Stress: More than one way towards chronic inflammation
The toll stress takes on your cells
I will talk through two types of stresses to your body: one is the oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body, and another is the inflammation caused by chronic stress.
Free radicals are both a byproduct of breathing and innately damaging roving molecules in your body, ready to rip apart any stable molecules that have the electrons it needs. Your body is equipped with antioxidants to help oxidize these unstable molecules/atoms/ions, but when there are more in your system than your body can handle your body is under oxidative stress. This stress has the potential to cause a lot of damage to cells that happen to be nearby, especially when the free radicals tear electrons away from your cell membrane, causing perturbation or even perforation to the cell’s structure and defense.
With the compromised cells that these produce, your body can go under inflammation, the curse of all states for your body to be in. Inflammation causes all kinds of changes to the day to day business of a cell. Metabolic pathways are disrupted; procedures are violated — basically everything is on high alert, functioning abnormally. Oxidative stress and inflammation can even begin to start signaling your cells to die off, a failsafe for cells that are not healthy, but in this case potentially a mass murder of slightly irritated cells that you need regardless. Inflammation can be in both the periphery and the central nervous system, killing precious neurons (brain cells) and damaging organs alike.
Antioxidants “donate” electrons to the free radicals, saving other molecules from falling victim to the aggression of these nasty individuals. These come from diet (red wine and berries to name only my favorites) and help to cleanse your body of free radicals, stabilizing your electrical state. So make sure to supplement your body’s naturally supplied antioxidants with delicious dietary options!
Chronic stress on the other hand may not be a natural byproduct of living, but instead a byproduct of living in this day and age. As the rates of chronic and acute stress skyrocket, it becomes increasingly important to examine its effects on our health.
Stress is meant to be a response in your body for a short period of time, reacting to a temporary threat. Evolutionarily, it’s good that we don’t feel hungry while a bear chases us. However, when stress is induced each morning by the commute to work and then perpetuated by the standards set forth for success, the demands it puts on our bodies become maladaptive. Stress not only can affect your sleep cycle (leading to serious things like dampened immune system, disturbed digestion, and poor dieting), but also physically wear down the body by the “high alert” way of doing things. This over time causes inflammation, which I mentioned earlier as an enemy to any healthy body.
Though the evils of inflammation are diverse, we know that it causes damage on a cellular level to your body. Stress and inflammation interfere with metabolism, structure, composition, and performance of your body. So make sure to take that deep breath and relax before stepping into a stressful situation. Your body depends on it.