From low libido to trouble sleeping – the seven signs that stress is getting to you
THE last year has caused unwanted stress for many people.
Whether it's juggling working from home, getting used to being allowed out to the pub once more or financial worries because of the pandemic – many of us have felt different types of stress.
Experiencing stress is a normal human emotion, but one expert has warned that chronic stress can lead to long-term damage to many of our daily bodily functions.
Speaking to The Sun, nutritional therapist Hannah Braye explained that this can have a number of knock on effects to our health.
She said: "When we are stressed we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Stress hormones flood the body and have a number of physiological effects, evolutionarily developed to keep us safe."
Here Hannah highlights the seven ways that stress could be affecting you.
1. Bad skin
A bad breakout? You could be stressed.
Stress has long been associated with many common skin conditions, and can be both the cause of their onset or an aggravator.
Hannah explained: "Stress hormones such as cortisol are thought to trigger the release of inflammatory compounds by skin cells.
"This contributes to conditions such as psoriasis, atopic eczema, alopecia, rosacea and acne, which can effect confidence and be a source of further stress in themselves."
2. Low libido
Stress can be a real passion killer for a number of reasons, but not least because it can interfere with your sex hormones, Hannah said.
"The stress hormone cortisol, is made from the same building blocks as oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
"If the cortisol pathway is up regulated, our sex hormone pathway will be down-regulated in order to cope with the increased demand.
"This is also why stress can also have such a negative impact on fertility", Hannah added.
3. Anxiety or depression
Hannah said that both anxiety and depression are positively correlated with high stress levels and particularly stressful periods are often a trigger for panic attacks and low mood.
"Stress reduction and being gentle on yourself therefore plays a key part in managing mood disorders.
"Chronic stress can also affect our memory and concentration, as cortisol reduces activity in the hippocampus part of our brain (responsible for memory) and increases activity in the amygdala, making us feel more panicked", she added.
While you might feel tired throughout the day, some people have difficulty getting to sleep when their head finally hits the pillow.
Hannah said that getting a second wind of energy just as you are going to bed is a classic sign that our adrenal glands (which control are stress response) are struggling.
She said: "Stress hormones can cause hyperarousal, upsetting the balance between sleep and wakefulness.
"This creates a vicious cycle, as stressful situations are much more difficult to cope with when you are tired, leading to further stress."
Ten top tips to make bedtime happy and healthy
Nutritionist and male hormonal health expert, Bertie Stringer, CEO and cofounder of DNA
- Take time to relax
More than half of the UK population has not surprisingly suffered from stress-induced sleep problems since the pandemic. Take a little time for yourself whether it’s taking a bath, writing a journal or chatting to a friend and try to free your mind from today’s worries.
- Find a routine and stick to it
Optimal sleep is 7 to 9 hours per night. Use a sleep calculator to find a bedtime routine that works for your age and lifestyle
- Have an orgasm!
This releases a wonderful cocktail of natural endorphins which help you relax and help your body get into a flow of REM sleep cycles to help you stay asleep which is also when T levels are replenished – winner!
- Ditch the booze
Not only does this reduce testosterone levels, it also impacts sexual performance leading to greater chances of erectile dysfunction. Not to mention causing disrupted sleep which again in turns reduces the restoration of T levels overnight.
- Remove distractions
Get rid of excess noise and light so that your room is quiet, calm, for sleep or dim the lights, light the candles, pop on some Barry White and let the good times begin.
- Rectify nutrient deficiencies
Vitamins in particular play a role in regulating our circadian rhythms, the 24-hour bio rhythms that control our sleep-wake cycles. As deficiencies are common most GP’s will now test key nutrient levels and you can then supplement and / adjust your diet accordingly. Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc and B6 are all crucial for happy male hormones.
- Lose weight
Losing just 5 percent of your starting weight can result in improved length of sleep and sleep quality (also extra fat produces oestrogen in men which robs testosterone levels)
- Be active
Spending some of your active time outdoors, seems to help protect against sleep problems (also tops up natural Vitamin D levels)
- Avoid eating close to bedtime and keep snacks out of the bedroom!
Eating late at night can affect your quality of sleep and put you at higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity. It’s also a passion killer sitting in bed whilst your other half wolves down a family size bag of Doritos….
- Minimise blue and artificial lights
Light from mobiles and laptops can suppress melatonin and can make it harder to fall asleep. Ditch them at least an hour before Z time…
5. Food intolerances
Food intolerances can manifest when the cells lining our digestive tract become damaged, allowing larger food proteins to cross into circulation (known as “leaky gut”).
Hannah said that this confuses the immune system, triggering an inflammatory response when certain foods are eaten.
"Stress not only disturbs our protective gut bacteria, but has also been shown to contribute to the development of leaky gut, increasing the risk of food intolerances", she added.
6. Digestive discomfort
Our brain and digestive system are connected via the vagus nerve, so when our brain is stressed, symptoms will often manifest in the gut (and vice versa).
It’s no surprise that stress is one of the biggest triggers for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), hannah says.
"Stress can disturb the mixture of bacteria in our guts, reducing the number of beneficial strains, which in turn increases the risk of a pathogenic overgrowth.
"Taking a good quality live bacteria supplement such as Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula, with 14 different strains, can help replenish depleted beneficial gut flora keeping the microbiome in balance and potentially helping with a diverse range of stress related gastrointestinal disorders."
7. Lowered immunity
Cortisol (our stress hormone), suppresses immune cells, meaning our ability to fight off germs, viruses and other foreign invaders is reduced, leaving us more susceptible to infections when we are stressed.
The pressures of modern living lead many to experience stress on a chronic basis, and this chronic depression of the immune system can have serious consequences, Hannah says.
"High stress is a big risk factor for the development of autoimmune conditions, where the immune system becomes confused and incorrectly starts to attack parts of the body".
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