The irrefutable link between chronic stress and ill-health (Part 2 of 2)
Updated: Apr 21
Part 2 of 2
Read Part 1 HERE
What are some of the consequences of chronic stress?
As discussed in Part 1, chronic stress destabilises our body systems, using up vital resources and preventing vital processes from occurring optimally.
Cortisol levels that have become too low or too high from the chronic activation of the stress response can increase your risk of illness and a flare up chronic conditions you already have- e.g., mental illness, skin conditions, digestive issues, hormonal issues and so on.
These are some detrimental effects of too much or too little cortisol - as documented in the scientific literature:
It can affect how well we recover from illness, viruses & other microbial challenges, and how we recover from surgery & trauma
It can impact brain health and cognitive function (and risk of dementia)
It can impact mood, mental health & resilience
It can impact our energy
It may increase our risk of pain conditions
It may affect our immunity & inflammatory response (we need a balance)
It may impact our fertility & hormonal health
It could affect our metabolism as high cortisol makes weight loss much harder to achieve (high cortisol can cause fat to be deposited around the middle and can increase our appetite)
It could change our risk of heart disease & blood glucose control issues & impact biological ageing. (High cortisol is associated with diabetes, metabolic dysfunction, & weight gain. Low cortisol may be connected to reactive hypoglycaemia- dramatic energy & blood sugar crashes)
It can impact our sleep
It may increase the risk of all sorts of digestive disturbances (as we have a lot of nervous system tissue in our gut) and can also impact our gut lining and gut microbiome adversely
Attention to other imbalances is required when treating multi-factorial conditions (such as low grade inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, mitochondrial dysfunction, toxicity, the gut microbiome, genetics, sleep, hormones, neurotransmitters) but stress is often a much over-looked part of the puzzle.
How to establish if chronic stress is part of the heath picture:
I often arrange a lab test which uses a very small hair sample to analyse my patients’ cortisol levels over a 3-month period. This is preferential to getting a snap shot via blood or saliva which tells us little of the impact of chronic stress on well-being.
The benefit of assessing your cortisol levels is that by knowing how your body may be responding to stress on the inside, I can support you to take a number of actions to help improve your health and well-being and increase your resilience.
Yes, chronic stress is an unavoidable part of modern life, but there are some proven ways of mitigating its effects. My aim is to rebalance your HPA axis and cortisol levels with a personalised nutritional plan, to reduce chronic illness and improve health outcomes, which has been shaped by my own health recovery and many years of clinical experience.
This will entail the use of an individualised diet that is practical and sustainable, and keeps blood glucose more stable. I will prescribe evidence-based adaptogenic botanicals to modulate the HPA axis and balance cortisol, plus other specific nutrients needed for a healthy stress response. This may include, for example, a clinically researched form of vitamin C that is retained in your white blood cells (vitamin C gets quickly used up making cortisol, leaving us more vulnerable to infection). And specialist probiotics to reduce the detrimental effect of chronic stress on the gut (such as altered gut microbiome, gut lining and gut immunity).
Also guiding you with sustainable lifestyle changes and other tips to enhance circadian rhythm and therefore improve sleep where needed.
Teaching you some quick and easy breathing techniques to calm the stress response and always with emphasis on the importance of self-care, which is especially important in these testing times.
Please note you are welcome to book a free chat via my site should you wish to discuss working with me on a 1:1 basis.
If you are interested in a discount code for Cortigenix Stress test (using a small hair sample- as mentioned above) drop me an email.
Any comments or questions please free to ask below.
The World Health organisation highlights urgent need to transform mental health and mental health care. https://www.who.int/news/item/17-06-2022-who-highlights-urgent-need-to-transform-mental-health-and-mental-health-care
K Petruccelli, J Davis , T Berman. 2019. Adverse childhood experiences and associated health outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31454589/
How stress can affect your health. Sept 2021. Cortigenix blog. Professor Kavita Vedhara. Professor of Health Psychology, University of Nottingham.
O’Connor, D.Thayer, J., and Vedhara,K. (2020). Stress and Health: A review of psychobiological processes. Annual Review of Psychobiological Processes. Annual review of Psychology, 72, 4.1-4.26.
Greff, M et al. 2019. Hair cortisol analysis: An update on methodological considerations and clinical applications. Clinical Biochemistry, 63, 1-9.