Eating a nutritious diet of whole, natural foods from the Earth is absolutely essential to your well-being. However, it is not the entire picture.
A crucial part of living a healthy – not to mention happy – lifestyle is managing stress levels. If you are constantly stressed, no matter how healthy your diet, you may still be putting yourself at risk for a number of chronic ailments.
One important body system that stress can greatly compromise is the immune system. The American Psychological Association (APA) deliniates hundreds of studies which show that chronic stress, or stress that continues over a long period of time, reduces the number of “killer” immune cells available to fight infections.
When we are stressed, our immune systems essentially shut down, in an effort to conserve energy to deal with the situation at hand. If this shutdown persists over time, it can leave the door wide open for pathogens to cause illness.
Additionally, chronic stress can lead to system-wide inflammation, which is the immune system’s natural response to an invasion. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University explains that stress leads to the body’s release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the immune factors that initiate this inflammatory response.
Persistent inflammation is recognized by many health experts to be the root of a number of chronic illnesses, including high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and numerous autoimmune diseases.
When your levels of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” are consistently elevated, it can also lead to a weaker metabolism, weight gain and dangerous belly fat. This can further increase your risk of conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Chronic stress may lead to the worsening of digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers and Crohn’s disease. According to gastroenterologist Roshini Raj, “pretty much any (gastrointestinal) condition across the board can be made worse by stress.”
If that wasn’t enough, stress has also been linked to impaired cognitive function and worsened short-term memory, especially in older individuals. It can also lead to a more rapid spread of existing cancers.
It stands to reason that to lead a truly healthy life, we need to take steps to keep our stress under control. Doing this is as important for our health as eating the right foods and exercising.
The good news is that exercise has been found to do a world of good for relieving stress levels – just 20 to 30 minutes of cardio per day can significantly dissipate anxiety for many people.
Meditation is another time-tested and effective way to let go of stress. You may find that meditating for even five minutes every morning, or every night, can help a lot with your stress over time. Making sure you have a good night’s sleep is vitally important. And certain essential oils may also greatly help you to wind down.
Whatever method (or methods) you choose, make stress control a top priority for your optimal wellness, and quality of life.
-The Alternative Daily