20 Ways Stress Harms The Body Plus Top 10 Foods To Reduce Stress [Infographic]

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Stress is a feeling of tension whenever we are under pressure, and it is the body’s natural response to the stressors in our environment. [1] Many things can trigger stress, including sudden change, difficulty, pain, unpleasant circumstances or even simple imagery.

Momentary stresses are regarded as being not as bad for the body. Sometimes, when we are faced with a dangerous situation, our nervous system produces larger amounts of the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol which results to quicker pulse, faster breathing, tense muscles, and increased oxygen usage of the brain. In short bursts, this can boost the immune system and provide us with the energy we need to deal with a situation. However, in chronic stress, levels of these chemicals in the body are elevated for prolonged periods, which is not good for health. [2]

20 Ways Stress Harms The Body

1. Upset stomach. When you’re stressed, you may feel a tingling sensation in your stomach, and may even vomit if it is severe enough. If the stress is chronic, you may develop ulcers.

2. High blood sugar levels. During a fight-or-flight situation where the liver produces more glucose, the sugar is normally reabsorbed by the blood. But for people whose bodies are unable to control blood sugar properly, this could eventually result in diabetes.

3. Obesity or weight loss. Whenever you’re stressed, you tend to eat more – or less – than you usually do.

4. Diarrhea and constipation. Stress affects your body’s digestion and how fast the food moves through your body, which may cause diarrhea and constipation.

5. Erectile dysfunction. For men, chronic stress can affect testosterone and sperm production, and could even lead to erectile dysfunction and impotence.

6. Irregular menstruation. For women, high levels of stress are associated with absent or irregular menstrual cycles.

7. Cardiovascular problems. The consistent increase in heart rate during chronic stress can increase the risk for heart attack, hypertension, and stroke.

8. Asthma attacks. Stress makes you breathe rapidly, which can be a problem for people with asthma and lung diseases.

9. Tension-type headache and migraine. The muscles in our body tense up whenever we’re stressed. When the muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, it can cause headaches and migraine.

10. Hyperventilation or panic attacks.

11.Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). Before their period, women who are stressed may experience painful abdominal cramps, bloating, and mood swings.

12. Musculoskeletal problems. Muscle tension may eventually lead to muscular atrophy and other stress-related musculoskeletal problems.

13. Inflammation of the coronary arteries. Persistent chronic stress may contribute to the inflammation of the coronary arteries, and could also lead to heart attack.

14. Heartburn. Stress, exhaustion, and increased use of alcohol and tobacco may result in heartburn.

15. Long-term drain on the body. Chronic stress causes the nervous system to constantly trigger physical reactions, resulting to a wear-and-tear of the body.

16. Menopause. Stress causes the symptoms of menopause to intensify, especially hot flashes, anxiety, and mood swings.

17. Decreased sexual desire. Along with distraction and fatigue, stress may reduce sexual desire especially among women.

18. Skin problems. Chronic stress worsens psoriasis, rosacea, and eczema. It may also cause hives, rashes, and fever blisters. [9]

19. Memory deterioration. Exposure to chronic stress accelerates memory deterioration and aging. [10]

20. Drug addiction. Stress can cause changes in the brain similar to those caused by drugs, which makes stressed-out people more vulnerable to drug relapse. [11]

10 Foods That Reduce Stress

1. Blueberries. They’re rich in antioxidants and vitamin C which helps repair and protect the cells whenever you’re stressed. [4]

2. Avocado. Avocados have plenty of B vitamins which help promote healthy nerves and brain cells. They are also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium which help lower blood cholesterol. [4]

3. Almonds. Munching on these vitamin B2 and vitamin E rich snacks boosts the immune system which helps protect the body against diseases. [4]

4. Salmon. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids that help keep adrenaline and cortisol from spiking up and protect your heart whenever you’re stressed. [4]

5. Orange. The vitamin C in oranges are also known to effectively lower cortisol levels in the body. [4]

6. Spinach. Leafy greens such as spinach contains magnesium which regulates cortisol levels and provides a feeling of comfort and well-being. [4]

7. Lemon balm tea. Drinking lemon balm tea, which has antioxidants, reduces stress and improves metabolism. [5]

8. Dark chocolate. It reduces the cortisol levels of the body, and the antioxidants in the cocoa repairs the cells in the body. [6]

9. Grapefruit. Grapefruit has an outstanding antioxidant activity that helps fight stress and boosts the immune system. [7]

10. Carrots. Carrots contain carotenoids, which fight oxidative stress and boost the immune system as well. [8]


[1] Nordqvist, C. 2015. What Is Stress? How to Deal With Stress

[2] Fact Sheets on Stress

[3] Stress Effects on the Body

[4] Zuckerbrot, T. Eat to Beat Stress: 10 Foods That Reduce Anxiety

[5] Arceusz, A. et al. 2015. Flavonoids and Phenolic Acids in Methanolic Extracts, Infusions and Tinctures from Commercial Samples of Lemon Balm.

[6] Warner, J. 2009. Dark Chocolate Takes Bite Out of Stress

[7] Castro-Vasquez, L. et al. 2016. Bioactive Flavonoids, Antioxidant Behaviour, and Cytoprotective Effects of Dried Grapefruit Peels (Citrus paradisi Macf.).

[8] Butalla, A. 2012. Effects of a carrot juice intervention on plasma carotenoids, oxidative stress, and inflammation in overweight breast cancer survivors.

[9] How Stress Affects the Skin

[10] Sandi, C. 2007. Neural Plasticity and Memory: From Genes to Brain Imaging

[11] Stocker, S. 1999. Studies Link Stress and Drug Addiction.


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