We have had a crisis in the family that has only just resolved yesterday. It has taken an emotional toll on me especially. The associated stress has produced nausea, headaches, shakiness and poor sleep. Even today, 24 hours after the resolution, I still feel like I have taken one-too-many stimulant containing diet pills.
These symptoms are all caused by specific hormones released during stress: adrenalin, cortisol and aldosterone. Evolution has provided these for the inevitable “fight or flight” reflex that kept our species alive through time.
Adrenalin is primarily associated with that jittery, can’t go to sleep, got too much excess energy to burn. Cortisol releases glucose (sugar) into the blood stream to fuel the activity of fighting or fleeing. Aldosterone is responsible for water and salt retention; if you are trying to flee, you won’t get far if you need to stop to pee.
Even the minor stresses of day-to-day living cause short bursts of these hormones to occur. But when it lasts for days on end, chronic stress can lead to the development of high blood pressure, stomach ulcers and diabetes. If you suffer from IBS or psoriasis, you too are likely to suffer flare-ups.
But here’s the thing: when we are under severe stress, there are certain foods that we run to that only make the symptoms worse.
- Up all night to finish that report? The caffeine in all that coffee secretes additional stomach acid along with those hormones.
- Do you reach for chocolate under stress? The combination of sugar and caffeine does nothing to really calm you down.
- If salty savory snacks are what you grab for relief, the extra salt in these foods can cause an extra rush of aldosterone.
- Save your money. There is no scientific evidence that stress formula vitamins provide any benefit. If anything, they are likely to create a pseudo deficiency in your system by increasing levels of some vitamins and not others.
We can’t always keep stress from entering our lives, but we can do a lot to minimize its impact. Take time out for deep breathing exercises during the day to relieve tense mu scles. And don’t forget the power of exercise as the only way to really get these hormones out of system and get you back on the road to your baseline.