Like a nasty cold or flu, stress spreads. Stress triggers the release of hormones that affect the body in disruptive ways. And long-term chronic stress can wreak havoc on your mind and body, which is why it's important to take steps to manage stress and relieve some of that muscle tension. If you continue ignoring signs of stress, you may be putting your long-term health and mental well-being at risk.
Read on to find out about the long-term side effects of stress on the body — including hair loss. Plus, learn what you can do to counteract those effects and combat hair loss ASAP.
6 Long-Term Side Effects of Stress
Stress is a normal response to many of the situations you face. However, ongoing, unchecked stress can severely impact your health. Here are six long-term side effects of chronic stress explained.
1. Cardiovascular Disease
Chronic stress has far greater side effects than just hair loss and thinning. Chronic stress has been shown to be associated with increased cardiovascular events, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and strokes.
How does a little stress lead to such serious consequences when it comes to your circulatory system? Under stressful conditions, your heart rate increases, and your blood pressure surges. This is the "fight or flight" response that once aided our ancient ancestors when faced with danger in their environment.
Acute and chronic stress repeatedly triggers this stress response, compounding the effect of high blood pressure. Over long periods of time, stress also can lead to the narrowing of blood vessels and heightened coagulation (blood clotting), which further raises the risk of cardiac events.
2. Weight Gain
The fight or flight response is activated by the release of adrenaline and cortisol from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream. The body needs energy in order to escape the threat, which is why this response also triggers the release of glucose and fats to supply energy to the body. Under normal circumstances, the stress would subside and your body would return to its prior state of functioning. However, like the flight or fight response, chronic stress can cause consistently high glucose levels, which can trigger overeating and cause your body to store more fat.
3. Sleep Problems
Those tricky stress hormones can also lead to chronic fatigue. Too much cortisol can disrupt healthy sleep patterns, causing you to toss and turn throughout the night and even escalate to insomnia. Drinking coffee in an attempt to make up for lack of sleep can actually exacerbate stress levels and significantly affect the amount and quality of sleep you get.
4. Increased Risk of Mental Health Conditions
Prolonged stress can take a toll on your mental health, increasing the risk of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might develop after experiencing an extremely traumatic or stressful event. People suffering from PTSD may find themselves experiencing vivid flashbacks or nightmares, which sends their nervous system into a tailspin. Some evidence suggests the neurotransmitters and hormones involved in the normal stress response may become disrupted during and after the traumatic event.
5. Gastrointestinal Issues
Stress decreases gastrointestinal motility (slowing emptying of the gut), making you feel nauseated, bloated or constipated. Severe stress causes the digestive process to slow or be temporarily disrupted, which can lead to abdominal pain and other symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. One study found that psychologic stress correlated with flare-ups of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis among 1,078 people with inflammatory bowel disease.
6. Hair Thinning and Loss
Increased stress triggers the release of cortisol, which is one of the stress hormones. This sends a signal to your body to release pro-inflammatory cytokines in order to combat the real or perceived threat. Cytokines are proteins that act as messengers between cells and help regulate inflammation. Their presence reduces blood flow to the skin, essentially cutting hair follicles from their nutrient source. This may also cause the scalp to become irritated, sensitive and red, leading to various hair loss conditions.
"Cortisol is overproduced during stressful times and can basically confuse the hair follicle and cause it to go into an irregular dormant state, changing the regular growth cycle," explained Cody Renegar, celebrity hairstylist. "It disrupts cellular communication, and the hair’s reaction is to either stop growing or to release the current follicle, and your hair can actually fall out. Once the stress levels have gone, the normal hair cycle will return, and the hair you usually lost will level out and grow back".
There are a few different types of hair loss, some of which can be triggered by stress.
"Significant emotional stress can be linked to at least one type of hair loss called telogen effluvium," Renegar said. "Individuals experiencing this type of hair loss may notice a sudden increase of shed hairs on their pillowcases, hair on the floor in the household and or a thinner ponytail. This type of hair loss is temporary and should return to its pre-stress state, although this process is generally slow."
Aside from reducing stress, eating a balanced diet can help encourage healthy hair growth.
"Hair is made up of protein (keratin), so having sufficient protein is vital to maintain and grow hair," said Renegar. "Also, be sure to avoid very tight hairstyles, excessive heat styling or chemical-based treatments, as these can contribute to hair loss or cause hair breakage."
A Natural Alternative for Thinning Hair
For those looking to tap into the natural, soothing effects of CBD and therapeutic hemp oil while stimulating healthy hair and reducing scalp inflammation, look no further than GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum. Free of harmful chemicals, carcinogens or side effects, this cruelty-free serum is formulated with powerful phyto-actives that can increase visible hair density while reducing the appearance of shedding to bring you thicker, fuller hair.
GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum contains microencapsulated full-spectrum hemp oil, in addition to the potent plant actives found in our original hair serum. Our formula is unique due to the fact that we've reduced the size of the hemp molecule from 2,000 nanometers down to 100-150 nanometers. This enables the molecule to penetrate to the upper level of the dermis, reaching the root of hair follicles and enabling other powerful ingredients — mung bean, red clover, curcumin and nicotiana benthamiana — to penetrate more deeply as well.
Combat Stress Via a Holistic Approach
As you can probably tell from the number and severity of these long-term effects, stress can greatly affect your physical and mental health. But by reducing stress, you can bolster your immune system and reduce the negative effects of stress. Healthy habits like eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and incorporating probiotic supplements into your daily routine can go a long way when it comes to preventing stress from impacting your overall health.
Rest and recovery are also crucial for relieving stress. Unwind from the day before bed with a few relaxation techniques, including breathing techniques, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation. These practices can aid in managing stress by quieting your mind and increasing feelings of calmness so you can get some high-quality sleep. And don't forget to support your hair wellness. By using products designed to encourage healthy hair growth and decrease shedding, your hair will be better able to weather any bouts of stress you experience.
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