The Stress Series - the body's response to stress

Posted at 12:30 pm on 06/17/2014
​June 17, 2014 8:34am

The Physiology of Stress

Good Morning,

I wanted to continue with our stress series this morning by discussing how stress causes physical effects on parts of the body.  I hope you had a chance to take the assessment yesterday that places you in categories of stress based on life events.  The higher your stress level the greater your risk for something detrimental happening to your body.

Today I'll start with a quick layman's anatomy and physiology course with definitions, and then specifically talk about what the cause and effect relationship is to the body.  As you read this today please leave me your comments or questions if you want more clarification or if I failed to explain something.

Hypothalamus - Makes hormones with the help of the pituitary (master gland).  The front part of the pituitary in called the anterior and sends hormones into the blood stream.  Next is the back portion of the pituitary called the posterior that interacts with the body's tissue.  The following hormones are the ones that get released, and what they do to the body:

  1. TRH-- Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone - controls energy and appetite.
  2. PRH-- Prolactin Releasing Hormone - makes breast milk
  3. PIH-- Prolactin Release-Inhibiting Hormone - stops production when not necessary
  4. CRH-- Corticotropin Releasing Hormone - This hormone affects ACTH release from the anterior pituitary - controls fluid levels in the body and blood pressure.
  5. GnRH-- Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone - makes the sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and two involved in making and fertilizing an egg - LH / FSH
  6. GHRH-- Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone - helps the body develop and grow.
  7. SS-- Somatostatin - controls the bodies release of enzymes used in digestion.

When a stressful event occurs it can trigger a cascade of chemical reactions where all these hormones listed above can be released appropriately or inappropriately, and cause effects on the human body.  Here is what happens to our bodies:

Brain - headaches, feeling of despair, decreased energy, sadness, nervousness, anger, irritable, loss of appetite, decreased ability to focus and remember events, insomnia, panic attacks which can lead to anxiety disorders.

Skin - acne or blemishes

Muscles/Joints - aches, pain, and tension through the neck, shoulders, and back.  Stress also can affect the density of our bones.

Heart - increased heart rate / blood pressure, and increased cholesterol

Stomach - nausea, diarrhea, increased acid production, and weight gain by affecting hormones that make us hungry or feel full.

Pancreas - increased risk of diabetes with abnormal blood sugar levels.

Immune System - decreased ability to fight off illness.

Now that you have a better idea of the physical effects of stress I encourage you to monitor how your body responds to the stress in your life.  Tomorrow I'll delve into how we respond to stress, and then follow up with ways to manage the stress in our lives that creates positive changes.  Have a great day, and please let me know your thoughts.  It would be so helpful to know if you found this valuable or if there were things that need changing.  Take care.


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