The physiological effects of stress on the body and acupuncture’s stress relieving abilities
Stress can have detrimental effects on the body physically and emotionally. Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever increasing demands of life. When you sense danger, whether it’s real or imagined, the body’s defenses kick into gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response. When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper, preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand. This response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, family issues, relationships, finances, or just daily living, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation.
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a toll. Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently.
Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, cause sleep problems, increase pain of any kind, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even leave you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
New research demonstrates that acupuncture exerts medically significant benefits by regulating brain chemistry and inhibits a protein, CRH (corticotrophin releasing hormone) that is released in response to stress. Acupuncture initiates a cascade of biochemical responses that reduce the stress hormones that can have a negative effect on bodily functions, including digestion and immunity.