11 harmful things stress is doing to your body

6. Making you eat unhealthily

“It’s common for people who are stressed to have a poor diet or to overeat,” says Hipgrave. “One factor is that stressed people will often be short on time and resort to unhealthy fast foods.

“People who are in a stressed state in the short term may lose their appetite, this is because part of the brain called the hypothalamus produces a corticotropin-releasing hormone, which suppresses appetite.

“But people who are chronically stressed (for a long period of time) release cortisol, which increases your appetite, especially for sweet and starchy foods.”

7. Causing hair loss

“You’d be amazed by how your mind can control what goes on in your body,” says Sara Allison, trichologist and founder of Hair Today More Tomorrow. “Stress can cause so many health problems including hair loss.”

Allison says it is important to relax as much as possible, whether that’s through exercise, meditation, massages or anything that can help you de-stress.

“If you do have hair problems, please don’t stress about is as this will only make it worse. Hair loss and thinning is usually reversible if you get the right help and support.”

8. Shutting down certain body functions

Ever get the feeling you just can’t think straight because of stress? That’s because as the body releases cortisol to help regulate our stress, at the same time it shuts bodily functions which are not immediately needed, such as digestion.

“When we are in this mode the blood diversion subsequently ‘shuts down’ unnecessary functions – a crucial one of which is brainpower,” says NLP practitioner Tam Johnston from Fresh Insight Coaching.

“Fight mode is still useful if you need to get out of a dangerous situation. But, in the main, it kicks in at the most inappropriate times and creates that feeling of ‘I just can’t think straight’.

“This inability to think is a real hindrance in both our work and home lives.”

9. Weakening your immune system

Research suggests you could be more vulnerable to flu or cold if you are stressed. “In prolonged cases of stress, your body can trigger off inflammation in certain areas,” adds Johnson.

“This can be the cause of exacerbating many well-known inflammatory conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome as well as autoimmune conditions, where the body starts attacking itself.”

10. Causing ‘the cortisol effect’

“To add another level to the physiological effects of stress on the body, let’s come back to the cortisol effect,” says Shona Wilkinson of SuperfoodUK.

“Cortisol is made from cholesterol in the body but it’s not the only hormone that is. It’s also needed for progesterone, oestrogen, DHEA and testosterone.

“If our cortisol is in demand, and therefore constantly being manufactured, then it can affect the production and utilisation of all these other hormones, which then begins to impact on our overall health.

“Prolonged stress response can end up making our adrenals exhausted, leading to them not producing enough cortisol. This is similar to how people develop insulin resistance when their pancreas is expected to produce insulin at a high rate.”

11. Giving you bad posture

“The body is directly affected by the stress,” says yoga and meditation teacher Chris James, founder of Chris James Mind Body. “When you experience stress, your muscles tighten and breath flow decreases.

“Responses to stress are reflected corporally in a person’s posture, which will alter according to where and how tension is held in various parts of the body.”

James says stress can also affect the alignment of the neck, where most people tend to hold their tension, causing the head to come forward or the chin to jut out.

“Stress and tension can also be carried in the jaw and face and tension in the shoulders may cause them to round.”