We all suffer from it in some shape or form and it is estimated that as many as 90% of patients visit the doctor’s from some symptom of stress.
Under stress our body instinctively goes into ‘fight or flight’ response. When there is an emergency your body reacts like there’s a rhino about to charge you down and releases a sudden burst of energy. We can’t avoid stressful situations but by understanding what is happening to our body, we can work on changing our response to reduce the long term impact of stress.
One of the hormones released is called cortisol, a steroid hormone that is known as the stress hormone. It’s produced by the adrenal glands and in survival mode cortisol can be a lifesaver it speeds up the heart and pushes blood to the muscles for that extra all important burst of energy. However, nowadays the stress we experience doesn’t usually call for us to run at a pace to escape a wild predator. Workload or finances are the usual causes.
The problem comes when you experience long term low level stress as the body continuously releases cortisol. Ongoing raised levels can cause increased blood pressure and blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system, reduce libido and lead to obesity.
Cortisol reduces the amount of muscle boosting testosterone, over time this decreases our muscle mass which means we burn fewer calories.
Our body gets used to being in a permanent state of stress but there are steps that you can take to change how you deal with this stress and be in a positive, happy frame of mind.
- Reduce processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. Use fresh local produce where possible.
- Try to get a good nights sleep, it is thought that going to bed earlier gives more effective relaxation and cell renewal.
- Exercise regularly to increase circulation.
- Some health practitioners prescribe DHEA dehydroepi-androsterone supplements; you should consult your GP first. Our body releases DHEA naturally when we are happy. Or eat food rich in DHEA, fruit, vegetables, lean chicken, fish, olive oil etc.
- Meditate or focus on your breathing for a few minutes each day.
- Switch the computer off an hour before you go to bed and don’t sleep with your phone charging beside you.
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