8 Silent Signs Stress is Mak­ing You Sick

Reader's Digest International - - Contents - BY ALYSSA JUNG

Un­usual Weight Changes

“Stress trig­gers the re­lease of the hor­mone cor­ti­sol, which changes the way you me­tab­o­lize fat, pro­tein, and carbs,” says Dr. Shanna Levine, a pri­mary care physi­cian and clin­i­cal in­struc­tor of medicine at Mount Si­nai Hos­pi­tal in New York City. Stress can also cause you to overeat or un­der­eat. WHAT TO DO Snack on nuts. The pro­tein will help if you’re un­der­eat­ing, and the fiber will fill you up if you’ve been binge­ing.

Break­ing Out in Hives

When your body ex­pe­ri­ences stress, it re­leases a chem­i­cal called his­tamine and—boom—hives galore. When your im­mune sys­tem is weak­ened by stress, your skin can also be­come ir­ri­tated by things it never used to be sen­si­tive to, such as heat, lo­tions, or de­ter­gent. WHAT TO DO Put a cool, damp towel on the af­fected area. If that doesn’t work, take an an­ti­his­tamine.

A Fuzzy Brain

Too much cor­ti­sol can also make it harder to con­cen­trate, caus­ing mem­ory prob­lems as well as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion, says Dr. Levine. WHAT TO DO Re­lax un­til you re­gain your fo­cus. Prac­tice clos­ing your eyes and breath­ing in and out slowly, con­cen­trat­ing only on your breath.

Headaches

It’s com­mon for your mus­cles to tense up when you’re stressed, which can cause a headache. Prone to mi­graines? Stress can trig­ger them or make them worse.

WHAT TO DO If you don’t want to take ibupro­fen, try dab­bing laven­der oil or pep­per­mint oil on your tem­ples when a headache starts.

A Sour Tummy

Stress can cause the body to pro­duce more di­ges­tive acid, which can lead to heart­burn. “It can also slow the emp­ty­ing of food from the stom­ach, which causes gas and bloat­ing and may even in­crease the num­ber of times your colon con­tracts, lead­ing to cramp­ing and di­ar­rhea,” says Deb­o­rah Rhodes, MD, a Mayo Clinic (Min­nesota, USA) in­ter­nal medicine physi­cian.

WHAT TO DO Take an over-the­counter antacid or drink gin­ger tea.

Hair Fall­ing Out

Hair fol­li­cles might be pushed into a rest­ing phase by stress. A few months later, those hairs fall out. Stress can also cause the body’s im­mune sys­tem to at­tack your hair fol­li­cles, re­sult­ing in hair loss. WHAT TO DO Be pa­tient. Once your stress level re­turns to nor­mal, your hair should start grow­ing back.

A Cold That Just Won’t Quit

Stress sup­presses the im­mune sys­tem, which makes it harder to fight off bugs. Re­searchers at Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity in Pennsylvania, USA, in­fected vol­un­teers with a cold virus; those who re­ported that they were deal­ing with many stresses were twice as likely to get sick as those with fewer prob­lems. WHAT TO DO One study found that zinc sup­ple­ments or lozenges can shorten the length of a cold by about a day if taken within 24 hours of feel­ing sick. Med­i­ta­tion, reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, and plenty of sleep can also help you de­stress and boost your im­mune sys­tem.

Acne … Again!

Cor­ti­sol is the cul­prit here, too—it causes skin glands to make more oil. Along with dirt and dead skin cells, the oil can get trapped in­side hair fol­li­cles, pro­duc­ing pim­ples. WHAT TO DO Top­i­cal creams con­tain­ing ben­zoyl per­ox­ide or sal­i­cylic acid can clear up acne if ap­plied reg­u­larly. For a more nat­u­ral ap­proach, wash your face with green tea or dab on some pure aloe. Their an­tibac­te­rial prop­er­ties can pro­mote heal­ing.

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