Stress and the Endocrine System

endocrine_systemThe endo…what? I’ll give you a hint, it’s not what you do when you go over your handlebars. In simplest terms, it is a system of glands, each of which secretes a type of hormone directly into the bloodstream to regulate the body. The endocrine system is in contrast to the exocrine system, which secretes its chemicals using ducts. The endocrine system influences almost every cell, organ, and function in our bodies. It is instrumental in regulating mood, tissue function, metabolism, and reproductive processes to name a few.

So how is this system involved with stress? When the body is stressed, the glands of our endocrine system start to produce stress hormones. These hormones are released into the body and in response, the liver produces glucose, raising our blood sugar and keeping us in our ‘fight or flight’ sympathetic nervous system response when we don’t need to be there. Basically, it inhibits our ability to relax and recover from stress.

The ability to recover from stress and to remove ourselves from stress is very important in overall healthy function of the body.  Our society lends to a life of sympathetic nervous system living and not parasympathetic healing.  As a whole, we need more time in the parasympathetic nervous system response and ‘down time’ is the way to get there.  I’m not talking about down time in front of the television while folding laundry.  I’m referring to meditation, massage, relaxation in nature, sleep – I’m referring to time spent nurturing your soul and rejuvenating your systems.  Time away from a hectic schedule: working, training/exercise (yes, exercise is a form of stress & in moderation can help relieve stress – find balance), giving & caring for others (again, has it’s benefits, but it may take it’s toll if you do not make time to care for yourself) – make time for your healing and recovery.

The Endocrine System

  • Helps the body to restore and heal itself
  • Develops of a restful sleep pattern
  • Promotes appropriate levels of hormones (bringing the immune system back in balance)

Benefits of massage on the Endocrine System

  • increases general circulation in endocrine system and thus helps in transport of hormones
  • indirectly aids immune system, as some hormones produce lymphocytes to aid in immunization
  • normalizes endocrine activity through balancing effect on ANS (autonomic nervous system)
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Stress and the Immune System

The immune system is very complex and functions to seek and destroy bodily invasions. It is responsible for identifying everything that is foreign to our systems and protect us from infection. This is a system I recommend taking care of; you see, high levels of stress that go untreated will suppress your immune system, preventing it from working at 100% of its ability.

The effects of stress on the immune system are many and include, but are not limited to: weakened defenses, lower resistance to infections and viral illnesses, as well as, increased susceptibility to allergies and malignant cell changes that encourage the growth and spread of cancer.

Unfortunately, we have come to live in a highly toxic environment, therefore it is as important as ever to support healthy function of your immune system. I recommend regular massage to reduce stress and strengthen your immunity, and in the short term, try a good laugh! Stress constricts blood vessels, weakening our immune system and ability to fight off disease. Studies have shown that laughter (& massage therapy) lowers levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and in effect, reverses the constriction of blood vessels, helping to support better immune function.

Massage Therapy & The Lymphatic System

  • Cleanses the body of wastes and toxic debris in the body
  • Increases the circulation of lymph
  • Stimulates the immune system (strengthens resistance to disease)
  • Reduces edema of the extremities (arms and legs)
  • Removal of lactic acid from fatigued and sore muscles (promotes quick recovery)
  • Increases kidney action to remove wastes of protein metabolism
  • Increases retention of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur to aid in bone repair
  • Speeds recovery from illness

Stress and the Circulatory System

circulatory systemThe circulatory system comprises the heart, along with all the arteries, veins, capillaries, and blood. These major organs and tissues have a host of responsibilities for keeping the body alive. One of those responsibilities is to move oxgenated blood throughout the body and return deoxygenated blood to the heart and lungs. Oxgenated blood allows all the organs, tissues, and the body as a whole to function normally.

Cardiovascular disease is the general term for diseases of the circulatory system, commonly the heart, arteries and veins. It is believed that the stress hormones make blood thicker and thicker blood clots more easily. Chronic stress could cause blood clots to form within the bloodstream and impact blood getting to and from the heart. This specifically leads to strokes. It is well documented that stress has a substantial affect on the heart – physically, physiologically, and emotionally.

