  • Behavioral; increase in vices such as, smoking or drinking, change in appetite, fidgeting and procrastinating
  • Accident prone

The more important the outcome, the more stress we will build upon ourselves and ultimately no part of the body is immune to stress.

It is not always something people are willing to talk about or admit. But stress needs to be recognized as a major player in the day to day lives of most people.

Prolonged periods of stress on the body will cause wear and tear both emotionally and physically. Stress can become a vicious cycle on the body and individual. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can help you control your thoughts, emotions and overall manage it.

Getting help:

You should see a doctor or community health center if stress is something you feel often, when stress feels beyond your control, your reactions to stress are extreme and you feel anxious or depressed.

You can also reach out for support at

This information does not take into account your personal situation and is general in nature. You should consider whether the information is appropriate for your needs and seek professional medical advice.

Always consult your healthcare professional before taking any supplements or if any concerns arise.

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