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Chronic Stress, Inflammation, and the Immune System: Proactive Steps to Healing

Brain fog, fatigue, poor sleep quality, weight gain, increased pain (especially neck and back pain)—all are symptoms that can be caused by chronic stress.  Maintaining high stress levels for long periods of time can decrease quality of life and lead to increased levels of depression and anxiety.  Stress is linked with activating genes within our DNA that are disease-promoting, while deactivating genes that are health-promoting.  This is a serious problem, as research consistently shows that high stress levels are linked with cardiovascular disease, digestive issues like inflammatory bowel disease, and decrease the functioning of our immune systems.  When the immune system has been suppressed for short time periods, we are more likely to get a cold or the flu, but when suppressed for extended time periods due to chronic stress, autoimmune diseases can be expressed—think Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Psoriasis.  

Autoimmune diseases and other conditions related to chronic stress are dramatically increasing in our country.  If the chronic stress and other lifestyle factors driving these conditions are not addressed, it is difficult for true health or healing to be obtained.  April is National Stress Awareness Month.  Our bodies are well designed for handling short-term stress.  Think of driving down 6th avenue and hearing police sirens behind you.  This type of stressor creates what is called a sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system response.  The body would first react by pumping adrenaline and then cortisol into the bloodstream.  This focuses the mind and the body for immediate action.  This response has insured our survival over thousands of years and works best when the adrenaline can be burned off through movement (think running from a lion).  Eventually, the adrenaline response will fade, but the rush of cortisol is what can really cause a hazard for our bodies.  

Cortisol, as a short-term response, has an effect of decreasing inflammation.  But if the stress is more than a passing ambulance and we are dealing with chronic stress, the organs and tissues of the body are exposed to an ongoing, relentless stream of cortisol.  Our cells can then become desensitized to the cortisol that should be helping us.  Inflammation is no longer mitigated, and can take over, leading to a cascade of immune system suppression, blood sugar and insulin issues, as well as long-term damage to the blood vessels, the brain, and even the joints of the body.  While all these effects are happening physiologically, the individual dealing with it is living in fight or flight, decreasing quality of life and even making poor choices due to the long-term stress (the higher decision-making centers of the brain have decreased blood flow due to high stress).

Helping to decrease sympathetic physiology is one of my passions in practice.  It is a core issue for so many and when addressed, the body’s innate healing potential is enhanced.  In fact, shifting this aspect of physiology can move someone from a state of poor quality of life and health into optimal health and wellbeing.  It can even be a major player in creating vibrant health!  As the stress physiology heals, higher brain centers (the frontal cortex) are activated, increasing effective decision making and lifestyle choices.  I have seen many clients heal from short-term and long-term health issues by addressing stress physiology.

Join me on Wednesday, April 28th, at 6:15pm for a free, virtual webinar called, "Chronic Stress, Inflammation, and the Immune System: Proactive Steps to Healing Your Physiology and Wellbeing.”  Register by calling us at 303-215-0390 or visit BodyInBalanceChiropractic.com/events.  I will explain how stress plays a pivotal role in the outcome of our health, especially when dealing with chronic stress and the resulting inflammation and immune system suppression.  I will discuss the top strategies for creating a proactive lifestyle to mitigate stress as well as tactics and strategies to move towards optimal health.  Remember, Create Health by Choice, Not by Chance.

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