How Stress Physically Affects Your Body
Stress. It’s not a word that makes most of us feel elated or excited. However, stress, by design, is the body’s way of signaling for help or a break in the routine. If we don’t listen to these signals, we can develop imbalances in our bodies, which can then lead to illnesses.The dictionary defines stress in multiple ways, but there is only one that matters when we discuss how stress affects our physical bodies. The definition is this, “stress is a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension”. The definition itself indicates stress can affect our bodies.One of the most visible way stress affects our bodies is our appearance. People who are under chronic pressure and stress tend to look older and fatigued. This happens because cortisol, the stress hormone in our bodies, builds up, which then increases the number of free radicals in skin cells. Free radicals damage the skin cells causing them to become dull and dehydrated. Women typically show this more than men.Another big player in the stress game is digestion. Many people today suffer from heartburn and an upset stomach on a regular basis. These symptoms can be caused by excess stress. Stress causes the body to alter gastrointestinal motility by moving blood normally used in the digestive process, away from your belly and midsection, as part of the “fight or flight” response that usually occurs when you are stressed. Thus, the lack of blood and fluids in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to increases in stomach acid, causing stomach upset and heartburn.Minor stress will stimulate the immune system which helps us heal from illness and disease. However, chronic stress can actually compromise the immune system, once again due to the cortisol hormone. Chronic stress sufferers tend to get sick more often and the illnesses may last longer. This is also a factor in people who develop terminal illnesses like cancer. Excess stress can cause your heart to work too hard and usually for too long a period. These factors can then lead to sustained increased blood pressures or hypertension. Hypertension puts more stress on your blood vessels, which can increase your possibility of a stroke or heart attack.Chronic stress can also be detrimental to your muscles and can then lead to chronic aches and pains. Muscles are supposed to tense up when under stress. But when you are constantly stressed, the muscles never get the chance to completely relax. Tight muscles result in headaches, back, neck and shoulder pain. Over time, those tight muscles and chronic pain can cause many to seek pain relief through prescription pain medications. That’s the bad news. The good news is you can address and treat stress naturally. Getting proper nutrition and removing stressors will help greatly. Acupuncture is also a wonderful tool for fighting stress. As few as two needles can reset your body and decrease your daily stress levels. Another method is to couple acupuncture with practices like qigong, tai chi, and/or meditation.
Call us now to find out how to resolve your stress the natural way. Bishara Wilson, L.Ac., DACM
New York Sports Acupuncture
Herbal Tonics to Reduce Stress
Stress is something that affects everybody. Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional tension or strain resulting from demanding or adverse circumstances. This can result in a multitude of symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension, pain, insomnia, worry, anxiety, depression, and even disease. And according to a recent survey, nearly 77 percent of all Americans regularly experience physical or psychological symptoms caused by stress (American Institute of Stress, May 2017).On a cellular level, chronic stress has actually been shown to shorten the immune cell telomeres. Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes found in chromosomes that promote genetic stability. When the body is stressed, the immune cells are less likely to duplicate and this puts the body at risk of infection or illness. So what can be done to reduce stress? The simple answer is a ton. Some examples of ways to deal with stress include exercising, journaling, meditation, coloring, getting a massage, reading, watching a movie, talking with friends, playing games, sitting in nature, eating healthy food and even acupuncture.This leads us to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a 3,000 year old medical system that can balance the body, relieve stress and decrease/prevent disease. TCM utilizes many modalities to treat people, but according to many scholars, it all began with herbal medicine. Herbs can be used alone or in conjunction with one another to create customized formulas that help heal the body. Here are some examples of herbs and formulas that can combat stress.1. Eleuthro or Ci Wu Jia: This herb is an adaptogen, meaning it has revitalizing or restorative properties. In particular, Ci Wu Jia works very well for people who work high stress jobs, work long hours or have erratic schedules. It supports quality sleep and also strengthens the immune system.2. Aswhagandha: While this herb is not regularly used in TCM, it is still a very potent herb for tackling stress. Specifically, ashwagandha helps with anxiety, fatigue, and stress-induced insomnia. It is also used to support the immune system and stimulate the thyroid gland for those suffering from hypothyroidism.3. Xiao Yao San: This herbal formula combines several herbs to become one of the most frequently prescribed formulas in TCM. Xiao Yao San soothes the liver, which according to TCM theory is where stress is controlled.4. Cordyceps or Dong Chong Xia Cao: Cordyceps is a type of fungus found on caterpillars. It has been used by TCM practitioners for centuries to fight fatigue, support the immune system and protect the liver and kidneys.5. Suan Zao Ren Tang: This herbal formula is very effective for treating agitation, insomnia, irritability and scattered thoughts. These symptoms are very common in people who are overworked and emotionally stressed out. Herbs can be very beneficial and help keep the body free from illness. The herbs and formulas mentioned above are just a few examples that would be good to have around if you suffer from stress and anxiety. To find out more about these herbs, reach out to us!
