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Blog posts tagged with 'cortisol'

What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and Anxiety

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What Your Body Looks Like On Worry and AnxietyMost people think of stress as something that weighs heavily only on your mind and emotions. Its effects, however, can also produce a physical response in your body that can have far-reaching consequences on your overall health.

Your body contains many different organs and systems that work symbiotically to react to both short term and long term mood and anxiety. Learning exactly what those pangs of physical reactions are doing to your body and how to properly manage these situations can help you overcome the mental and physical challenges they present.

Spotting the First Signs

When high-stress situations occur, your brain chemistry and hormone production changes, causing a cascade of reactions down to the rest of your body. Your adrenal system kicks in and the hormone, cortisol, is produced, which has a variety of effects.

At the first sign of anxiety, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300%–400% in order to prime the muscles, lungs, and brain. To cope with your body's increased oxygen demands, the spleen becomes more active and discharges more red and white blood cells.

If your voice suddenly becomes creaky or squeaky, or there's a tightness in your throat when you swallow, it's because the body is dispensing fluids from nonessential areas, such as your mouth, to more essential areas of the body, often leaving you with a dry throat. Blood flow gets redirected from the skin so that the supply can be concentrated on the heart and muscle tissues. This is why muscles tighten up, and your skin can feel cold and clammy.

Cortisol also causes the liver produce more glucose, the main fuel your body uses for energy. For most people, excess glucose can be reabsorbed if it isn't used, but if you already have trouble balancing your blood sugar levels, excess glucose can make your levels spike even higher. And one of the more day-to-day effects of stress can be the compromising of your immune system. Once again, cortisol is the main culprit because it suppresses your immune system function, leaving you more susceptible to inflammation and infections.

The Body's Worries Over Time

One of the main concerns about anxiety is if it's constantly present. Besides causing an immediate physical reaction, the long-term effects can negatively influence other important areas of your health, leading to digestion problems, changes in metabolism, and increasing your chances of developing an ulcer. Studies have also linked it to weakened respiratory function.

Those who experience constant anxiety and periods of low moods are more at risk for heart-related concerns due to increased blood flow, higher blood pressure, and an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a means to increase blood flow to give you the energy needed to deal with the situation, however, too much of it can overwork the cardiovascular system, eventually weakening it.

Dealing with the Daily Distractions

You cannot completely avoid frustrating situations; it's a natural response of human nature. But there are some immediate and simple ways to deal with it.

Taking a few deep breaths or counting slowly to 10 when you start to feel anxious can help you control the immediate impact it can have on your day. According to the American Heart Association, 10 minutes of peace, quiet, and slow breathing can help you alleviate the influence of stress on your mind and allow your body to relax.

Positive reaffirmation can be beneficial to calming those moments where you feel overwhelmed. Similarly you can find solace throughout your day with common practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise.

Remaining Aware of the Mind and Body

It's important to pay attention to how much stress you are dealing with in your life and take the appropriate action to avoid the negative health consequences. Give your mind and body the daily support you need so you can take on the task at hand and allowing yourself to maintain a healthy mind and body.

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Healthy Foods to Feed Your Blues

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Healthy Foods to Feed Your BluesThe term “comfort food” often gets a bad rap because we don’t always make the healthiest food choices when we’re chasing our blues away. We’ve all had days where all we wanted to do was slouch on the couch and sink our faces into a bag of potato chips or tub of ice cream. That’s because when we’re stressed, the stress hormone, cortisol, creates food cravings which we often satisfy with carbohydrates or sweets. And excess carbs, as we all know, leads to more fat cells, which can stress us out even more. That being said, there is a healthy alternative to “stressed-out snacking” that can help us satisfy our cravings without adding on the pounds.

Choose “Calming” Foods Instead of Comfort Foods

Calming foods, as opposed to comfort foods, contain vitamins and minerals that can have an uplifting effect on your mood. They contribute to the creation of neurotransmitters that help to reduce the stressful effects of cortisol. B vitamins, such as folate, have been confirmed by numerous clinical studies to positively affect moods. Asparagus, spinach, and other dark-green, leafy veggies are especially high in folate. But if snacking on salad sounds less than ideal to you, avocados are also rich in B vitamins and L-glutathione, another known mood enhancer. Just be careful with portions, however, because despite being a fruit, avocado has plenty of natural fats. Vitamin C, aside from being an immune booster, can also support healthy moods. Oranges and berries, besides being terrific snacks, are also packed with vitamin C, offering even more healthy alternatives for snacking. Antioxidants are all the rage when it comes to antiaging, but they may also come in handy for mood support. Garlic may not have the most alluring odor, but most researchers are in agreement over its health benefits. Dark chocolate (not milk chocolate or white chocolate) is also a healthier snack alternative because it’s loaded with mood-enhancing polyphenols and flavonols. And for a more soothing alternative, chamomile tea and green tea can help calm your nerves while satisfying your cravings, too. Zinc is another mineral that is tied to healthy, upbeat moods. Nuts, such as cashews, are not only zinc rich, but also make great snack foods at any time of the day. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy at dinner time, oysters (besides being renowned as aphrodisiacs) also contain lots of zinc. Beta-glucans in oatmeal also have positive influences on mood. But be cautious with how much you consume because processed grains also tend to increase blood sugar and fat levels. Omega-3s have also been shown to support circulation to the brain and enhance moods. You can obtain plenty of these from walnuts or fatty, coldwater fish such as salmon and tuna.

Satisfy Your Cravings and Be Happy, Too

As you can see from the alternatives listed above, whenever stress-induced cravings hit you (as they do us all), you don’t have to give in to junk food. Plenty of healthy alternatives exist that are equally delicious—and many times healthier. So the next time those cravings hit you, be choosy in your snack choices. You’ll definitely feel less guilty about it later.

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