A-Z of Health L -Long Term Stress

Stress –  a normal bodily reaction to a situation. Physical causes of stress are dealt with quickly by the body but emotional triggers cause the stress hormones to remain in the body over a sustained period of time.  The fight or flight neurotransmitters adrenaline and noradrenaline get the body ready for action but often we don’t go anywhere so the influx of chemicals adversely affects normal bodily processes.  Imagine this over a prolonged period of time, weeks, months, years….

This is where we generally have a problem! 

We don’t actually have that many external physical stresses; we are no longer likely to encounter a wild beast whilst out getting food, we don’t have to cross difficult and dangerous landscapes where we are likely to fall off a mountain.  We are lucky not to live in a war zone and in a country of reasonable security and stability so why are we so stressed?

Don’t shoot the messenger but a lot of stress is down to this: –


  • Negative thought patterns, thinking and speaking negatively “Oh I can’t do that” “That will never happen” “It’s because she didn’t do that”.  Negative thinking is a major cause of stress
  • Being pessimistic – always seeing things to be worse than they are and being the opposite of ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ (go on sing it, you will feel happier)
  • Never saying NO – taking on too much, are you being polite or are you making yourself ill.  If you always say YES people will always ask.

Of, course it isn’t all to do with self-sabotage.  Never before has the pace of life been so hectic, with business via our phones we are literally never away from work.  Society has got incredibly impatient so we feel compelled to respond to everything instantly because, wouldn’t we move on if someone didn’t reply straight away?

This pace of life is unhealthy.

This pace of life is unsustainable.

It will never be quick enough so why try to keep up?

This pace of living WILL damage your health

Coming back to how this links with food.  We cannot change our external environment (we can attempt to implement some coping techniques though) so we have to look at how good our internal environment is and recognise the signs.

Stress is sneaky, it is still referred to as a silent killer or in some cases a killer without a face but I disagree with this one I think it has many faces as there are many ways in which stress presents with physiological symptoms if you know what to look for – here’s just a few, believe me there are more:

  1. Poor sleep
  2. Poor memory
  3. Poor decision making or being indecisive
  4. Over reacting to situations
  5. Feeling paranoid
  6. Racing heart
  7. Stomach discomfort
  8. Increased or decreased appetite
  9. Increase or decrease in weight
  10. Muscle tension
  11. Increase in addictive tendencies
  12. Lying awake at night, waking frequently
  13. Breathing difficulties/shallow breathing
  14. Frequent infections
  15. Constantly tired
  16. Feeling sad
  17. Loss of self-esteem
  18. Loss of confidence
  19. Feeling out of control (overwhelm)
  20. Excessive thirst
  21. Sweating

All of these symptoms are your body asking for help, telling you to slow down.  What happens when you don’t?

Being stressed hugely hinders your immune system – basically being stressed leaves the door wide open for infections – our immune system is our first line of defence against disease and stress depletes it.

When I work with clients’ I look at their diet and lifestyle as stress and sleep are crucial for overall health but did you know that being stressed and not sleeping will: –

Increase your risk of cardiovascular disease

Increase your abdominal fat

If you have IBS it will most likely originate from stress (I do a lot of work on the gut microbiome and ‘IBS’ sufferers)

Nutritionally if you could relate to any one of the symptoms listed above (the many faces of stress) then you need to look at

  • Increasing your intake of antioxidants and phytochemicals, remember stress depletes the immune system.
  • Enabling the body to create its’ own defences against our emotions and mood (neurotransmitters, created from the foods we eat and manufactured in the microbiome
  • Increasing intake of vitamin C which reduces the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increasing intake of magnesium which I refer to as the relaxation nutrient

Stress is a big one.  You often don’t see it, or the excuse I hear a lot is “too busy to do anything about it”.  Stress is a silent killer in that you can ignore it but remember it has many faces and if you start to recognise them in you, I will be here to help guide you through to improved health and mood. I can help with nutrition coaching, webinars and 1:1 consultations.

About the author of this blog

Louise Mercieca is a multi award-winning author on children’s nutrition with her book ‘How Food Shapes Your Child’ winning the Parenting award in Janey Lee Grace’s Platinum awards.

Louise is keen to promote how nutrition impacts on current and future health

Louise has also won a SBS or Small Business Sunday award from Theo Paphitis and was recently crowned as Queen of Child Nutrition in the #Queenof Twitter awards.

Louise has worked as a Nutritional Therapist for 8 years supporting hundreds of clients and does take on a limited number of personal coaching clients each month – contact Louise to discuss this. Louise has also created an accessible and affordable webinar schedule covering many topics discussed in this A-Z post series. https://www.louisemercieca.co.uk/webinar

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