Stress. The word is everywhere. Stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century. But what is stress? And, perhaps more importantly, what does it mean to be stressed?
Stress in the short term is great; we experience a spike in adrenaline and cortisol leading to an increase in focus, alertness and overall performance. If you have ever been in an accident you will know that it can decrease your perception of pain, for example.
Consistent stress, however, very quickly becomes detrimental to health. Long-term stress can lead to a wide array of health issues, some more obvious such as exhaustion and burnout, while others seem to have less of a direct correllation, such as IBS and recurrent colds.
It is safe to say that stress will exacerbate any existing illness whilst having the capability to trigger more.
The issue that we face is that we are bombarded with an incessant string of stressors every single day, both physical and psychological, from the moment your alarm clock triggers the first stress response of the day to the email that you read at 11pm.
Our stress reaction hasn’t adapted to our modern day comforts
Evolution has not yet caught up with our relative safety in the modern world, and physiologically, the release of stress hormones remains the same, regardless of the cause.
The cause could be the stress of a presentation, too much coffee or an argument with a loved one/ colleague; and the response is aptly named ‘fight or flight’.
Physiologically, this means we have an increase in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure, an increase in alertness an increase in metabolic rate and an increase in temperature.
When you are stressed, your gut switches off
So how does stress affect the gut? Well, fundamentally, it’s important to know that when you are stressed your digestive system is effectively switched off.
Stress puts your body into fight or flight mode, prioritising oxygen to your brain and your muscles. In a life or death scenario, your digestion is not considered essential and so food is passed through the GI tract as quickly as possible with little-to-no absorption (and thus assimilation) of its contents.
When you consider the number of individuals within the corporate world who eat at their desk / in a lunch meeting / while reading emails, it becomes increasingly apparent how problems appear.
It doesn’t end ther, though. Stress can affect every part of the digestive system. It is detrimental to the gut flora, which leads to dysbiosis, and it is pro-inflammatory, which can aggravate the gut lining, leading to a wide array of disruptive issues from food intolerances to autoimmune disease.
Emotional stress can reduce the vitamins in our bodies
Both emotional stress and physical stress deplete the body of certain nutrients- for example magnesium and B vitamins. As such, it’s vital to have a steady flow of nutrients into the body in order to support and nourish our adrenals as well as to metabolise stress hormones.
Stress is unavoidable and, as we have seen, has the potential to be detrimental to our health. What we as individuals can do is build our resilience to stress, and we can do that with both our diet and lifestyle choices.
When we first created Health is Wealth Group, we had lots of individual corporate clients who were suffering with digestive complaints. They were predominantly stress-related, and we realised that, with a few simple adjustments, ailments could be easily resolved.
We educate and empower individuals within the corporate environment to take their health into their own hands. Once individuals realise that diet is key, they begin to use it not only to restore health but to achieve optimum performance; and this is how we empower businesses to succeed through the health and wellbeing of their people.