Bishara Wilson, L.Ac., DACM
New York Sports Acupuncture
Five Reasons Acupuncture Helps Reduce Stress
Stress is a word many people are familiar with. The dictionary defines stress in multiple ways, but there is only one that matters when we discuss how stress affects our physical bodies. The definition is this, “stress is a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.” And while most people think of stress as being detrimental, it truly does have a function in our bodies. Stress is the body’s way of signaling for help or a break in the routine. If we don’t listen to these signals, we can develop imbalances in our bodies, which can then lead to illnesses.
Cortisol is the hormone most closely related to stress. Cortisol is a big component of the “fight or flight” response we feel when we are scared or threatened. And in small bursts, cortisol is helpful. However, when stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels become elevated and never return to normal. This puts the body in a constant state of being on edge, eventually causing insomnia, depression, anxiety, digestive issues, and even mental illness.
There are ways to fight and reduce stress though. Simple things like exercise, meditation, coloring, talking with friends and even acupuncture. Admittedly, most people don’t think of being stuck with tiny needles as “relaxing,” but it really is. Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and it is becoming more mainstream every single day. It is even being used in some hospital emergency rooms for those who are in pain and anxious.
Acupuncture acts like physical therapy for the nervous system. The tiny needles retrain the nervous system and the brain to behave as it should normally. For the nervous system to act and respond accordingly, cortisol has to be at normal levels and only used when a true “fight or flight” situation occurs. Studies show acupuncture does this.
Another way acupuncture helps reduce stress is by keeping the heart rate normal. When the body is stressed, the heart tends to pump faster and in some cases, a person may even develop palpitations or atrial fibrillation. The heart rate is closely connected to the vagus nerve. If the vagus nerve is stimulated, so too will the heart rate. There are specific acupressure points on the arms and hands that can calm the vagus nerve and the heart.
Stress is frequently related to specific emotions. Acupuncture controls anxiety and stress by affecting the part of the brain that regulates emotions and then reduces anxiety naturally. This allows the body to calm down and the mind to relax.
Chronic stress frequently leads to depression. Again, acupuncture can help with this. As the stress is relieved through regular acupuncture treatments and other mind/body techniques, then depression will start to clear up as well. Many people are even able to get off their depression medications following a regimented treatment plan that utilizes acupuncture and herbs.
Lastly, digestive disorders can be caused or exacerbated by chronic stress. Digestion occurs while the body is in the “rest and digest” phase. When stress is added into the mix, digestion may become disrupted and things like diarrhea can occur. Studies have shown acupuncture is extremely effective at decreasing or eliminating bouts of diarrhea.
Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for fighting stress. As few as two needles can reset your body and decrease your daily stress level. Talk with an acupuncturist to find out how to resolve your stress the natural way.
Bishara Wilson, L.Ac., DACM
New York Sports Acupuncture