Stress: A Source of Dis-ease

Stress is prevalent in our society and throughout the world today. How our body responds to stress impacts our overall state of health.  When trauma is involved in the creation of stress, it results in a maladaptive response that adversely impacts our health creating a state of dis-ease. 

 

The stress response begins with perception of danger.  A part of our brain known as the hypothalamus responds to this alert by activating the sympathetic nervous system, which signals the release of epinephrine from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream.  This results in heart rate elevation, increased pulse, increased blood pressure, and the opening of airway passages (bronchodilation) with increased oxygenation to the brain heightening our state of alertness; in essence we are ready for “fight or flight”. After the initial surge of epinephrine passes, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated by the hypothalamus.  The HPA axis functions to maintain the heightened state of alertness created by the epinephrine release.  When the brain continues to perceive a threat it triggers the release of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus.  CRH travels to the anterior pituitary where it triggers the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).  The ACTH then travels to the adrenal glands triggering the release of cortisol, which is responsible for regulating stress.  It is the level of cortisol that determines how long we stay in the hyper vigilant state.  Here is a diagram to demonstrate the process:

 

 

 

The human body has a powerful ability to adapt and maintain homeostasis. However, when we are exposed to chronic low levels of stress, often related to trauma, it disrupts the regulation of cortisol and a constant state of hyper vigilance in the body occurs, creating dis-ease.

 

Initially, this dis-ease is often quiet, with internal shifts that gradually express themselves outward. It begins as a deep emotional injury, which often affects psychosocial functioning and mental state of well-being.  Affected individuals are often fearful of being around other people or withdrawn when they are. The next layer this progresses to is the myofascia, a sheath like layer of connective tissue that covers all of our muscles.  It becomes a reservoir for this stored tension and emotional disruption that inherently creates changes in cellular memory in the muscle and underlying tissues through chronic low levels of inflammation created by chronic stress.  The inflammation and tension in the myofascia disrupt the normal functioning of internal organs, particularly digestion, as well as underlying bones and joints.   This results in the external, outward symptoms of increased illness, aches and pains that are the primary focus of traditional allopathic medicine.  By the time these symptoms present themselves in the physical body, much dis-ease has been created internally by stress.

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Much love and gratitude,

Kriste