How Today's Stress From the COVID Crisis Affects Our Bodies
As today's stress continues, so does its negative effects on our bodies. Health concerns like strengthening our immune systems, COVID weight gain, sleep issues, extreme fatigue (topped with financial worries), family obligations, and the ever-changing work expectations can all be sources of stress in our lives. Sadly, stress is also physical, as our minds and bodies are directly connected. You can't separate them, no matter how much meditating or praying you do. In the end, we are still human.
If you were already physically stressed, whether it be due to infection, injury, pre or post-surgical, or you're a gym junkie who insists on intense physical exertion, it’s important to know that they are all stressors and affect us physically. Today's stress is a tad worse, as it's become chronic.
Most people don’t realize what happens to their bodies when they experience stress, so here are a few details for all of you who have been emailing asking: What happens within our bodies when we experience stress? Here is the simple science.
Our body's initial reaction to a stressful event begins in our brains via our autonomic nervous system (ANS), which functions without any conscious effort. It's always working to regulate all our bodily processes, and its two main divisions are the sympathetic (responsible for fight-or-flight response) and the parasympathetic (our rest and digest responses).
It doesn't matter whether the stress we feel is life-threatening or not, our autonomic nervous system always reacts in exactly the same way. Our brain immediately sends signals that tell the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine (also called adrenaline). Our body's response to the release of epinephrine, whether you're aware of this happening or not, is that our hearts begin to beat faster than usual, blood pressure increases, breathing becomes more rapid. All for good reason actually... to allow more blood flow to muscles and vital organs, which is necessary under stress, whether the stress is good or bad.
Epinephrine also mobilizes and increases blood sugar as well as stored fats to provide fast, sustainable energy to our bodies, which could help keep us alive. But, since we aren't living in Paleolithic times and aren't out running to catch our next meal, it means our blood sugar rises (this is why we have intense cravings and struggle to stop eating once we start). At the same time, we sit on the couch watch more Netflix in a day than we normally do in a year (this also sends signals of duress to our bodies as it's a change to our body).
As today's stress continues, our brains trigger our adrenal glands to release cortisol, helping to keep our bodies on high alert, primed with the right fuels needed for a possible quick reaction in an emergency. If these threats disappeared, our parasympathetic division would kick in, allowing these elevated cortisol levels to decrease and begin working at calming our body's stress responses.
Sadly, our bodies can't tell the difference between a plane crash, a loved one becoming ill, a bad day at work, or a hard or excessively long workout (especially if you're not consistent in your workout or eating habits). Thankfully, our brains only know that these events feel like threats, so we never have to think about them. For those who aren't in touch with their feelings or bodies, and may tend to slip into denial about how stress affects them, it acts on our behalf, which could mean the difference between life and death and save our lives.
And yes, even the mundane day-to-day low-level stressors lead to the same activation of our sympathetic nervous system. The BIG difference between these chronic day-to-day, low-level chronic stressors is that our parasympathetic brake that stops all of the negative wear and tear is much less likely to become activated because our bodies and our minds feel constantly threatened.
Over time, these elevated levels of epinephrine and cortisol can begin to have negative effects on our bodies. Our blood vessels can become damaged (yes, even to healthy, fit people), which can lead to high blood pressure. Your blood pressure may not reach danger zones according to the medical charts, but higher than normal blood pressure is still a change and can have negative effects, like cardiovascular concerns that you may have never experienced before, no matter how fit or lean you are.
This elevated cortisol is responsible for increased appetite, which also sends the message to our bodies to store that extra energy as fat easier, resulting in unwanted weight gain and pants that won't fit! While it starts in your head, it's not all in your head.
It's important to note that some people's bodies do the opposite under stress. They can't eat and deal with the stomach issues caused by the 100 million nerve endings that make up our digestive systems nervous system (it has its own) called the enteric nervous system. It controls digestion independently without us even knowing it. That's also why you might feel like your stomach aches or feel sick and can't eat, or like you have to throw up. The symptoms are many and vary from person to person, but you get the point.
Here are some of the most common effects of chronic stress and how it affects our bodies. Sleep, or lack of, is also a sign (this one got me, and it took me a month to re-regulate my body and mind by keeping my sleep hygiene habits as consistent as possible the entire time).
LACK OF SLEEP ELEVATES OUR STRESS
Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, whether you're sleeping too much or too little.
Both cause increased cortisol from chronic stress. And making matters worse, this lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep, becomes a self-perpetuating cycle over time, to no fault of yours. The increase in cortisol levels from today's modern world (chronic stressors) decreases our sleep, and decreased sleep creates even more stress on the body, leading to additional cortisol release, and further impaired sleep. This can go on and on and on...
LACK OF SLEEP ELEVATES OUR HORMONES, WHICH INCREASES STRESS
When cortisol is increased, it leads to imbalances of our other hormones as well, like weight gain in our midsections.
For starters, our thyroid function decreases with stress. This is what makes us feel tired and worn out, among many other symptoms. Our sex hormones (testosterone, DHEA, and estrogen) all become affected by stress.