It has been shown that massage will act as a second heart, pumping blood 5 times as fast to the area being worked. Massage has nothing but positive effects on the circulatory system. So please, don’t let your stress go untreated. Massage Therapy can provide the following benefits to your Circulatory System:

  • Increases blood flow (to tissues and organs), which can relieve much muscular and joint pain (especially associated with swelling)
  • Increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients (to cells and tissues), improving and relieving congestion throughout the body
  • Increases the number of red blood cells, especially in cases of anemia
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduces heart rate (helps develop a stronger heart)
  • Elimination of metabolic waste
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Stress and Athletic Performance

bicicalistsBefore, during or even after a sporting event, stress can affect you in many ways which will determine the outcome of your performance. The need for athletes to be focused in training and competition is of utmost importance. Under the negative effects of stress, psychological tension may develop and distract you from staying focused. This, in turn adversely affects  your performance.

In addition to the psychological tension, your body may experience negative physical effects of stress. It may be in the form of muscle tightening which will affect your body’s coordination, speed and fluidity of movement, as well as the outcome of your performance.

Stress has reportedly been the cause of many poor performances among athletes. So, as we find ourselves in the midst of another busy race season please be sure to schedule your massage sessions.  Massage therapy will help you reduce stress and maximize your potential.

Massage Therapy & The Muscular System

  • Relieves soreness, tension, and stiffness
  • Improves muscle tone
  • Increases flexibility and range of motion of joints
  • Improves the flow of nutrients to muscles and joints, accelerating recovery from fatigue and injury
  • Reduces scar tissue
  • Breaks down or prevents adhesions (knots)
  • Speeds recovery from exercise
  • Enhances freedom of movement
  • Prevents or delays muscular atrophy, resulting from inactivity caused by injury, age, surgery, or illness
  • Increases physical confidence
  • Relieves cramps and muscle spasms
  • Reduces pain and swelling

Massage Therapy & The Skeletal System

  • Improves posture/body alignment
  • Relieve stiff joints
  • Decreases inflammation
  • Restores range of motion (increasing joint movement)
  • Releases joint strain (releasing tight muscles and tendons)
  • Releases restrictions in the fascia (connected tissues)
  • Improves the circulation / nutrients to your joints

Massage Therapy & The Respiratory System

  • Develops respiratory muscles
  • Regulates respiration
  • Promotes deeper and easier breathing

How Does Stress Affect Us?

Stress-ZebraStripes Stress is a fact of life and a necessity in many cases but left unaddressed, stress can wreak havoc on your body systems and interfere with the intelligent workings of your body.  Simply put, general health will be impaired and ill effects unavoidable.

So, how does stress affect us?  Before we can answer this question we must know what stress is. Simply put, stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physiological, physical, mental, and emotional responses.

Stress, to varying degrees, is a normal part of life and our body, mind, and spirit is designed to experience and react to stress. Stress can be positive, in that it helps to keep us alert and ready to avoid danger. Additionally, positive life events (such as: a new relationship, wedding, birth of a child, a new home, new career, even exercise, etc.) are all stress inducing events.

Stress, as we know, can also be negative and without relief or relaxation, it will negatively affect every system in our body. In future posts, I will be highlighting the different systems of the body and how stress affects those systems.

Here are some interesting statistics on stress:

– It is now believed that 80% – 90% of all disease is stress induced
– 75% – 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress related ailments and complaints
– Emotional disorders are more than 50% due to chronic, untreated reactions to stress
– 43% of adults suffer adverse health effects from stress
– OSHA estimates that stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually

My intent is to help you understand just how important it is to allow yourself to experience stress relief – it is well worth the time and cost, I assure you. Whether you are an elite athlete, a corporate executive, college student, or average joe, we all need to be active participants in our own care and quality of life.

So please, make time in your life for regular massage; let me support you in living a healthy life.