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7 Weird Ways Stress Affects Your Body (Warning: They’re Not Good)

Feeling stressed over a long period of time is not good for the body. While you can cope with the odd bit of stress here and there, prolonged exposure to this biological state can have many unwanted side effects.

We all know the classic symptoms of stress, such as insomnia, headaches and racing hearts. But it turns out that there are a bunch of more peculiar symptoms too – and not everybody knows about them. 

Stress has a tendency to creep up on you. Often, stress problems occur in combination with low-level daily stress. Little things, like rushing to catch the bus or worrying about what a colleague at work thinks about you can create issues. Over time, the body begins to weaken because it can’t snap out of the stressed state back to baseline, eventually leading to health issues. 

The trick here is to flip the switch, so to speak, and get back into the natural, relaxed way of being. There are many ways to do this, but the best is to create situations in your life where you can afford to live stress-free for a period of time. Vacations are a good example. 

Stress isn’t just something that affects the mind: it is a body-wide phenomenon. The feeling of stress is actually just a side effect of the stress response itself. 

In this post, we take a look at some of the lesser-known consequences of a stressful life and what you can do to address them. 

Skin Issues

There is a direct link between stress and skin issues. When people are in a stressed state, the body increases the production of a hormone called cortisol. Regular levels of this hormone are fine. However, when it goes up, it makes the gut lining more permeable, allowing gut bacteria and toxins to leak into the bloodstream. This then creates an inflammatory response elsewhere in the body, including on the skin. The body’s immune system tries to clean up the invaders in the bloodstream, leading to redness, dryness and many other skin health issues. 

Easily Getting Sick

When the body is under stress, it diverts all its energy and resources towards the fight or flight response. Muscles are filled with glucose for energy, heart rate increases, and blood pressure rises. At the same time, it shuts off all non-essential systems, including digestion, certain types of brain activity and, critically, the immune system. 

Shutting off immunity for a few minutes shouldn’t cause much of an issue. But when it doesn’t function optimally for weeks on end, it massively increases the likelihood of an infection and, therefore, disease. 

Bloating And More Peeing

The vagus nerve connects the gut and the brain. Therefore, what happens in one of the organs tends to affect the other. 

The gut is particularly interesting because it contains such a high concentration of nerve endings, more than any other organ in the body besides the brain. This means that it can be extremely sensitive to how you feel and what is going on elsewhere in the nervous system. When you feel stressed, it can change the way the gut behaves, leading to both bloating and flatulence. 

When people are stressed, they are also much more likely to want to pee. Researchers think that the body does this to “dump” excess weight, allowing the individual to move faster. 

Premature Greying And Hair Loss

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As we get older, our hair tends to naturally grey. For many people, hair loss is also an unavoidable reality of life. However, premature greying and hair loss can be a result of high stress levels. 

According to researchers, chronic stress can cause a condition that prevents hair from growing. Furthermore, it can also make hair more prone to falling out over time, especially when washing or brushing the hair. 

There is also evidence that stress reduces the body’s ability to make the pigments that color the hair. Over time, this can lead to premature greying and a reduction in hair quality. 

Fortunately, hair loss treatments and other treatments make this process reversible in most people. Furthermore, when the stress stops, hair production should return to normal. 

Reduced Fertility

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When the body is under stress, fertility decreases in both men and women. In women, for instance, it can disrupt periods, while in men it can lead to lower sperm count.

Again, biologists believe this response comes back to the fight or flight mechanism. When the body needs to defend against threats, diverting energy to reproduction makes no sense. It is a non-essential function when there is perceived danger in the environment. 

There is actually plenty of evidence to support this. Studies show, for instance, that the body releases a hormone that suppresses sperm production in chronically-stressed men. 

Ringing In The Ears

Many people who live with high stress levels experience a ringing in the ears periodically. This ringing isn’t caused by anything in the external environment. Instead, it’s something that the brain creates itself.

But why does stress activate it? It turns out that the same brain regions responsible for ringing in the ears also process the response to stress. So when stress occurs, ringing often occurs at the same time. 

Greater Sense Of Smell

People under a high level of stress can also experience a heightened sense of smell. That’s because the brain associates smell and emotion quite closely. 

You may have experienced this yourself. You smell something familiar and then all of a sudden, you feel completely different. It changes your mood. 

But why does Emotional stress increase your sense of smell? Researchers believe that it is again part of being in a hyper-alert state. The body diverts more resources to your nasal apparatus so that you can better detect threats in your environment. 

There are, therefore, many strange ways that stress can affect your body, besides the classic symptoms. And, unfortunately, if maintained over the long-term, they’re all bad. Being in a chronic state of stress isn’t healthy for anyone. The good news is that simple practices can help you reverse stress in your life and feel calmer.

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