Sex hormones and cortisol are created via the same pathway, and they then eventually split into separate pathways, depending on which hormone is being produced at that time. When we are chronically stressed, it takes the cortisol pathway, which increases the demand for hormonal building blocks to become elevated in order to meet our body’s requirements for the increased cortisol production. This, in turn, decreases the availability of these same hormonal building blocks to be used for sex hormone production.
STRESS AFFECTS THE STRENGTH OF OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
It doesn't matter if you experience lots of short-term stress events or one long chronic stress event. The effects it has on our immune system is not the healthiest. Still, it does affect us differently, which is critical to know about today's chronic stress.
One example of a short-term stressor (short-term lasts minutes or hours) is that you feel pain or strain during your set while lifting weights. Your body immediately responds to this stress by activating immune cells to improve healing and help prevent infection, whether it's viral or bacterial. This is why the right amount of the right kind of exercise is good for improving health and metabolism. Too much or the wrong kind (overly intense) does the opposite, despite what your mind may tell you when it's flooded with endorphins, and you feel like you can take on anything.
On the flip side, chronic stress actually weakens our immune system's response, which increases our susceptibility to infections. And, it gets worse over time. That's why a hard workout once in a while is okay, but repeatedly overexercising, overeating, or chronic, improper dieting makes things worse.
Got inflammation? How about weight gain, back pain, knees, hips, neck, headaches, and all “itis” (itis means inflammation)? These are only a few of the thousands. Inflammation is just another function of our ever-working immune system that's affected by stress. If you're human, both chronic and short-term stress can lead to an increase in inflammation.
NOT ALL INFLAMMATION IS BAD! In fact, in certain instances, inflammation is actually a good thing and proves healing is happening. Here is an example: When you hurt or overwork your knee, it usually swells up and begins to hurt as a result. This auto-response is due to inflammatory cells rushing to the injury site to help out where they are needed, to heal and protect from becoming more injured.
On the other hand, chronic inflammation from prolonged stress like we live in today CAN destroy healthy tissue and lead to more tissue breakdown, rather than healing and repairing. This is caused by the lack of proper rest and not making sure your body's nutritional needs are met. Over time, all these cause health issues than can be prevented, or at least decrease their severity.
Many of the health conditions we see in today's world, including joint replacements, are directly associated with chronic stress. Conditions like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are all caused or worsened by the effects of chronic inflammation.
DIGESTION IS AFFECTED BY STRESS
When our bodies respond to stress by sending blood flow and oxygen to the affected areas, our digestion slows. This slowdown or temporary disruption of our digestion can cause stomach aches (these aches can make you feel like you're starving), increased cramps, and nausea. This inflammation in our digestive tracts also has an adverse effect, creating an imbalance in our microbiome (aka gut bacteria).
Chronic stress often results in a decrease in our healthy gut bacteria (for starters our Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium), which is also why you'll notice an increase in stomach bugs and viruses and can even lead to an increase in problematic bacteria like E. coli and Klebsiella, due to the weakening of our gut health immunity, which is where all health begins.
Our guts and brains are intricately connected, and stress can change our gut bacteria levels and decrease its function. These changes can, in turn, affect our brains, which is why our memory is affected, and we may feel depressed or anxious.
The same way stress affects sleep, and lack of sleep causes more stress, digestion and stress also affect one another. Under-eat and our bodies become stressed, overeat, and be stressed.
GOT MORE PAIN? STRESS IS TO BLAME!
Prolonged stress, even if it seems minor to you, can reduce your body's pain threshold, making you feel like your aches and pains have gotten worse, and also decreasing your sensitivity to pain medications or supplements. That's why this type of current daily chronic stress can lead to an increase or worsening of pain, especially if you struggle with conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, IBS, tendonitis, sinusitis, and any other types of chronic pain.
This vicious cycle, created by stress and its effects, can become a source of chronic stress that leads to more pain if we aren’t mindful. It's not possible to remove all stress from your life, and it's also not good to be 100% stress-free. Our bodies need some stress to become stronger, but there are some things we all should be doing in order to support our body while it manages our stress 24-7, 365.
If you never took supplements to protect your health, you may want to now. This new normal places extra demands for specific nutrients like never before in history. Don't be old-fashioned in your thoughts, assuming you can do this with food. You can't, and neither can I, even with advanced nutritional skills. Our soil and earth are depleted of critical nutrients, and when you combine this fact with the stress of living in today's world, we all need to, at the very least, take the daily essential nutrients to make up the difference and fill in gaps. We all have them!
My TOP Daily Supplements (they are actually essential) that I strongly recommend for everyone living in today's stress-filled world.
Focus on how our bodies/thyroid glands and adrenal systems adapt to stress by nourishing it with specific nutrients. Stress depletes our master gland, the thyroid, leading to adrenaline fatigue. Thyro-Boost with Ashwagandha and Rhodiola (also called Immune Boost) can help your body adapt and nourish it, so it can work on healing, repairing, and protecting it from more harm. This also refreshes and reboots our immune system.
