stress effects

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Stress Effects

Posted by admin
Oct 09 2011

Stress Effects on Body

Learn how the body reacts to stress

Stress Effects on Body

Stress Effects on Body

Regardless of the cause, stress sets in motion certain automatic changes in the body that are designed to give it a quick burst of energy. The pattern of changes has been called the “fight-or-flight” response because it most likely evolved from our prehistoric ancestors, who faced daily dangers in their search for food and shelter and had to either flee or do battle. Of course, we no longer face such dangers, but our bodies continue to react as if we did. So instead of responding to a saber-tooth tiger lurking behind a tree, the body reacts to petty annoyances like getting caught in traffic, being reprimanded by a supervisor, or worrying about bills.

Regardless of the type of stress, the body goes through the following changes on :

1.  Nervous System

Under physical or psychological stress, your body suddenly shifts its energy resources to fighting off the perceived threat. In what is known as “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. This is the way Endocrine and other systems are affected as well.

2.  Musculoskeletal System

Muscles tense up. The muscle contraction for extended period can trigger tension headaches, migraines and various musculoskeletal disorder.

3.  Respiratory System

The breathing becomes faster and more shallow to allow the body to take in more oxygen. This may lead to hyperventilation which can bring on panic attacks in some people.

4.  Cardiovascular System

The heart beats faster and blood pressure rises to increase the distribution of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

Warning : Repeated incidences of acute stress can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries, thought to lead to heart attack.

Blood flow to the brain and muscles is increased and, at the same time, reduced to digestive organs.

5.  Endocrine System

The brain sends signal from the hypothalamus causing the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and other stress hormones that prime certain organs to go into action, importantly liver which will produce more glucose, blood sugar that would give you the extra energy for “fight or flight”.

Consequently, sweating increases to allow the body to burn more calories without a rise in body temperature. (In theory, sweating also makes the skin slippery and more difficult for a predator to grab)

6.  Digestive / Gastrointestinal system


Stress may prompt you eat less or more than you usually do. If you eat more or different foods or increase your use of tobaccos or alcohol, you may have heartburn or acid reflux.


Your stomach can react with “butterflies” or even nausea or pain.


Your digestion may be affected so is the absorption of nutrients by your intestines.

7.  Reproductive System

In men, excess of cortisol produced under stress can affect the normal functioning of the reproductive system.Chronic stress can impair testosterone and sperm production and cause impotence.
In women, stress may affect the menstrual cycles or more painful periods.
Both in men and women, the sexual desire may drop consequently.

The stress symptoms you might see are the results of these stress effects on your body. After the stressor disappears, the body returns to its normal state (homeostasis) and then you do not have to have any stress treatment or stress relievers. If, however, stress is chronic — as it is for many people — the body stays on high alert. The many damaging consequences include a rise in cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, damaged blood vessels, decreased mental skills, and a weakened immune system. At this phase you might need stress relievers.

Source : Reader’s Digest and Washington Post

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