Chronic Stress and Mindfulness
Many people had a new years resolution about being more mindful. I am constantly seeing news articles about mindfulness based stress reduction and meditation. Regardless of a new years resolution or not, mindfulness based stress reduction is a practice that should be constantly implemented and worked at. The health effects are endless and are always being studied as we speak. How and what we think and feel can create disease or create health, a field called psycho-neuro-immuno-endocrinology. Big word. It’s a scientific field related to understanding the complex networks of the brain, human behavior, immunity, and hormones.
So how does stress effect multiple areas of your body?
Severe and long lasting stress can give rise to a loss of neurons (brain cells) in your hippocampus, an area of the brain that is responsible for memory and intellect. The excess cortisol (our stress hormone) can also give rise to diminished brain cell generation and cognition.
Also, those with mild depression and anxiety, meditation of 30 minutes a day improved symptoms to the same extent as medication.
Chronic stress is pro-inflammatory, it makes it more difficult for the body to calm down the inflammation present in one’s body.
Chronic stress decreases the immune effectiveness of vaccines.
It ACTIVATES chronic infections such as herpes simplex virus (one being cold sores) and can make worse the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Utilizing stress reduction techniques have been able to reduce the progression of MS.
Mitochondria and Energy
Mitochondria are the powerhouse of every cell. When you have energy to digest food, walk, and talk, thank your mitochondria for producing that energy. Well, it will also produce free radicals when undergoing chronic stress. Which also results in the reduction of energy for the cell. So if your cell has a reduction of energy, it can’t do its job. Those with just about any disease are affected by mitochondria. So think of chronic fatigue, liver problems, heart problems, intestinal problems, stomach problems, respiratory problems, hormonal problems…get it?
Detoxification and Toxins
Your liver is the main organ responsible for detoxifying chemicals, hormones, fats, and medications. There is a decrease in detoxification gene expression in your liver with chronic stress, making it more difficult to detoxify, thus allowing those toxins to build up in your system and later create dysfunction.
People with high stress environments inside and out, are associated with an increase in energy dense foods, thus eating high sugar and high fats foods. This will increase the toxic burden on someone considering many of these foods are processed foods.
Heart and Blood Vessels
Chronic stress increases blood pressure as well as thickness in arteries. This puts someone at further risk of heart disease, stroke, and other vascular diseases.
Higher cortisol levels (stress hormones) during the first three weeks of conception were more likely to results in a spontaneous abortion. This links an increased level of stress to early pregnancy loss. Women who had higher amounts of stress during their pregnancy, made it more difficult for their offspring to cope with stress as well.
Muscles and Bones
There is a relationship between depression, anxiety, and a decrease in bone mineral density, which eventually may lead to osteoporosis.
Meditation can alter the perception of pain, thus helping those who experience chronic pain. This mechanism still remains unclear.
The role that stress has on the gut may have a major role in IBS (Irritable Bowel Symptoms). The chronic stress may have a crucial role in the development or reaggravation of IBS symptoms. Stress may also decrease the amount of time it takes food to pass through your system which may lead to overgrowth of bacteria in your intestine and leaky gut issues.
In a study involving ovarian cancer in mice, mice exposed to more stressors had an increase in tumor size and the spreading of the tumor. The increase stress allowed for more blood flow to the tumor to be able to grow and spread.
In just six weeks people were able to improve the insomnia rating with mindfulness meditation.
Its clear that stress has a major impact on every organ system of our body. Its imperative to incorporate this in our daily regimen to help us achieve optimal health.
How does meditation help achieve optimal health?
- Changes our brain activity in the area that control memory, hormones, and personality.
- Modifies genetic expression in beneficial ways (In as little as 6 weeks!)
- Reduces inflammation
- Associated with increased brain thickness helpful for attention, sensory processing and integration
- Lowers blood pressure and blood sugar
- Enhanced Immunity and improved mood
- Reduces pain
Please click the following links for documents of instructions on mindfulness breathing and meditation.
Mobile Apps to help you with meditation include:
Downloading these will help you implement and stay consistent with you mindfulness program.