Suggested Usage: Take two full droppers (1.6ml) 2-3 times daily or as needed. Shake well before using and refrigerate after opening for longer-lasting freshness.
Who?: Everyone. Yes, even if you don't have thyroid issues, or you're treating thyroid issues.
When?: As soon as you wake up (prioritize it) and again mid-day and in the afternoon as cortisol rises.
Always take your Daily Essential Nutrients consistently, especially now! Supplements not only keep us healthy, but they protect our health when under attack, and our body's needs are increased. DON'T SKIP a dose; in fact, add an extra dose during this time.
LynFit's Daily Essentials Kit comes with the famous Daily Power Shot, which contains the key B-vitamins, in the most easily absorbable colloidal liquid, in the active forms, including pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), which is a nutrient that supports adrenal health, in the suggested dosage proven to work.
Suggested dosages for chronic stress:
Daily Power Shot: Increase from once to twice daily.
Pure Omega 3: Increase Pure Omega 3 from two (2) capsules daily to three (3), or even four (4) servings daily. I simply add LynFit's Omega 3 Salad Dressings liberally versus reducing my amounts. This makes my food more delicious and nutritious.
Lean Sleep with Melatonin: If your sleep is affected (and even if it isn't), take an additional dose to help. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant, protecting our precious immunity. It's more than a fat burner! Start with one (1) tablet (of you weight more than 200 lbs take two) and increase to two (2) or even three (3), if needed.
When?: Take Lean Sleep 30 minutes before bed. You can take an additional ½ to one (1) tablet if you wake up, and also as needed for a natural approach to ease anxiety. If needed, you can stack with CBD Daily Wellness and/or 5-HTP Lean for extreme stress or inflammation.
Drink two (2) LynFit Complete Protein Shakes every day! Adequate intake of all the essential amino acids every day is the most important first step because it sets the foundation on which everything else is built on. These essential amino acids are nutrients and should not be overlooked. None of us can afford to skip this step. Everyone needs to get the suggested 100 grams every day from a Complete Protein source. Vegan, nuts, and nut butter are inferior. Sources like yogurt or hard-to-digest foods like high-fat red meats are NOT suggested. They are so incomplete (meaning they lack some of the essential amino acids) and you wind up taking in extra calories, but still not provide your body with adequate amounts of the amino acids it needs now more than ever.
Drinking two (2) LynFit Complete Protein Shakes every day is the most convenient, fastest, and easiest (not to mention most delicious) way to ensure your body gets what it needs. You'll also eat less as it kills cravings and contains prebiotic fiber to protect gut health and keep our microbiomes healthy, in addition to preventing weight gain and our skin tight. A shake a day keeps your health problems away!
Suggested Usage for Chronic Stress: Your first meal every day, whether you're trying to lose weight or not, should be the Complete Protein. (If you're fasting, break your fast with Complete Protein). If you want to protect your health, it ll starts here. You cannot find a healthier breakfast when it comes to protecting immunity, managing cortisol levels, and balancing hormones. It's like liquid intravenous to your cells that prevents metabolic slowdown and lean muscle wasting (so your skin stays tighter too). The amino acids also nourish healthier skin and nails.
One (1) Complete Protein Shake daily is good, two (2) IS BEST. And, you can do three (3) shakes daily when, or if needed during pre or post-surgical, recovering from illness, stressed, or you're prone to skipping meals or eating the wrong kinds of food. It makes a great healthier, leaner, cleaner snack.
How?: See the recipes on the package or check out the Metabolic Boosting Meal Plan and Metabolic Boosting Smoothies & Gourmet Coffees. Make sure you check out all the delicious ways you can enjoy your shake: Ice cream, bread, pastries... the sky's the limit. We have the only whey protein that’s fresh enough to bake with because of its premium grade. That's also what makes it metabolic.
When?: Every day
5-HTP Lean for an extra dose of maximum strength appetite support and mood booster. 5-HTP Lean is a natural source of serotonin-boosting nutrients to help you avoid cravings, decrease hunger, boost mood, and support feelings of calm and relaxation, without decreasing your mental focus (aka brain protector and cortisol manager).
Suggested Dosage for Chronic Stress: Unlike prescribed medications, this natural supplement works fast, and you can use it when, or as, needed. It promotes weight loss versus blocking it.
How?: Take one (1) capsule daily with water (if you're over 200 lbs. take two) as needed or when cravings and hunger are problematic. 5-HTP Lean can also be taken when cravings strike, for fast-acting relief.
When:? Take in the morning, or when needed, and again before bed. You can take another mid-day, if and whenever needed.
These supplements can support your body during times of prolonged stress and keep you feeling good and healthy. If you’re wondering how your body is handling stress these days, take a moment to ask yourself how you're sleeping and eating, Have you gained or lost weight? How is your mood? Does fear reign? If so, use the tools above to reign in your stress levels and its effects on your life.
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- Lisa Lynn