What exactly is the stress response?
One of the most basic functions of any animal species is the way they respond to threats. At the most basic level of this response is something known as the fight-or-flight response where a threat presents itself and the animal must choose whether to fight or run. In order to do either of these, the body must direct nutrients and resources to key places including the large muscle groups. This directs activity away from body systems that offer no benefit to survival (in the moment), including digestion and bladder function. No sense taking a moment to pee if you're facing a predator.
The march of civilization and human innovation has led us from worrying about being attacked by a bear or tiger at night. Our worries are now multifaceted, and the body is unable to differentiate between a perceived threat (whether you can afford rent) and an actual threat (shark about to bite).
7 less common signs and symptoms of stress
1. Digestion issues
As mentioned, running from a wolf is an inopportune time for your body to tell you to use the washroom. When we're stressed, the body will shut down digestion, resulting in a few issues. If the food isn't being properly digested then the body cannot extract all of the nutrients, meaning you are more likely to be deficient. You may notice undigested food in your stool, and that your bowel movements are less regular than normal.
Scientific trials note the benefits of melatonin in protecting against stress-induced lesions of the intestines and how probiotics can also help attenuate how the body responds to stress.
Probiotics are only as good as their environment which is why feeding them with Molkosan, a rich source of lactic acid (a prebiotic), can help them thrive. Your clinician may also recommend mindful eating to reduce symptoms of indigestion.
2. Joint/muscle pain
For those battling autoimmune conditions that impact the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, stress can wreak havoc on the body.
A study published in JAMA in 2018 found "Stress-related disorders were significantly associated with risk of subsequent autoimmune disease". When the body feels under threat, it may encourage inflammation and a subsequent autoimmune flare or attack.
3. Impaired immunity
As we now understand, the immune system is profoundly affected by stress. A meta-analysis in 2004 identified over 300 different studies and demonstrated that any form of chronic stress ravaged every aspect of immunity, making people more prone to lasting illness.
The foundations of health including sleep, diet and mental health are at the core of a strong immune system, though lending support through clinically-proven immune remedies like Echinaforce is a way to support the system.
A clinical trial demonstrated that in those with impaired immunity, including smokers, poor sleepers, and those who get sick more than the average Canadian, Echinaforce supports their immunocompromised systems.
4. Emotional imbalance
To say anyone is in their most emotionally stable state while stressed sounds like the intro to a bad joke. Certain herbs can help support the body if you are finding yourself overwhelmed including Passiflora incarnata, otherwise known as passion flower in English. This herb may influence a calming brain chemical known as GABA to help reduce the impacts of the stress response on the body.
5. Skin concerns
In line with the topic of emotional imbalance is the link between stress and exacerbation of skin conditions including eczema, rosacea and psoriasis to name a few. While the exact connection is still unclear, it seems that a specific set of skin (mast) cells are stimulated by stress to release compounds encouraging inflammation in the local tissue.
6. Sleep disorders
When your sleep begins to suffer, it is time to look inward and see what the cause is. A stressed mind never steps off the race track and this can mean hours spent awake thinking about your long to-do list!
Certain sedative herbs may help get you to sleep including Passion Flower. This herb is a gentle nervine and anxiolytic, helping you manage an anxious mind that keeps you awake! While that helps calm an anxious mind, you may still find yourself trying to count sheep at night.
A combination of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and hops (Humulus lupulus) has been shown to increase sleep quality and quantity. One such product known as Deep Sleep is clinically shown to help those with insomnia enter a deeper stage of sleep and spend an additional 38 minutes snoozing.
7. Jaw and dental concerns
Without even realizing, you may be doing more damage to your teeth than simply staining them with the odd glass of wine or cup of coffee. Stress has been associated with teeth grinding (bruxism) and other oral complaints including jaw clicks, dry mouth and difficulty chewing food as per a trial published in 2010. It may be worth a visit to your dentist to have your teeth assessed and discuss a mouth guard used to protect the delicate enamel.