We all know that stress is not great for our bodies. Stress can have a negative impact on diet, sleep and exercise, causing illness, fertility problems, weight gain and more.
But one of the biggest side-effects of stress in our bodies is actually candida overgrowth. There are a lot of things that contribute to an overgrowth of candida albicans, including diet, lifestyle and history of antibiotic use (read more here), but stress — and more specifically the way in which our bodies respond to it — is one of the biggest factors in both causing and helping to cure candida overgrowth.
Stress wreaks havoc on our immune system
When you experience physical, emotional or mental stress, the first thing that happens is your adrenal glands are activated. They work quickly to release hormones into your body, most notably cortisol, which is a particularly inflammatory hormone. Cortisol works to activate your immune system so that your body can respond to the stressor quickly. But after this initial rush, if stress is prolonged, it actually can have the opposite effect. As I mentioned, cortisol can cause inflammation in your body. Studies have shown that after a rise in inflammation due to cortisol, your immune system’s cells are operating at 40-70% lower than their baseline.
Stress isn’t always bad. There are “good” kinds of stress on our bodies, like physical stress from working out, for example. But chronic, mismanaged and/or prolonged stress is detrimental to our immune systems and leaves us vulnerable to candida overgrowth. Like stress, inflammation can be beneficial at times too, although when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to unhealthy levels of inflammation in our bodies. The more stressed your body becomes, inflammation becomes your body’s way of responding to that stress.
Candida albicans is known as an “opportunistic” fungus, as it usually will only cause issues in those who are immunocompromised. By allowing stress to get out of hand, you may trigger inflammation in your body and suppress your immune system, thus making you a target for candida overgrowth.
The link between stress and digestion
Stress can also negatively effect our digestion in many ways. There’s actually something called the “brain-gut axis” that studies the connection between psychological and social stress responses and digestive problems. When you get stressed enough to go into fight or flight mode, your digestion will actually stop, so that all blood and energy can be directed toward the brain and other parts your body determines are needed to face the threat. There is even a connection with something less stressful. If you’ve ever had to speak publicly for example, and been stressed or worried about it, you may have felt cramping or other gastrointestinal symptoms. This is a sign that your body is facing stress and shutting down or slowing your digestion as a result. Repeatedly shutting down or stalling digestion as a result of stress leaves your gut compromised and open to candida overgrowth.
You can help your body fight stress
I myself am guilty of letting stress get WAY out of control sometimes, especially these days when trying to juggle new motherhood, work, schoolwork, blogging and building my health coaching business all at once. It’s hard to make time for myself and to prioritize de-stressing activities!
Some of the following have been critical for me as I work everyday to manage my stress:
- Going for a walk outside
- Taking my dog or baby to the park to play
- Prioritizing a healthy diet
- Making time for family
- Making time specifically for myself
- Essential oils
- Taking a relaxing bath
- Deep breathing
- Taking moments to ground myself when I feel like I’m spinning. While closing my eyes, I sit with my feet both touching the floor and just feel my body connecting with the earth
How do you help yourself de-stress and relax? Now that you know the connection between stress and candida, I challenge you to prioritize relaxation and de-stressing activities in your life every day too!
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