When we experience stress, cortisol (a stress fighting hormone) is released, resulting in metabolic acidosis. Cortisol’s acidic nature can cause a breakdown of lymphoid tissue and impede lymphatic flow.
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Stress and its effect on the lymphatic system
What is stress?
Feelings of being under too much mental or emotional pressure can turn into stress once you feel unable to cope. Whilst a normal part of everyday life, people have different ways of reacting to stress as well as different tolerance levels with some getting stressed more easily than others. It can affect your state of mind as well as how you behave.
Emotionally you may feel:
- Lacking in self-esteem
Mentally you may have:
- Racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Difficulty concentrating & making decisions
Physically you may experience:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Sleep problems
- Feeling tired all the time
Stress may cause you to:
- Drink or smoke more
- Eat too much or too little
- Get angry at people easily
- Avoid problems or isolate yourself
How does stress affect the Lymphatic System?
When we experience stress, cortisol (a stress fighting hormone) is released, resulting in metabolic acidosis. Cortisol’s acidic nature can cause a breakdown of lymphoid tissue and impede lymphatic flow. Chronic exposure to cortisol can in also suppress immune function, reducing the circulation of protective antibodies and thus increasing our susceptibility to infection and disease.
This reduction of lymphatic flow can also compromise our digestive system, resulting in bloating, constipation and weight gain. In our earlier blog ‘The lymphatic system and fat digestion’ we learned about the fundamental role the lymphatic system plays in the absorption and transportation of the fats we eat, and how a healthy, free-flowing lymphatic system is essential in keeping the millions and millions of tiny lymphatic vessels (lacteals) lining our small intestines free from congested fat and toxins.
This is of particular concern, as stress will often involve some form of overeating – especially the kind of foods that will be high in sugar, salt and – of course – fat!
Ways to reduce your stress levels
When you feel yourself start to feel stressed the best thing you can do is work out the cause. Three steps to go through when you are feeling stressed:
- Realise when it is causing you a problem: Try to make the connection between feeling tired or ill and the pressures you are faced with. Look out for physical warnings such as mood swings, over-tiredness, headaches or migraines.
- Identify the causes: Sort the possible reasons for your stress. If you are getting stressed over something you have no control over, try to release the worry.
- Review your lifestyle: Could you be taking on too much? Are there things you are doing which could be handed over to someone else? To act on the answer to these questions, you need to organise things and make sure you aren’t trying to do everything at once.
Simple stress-relieving tips
- Eat well: There is a growing amount of evidence showing how food affects our mood and how eating healthily can improve this. You can safeguard your feelings of wellbeing by ensuring that your diet provides adequate amounts of nutrients such as essential vitamins and minerals from a variety of fresh foods
- Drink more water: Stress causes dehydration and dehydration causes stress! The link between water and stress reduction is well documented and studies have shown that being just half a litre dehydrated can increase cortisol levels
- Exercise: Try and integrate physical exercise into your lifestyle as it can be very effective in relieving stress. This does not necessarily mean hitting the gym to run on a treadmill for 60 minutes a day; a brisk 20-30 minute walk three or four times a week will be tremendously helpful for your mental well-being.
- Take time out: Strike the balance between responsibility to others and responsibility to yourself; it is perfectly okay to prioritise self-care!
- Be mindful: Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere at any time and research has suggests that it can reduce the effects of stress, anxiety and related problems such as insomnia, poor concentration and low moods.
- Get some sleep: Are you finding you are struggling to sleep? This is a common problem when you’re stressed. Simple tips like having a bath just before bed, drinking warm milk or a cup of mint tea and putting a couple of drops of lavender oil on your pillow can all help with falling asleep.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself: Try to keep things in perspective. Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience. If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up. Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself.
How can the Body Ballancer help?
Clinically designed specifically to boost lymphatic flow, a course of Body Ballancer massages will not only help improve overall lymphatic health, it will also eliminate any build-up of cortisol caused by stress and anxiety. Its gentle, rhythmic action has also been shown to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality in as little as a single treatment.
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