Natural Health &

Relaxation Centre

Role of Stress in the Body

By Ria

"Well-being is more than just an absence of the symptoms of disease. It is an inner peace, happiness and joy. It is usually associated with a deep contentment and certainty of your purpose on earth and the conviction that while the body is only temporary, the soul lasts forever", (Arien van der Merwe, 2001, pp. 32). Stress is a reaction to something or someone that is experienced by the individual via the senses of the body.

We all need a certain amount of stress to be able to live and survive. We need it to excel in our work or strive towards growth and fulfilment in different fields. Without it, life will become extremely boring. However, we need to balance periods of stress with regular healing phases of rest and relaxation in order to keep our bodies healthy.

Constant, unbalanced, and chronic stress must be avoided as far as possible or at least managed, because this kind of stress, tension and anxiety has probably become the most common and serious problem facing our health and well being in our time.

Positive Stress

Stress is essential to spur us on, to motivate us and to provide the necessary stimulation to cope with the many challenging situations that we have to face from day to day. It also provides us with the sense of urgency and alertness when we are faced with threatening situations.

Negative Stress

Stress is probably the most common cause of ill health in modern society. It can have a harmful effect on mental, physical and spiritual health. It is therefore essential that we manage our stress levels.

Stress Symptoms

A variety of stress related symptoms may be experienced. This will vary from person to person. They include mental and emotional symptoms such as confusion, difficulty in decision making, panic attacks, inability to concentrate, short term memory loss, disorientation, depression, irritability, tearfulness, fits of rage and deterioration of personal appearance and hygiene, avoiding social contact.

Physical symptoms may include fatigue, bodily aches and pains, recurring infections, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, loss of sexual desires, a reduced feeling of general well-being, accelerated ageing and systems failure.

Some Stress-related Illnesses

Stress is a significant contributory factor to Cardiovascular Disease. All people suffering from stress related abnormalities should examine their lifestyle and compile a list of priorities. One can recover from lifethreatening cardiovascular disease by adopting a holistic approach to health.

Diabetes is another serious disorder that can develop due to stress. The release of adrenal hormones under stress can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels. Large amounts of cortisol, secreted by the adrenals during stressful situations and acting to reduce metabolism of glucose by the cells, decrease insulin sensitivity. Prolonged high sugar levels can have detrimental effects on the body and will eventually lead to diabetes.

An overactive, or under active, thyroid and an imbalance in the adrenal glands can contribute to a Weakened Immune System, leading to chronic infections or even cancer. The secretion of insulin by the pancreas can be disrupted and can lead to hypoglycaemia or diabetes, or in people who already have diabetes; it can aggravate the situation or cause it to become uncontrollable.

Excessive stress over long periods will also damage the thymus gland, the manufacturer of white blood cells that regulate our immunity. Due to the stress situation, the hormones secreted by the adrenals will cause the thymus to shrink and less white cells will be available to fight of damaging invaders. High stress can thus result in reduced functioning of the immune system.

Over stimulation of the kidneys and bladder can lead to symptoms such as, incontinence, infections, low libido, severe menopausal problems, and even infertility. In the past high blood pressure, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, high cholesterol, and similar ailments were not nearly as common as they are today. One reason may be that in modern life we have to face relentless mental stress, fast technology changes as well as the use of cellular phones, the internet, laptops and other electronic devices which bombard us with irradiation.

Other disorders that are directly related to stress include asthma, digestive disorders, ulcers, depression, premenstrual syndrome, headaches, skin problems, high blood pressure, menstrual disorders, migraine, and auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, cancer, colds, spastic colon and a considerable amount of psychological wear and tear.

It is often advisable to take supplements together with a balanced diet when under stress. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids are essential for optimum health and proper functioning of the bodymind- emotions-spirit unit. They support and strengthen the systems of the body so that the metabolism functions optimally. When under stress we tend to eat less or irregularly and the body becomes depleted and add to the stress burden on the body. Vitamin and mineral deficiency can cause internal stress. Stress is very personal, but it is also a sociological and corporate problem. Many working hours are lost due to illness related to stress. Anyone who is faced with important changes or new demands may be at risk from stress and stress related disorders. It affects the whole person and symptoms can take many forms.

Unmanaged stress over time can be very detrimental to one's health. If one recognises the symptoms, the next step is to try and become aware of the causes and seek help.

There are many therapies today that one can choose from and the best would be to find the right one sooner, rather than too late.