How Does Stress Cause Illness?

There’s no doubting the fact that stress leads to illness and disease – from a simple headache to the more serious migraine, from a slight sense of queasiness to full-blown stomach ulcers, from mild discomfort to a major heart attack, stress can cause a variety of disorders and diseases. It’s called transduction, this translation of emotional distress to physiological change to physical symptom, and it’s probably the biggest cause of disease and illness today.

So why and how does stress lead to illness?

  • Stress raises the levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline and boosts nervous system activity; this in turn affects your health and leads to further anxiety and more stress.
  • Stress affects your immune system, weakens it, and so leaves you prone to common colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses and syndromes.
  • Stress has been linked to viral illnesses and even diseases like cancer.
  • Stress affects your metabolism adversely and leads to excessive weight gain or loss.
  • It affects hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone and plays havoc with the monthly menstrual cycles of women.
  • Stress also affects brain neurotransmitters and causes loneliness, depression and other mental disorders.
  • It affects the gastrointestinal system and leads to high acidity and the formation of ulcers and other stomach disorders.
  • Stress raises the level of toxins in your blood and causes skin diseases and conditions like acne.
  • Prolonged stress can lead to heart attacks and strokes that affect the quality of your life and even cause death.
  • Stress causes a buildup of pressure which leads to headaches and migraines.

All stress is not bad; in fact, a small amount of it at the right time is good. For example, when you feel a surge of adrenaline before a competition, it gives you the edge and helps you perform better; when you feel nervous before an interview and are on tenterhooks, you tend to be more aware of yourself and so perform better; and when you’re threatened in any way, the surge of hormones that rushes through your system raises your self-protective instincts and keeps you from harm and danger – it gives you more strength and more speed than you possess under normal circumstances and is very often the difference between life and death.

The key to making the most of stress is to not let it become a chronic issue in your life by following a simple mantra – there’s no use worrying about the things you cannot control; and if things are within your control, try to be proactive and find a solution instead of worrying and stressing yourself out. Stress can be prevented and minimized by following a diet rich in nutrients and vitamins and exercising regularly.