Is Stress Making You Sick?

The body’s stress response to a situation such as jumping when a balloon pops or feeling butterflies when getting ready to play a sport event, is considered normal and healthy.

What isn’t considered normal or healthy, is when the body is under constant stress without adequate time for recovery. This can lead to poor health, such as putting on weight and promote disease such as diabetes or heart disease.

What Are Some Stressors?

– Poor diet, alcohol, smoking & lack of sleep.

– Illness, medications & environmental toxins.

– Technology and always being “available”.

– Emotional stress – work fears, financial pressure.

– Lack of exercise.

– Psychological stress and life situations.

The Different Phases To Prolonged Stress

Effectively there are 3 phases to the stress response. These different phases are outlined below:

Phase 1: Alarm

The fight or flight response.

The adrenal glands immediately produce adrenaline and cortisol to protect us from danger. This should only be short term and then the body should rest & repair.

What Happens To Our Body At The Alarm Stage?
  • Blood is shuttled to the heart and lungs.
  • More oxygen and glucose is given to muscles and the brain ready for action.
  • Breathing rate and heart rate increases.
  • Digestive function decreases.
  • The body releases energy stores to cope with increased requirements to fight or flight.
Phase 2: Resistance

This allows our body to fight the stress response for longer. Cortisol levels remain elevated and our body doesn’t rest & repair at this phase.

What Happens To Our Body At The Resistance Stage?
  • More hormones are excreted to raise blood sugar levels for continued energy needs.
  • Retention of sodium to keep blood pressure elevated and heart contracting strongly.
  • Depression of the immune system.
  • Increase in anxiety and agitation.
  • Memory and cognition issues.
  • Feeling tired but “wired”.
Phase 3: Exhaustion

The body can no longer maintain the stress response and normal body functions begin to break down.

What Happens To Our Body At The Resistance Stage?
  • Stress hormone production becomes exhausted leading to an inability to cope with stress.
  • Energy reserves run out and you become dependent on stimulating foods such as coffee, processed carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Increase in weight, especially around the middle and not being able to lose it.
  • Dizziness when standing up from either sitting or laying down.
  • You may always feel like you have a cold or an increase in allergies.
  • A feeling of complete mental and physical exhaustion.
  • You may just feel in general unwell, unrested and never feel like you have time out to rest and restore.

Stress and Nutrition

Small changes to your life such as nutritional changes, exercising and regular sleep can make a world of difference.  The foundation of your nutrition is to ensure you are eating real whole foods focusing on high quality protein sources and natural fats found in unprocessed foods. Large amounts of food that contain high amounts of natural sugar, high amounts of added sugar or break down easily to sugar can put you on a blood sugar roller coaster of highs and lows which can significantly impact how you feel and your mood.

Final Word

Recognise the signs that may indicate prolonged stress such as struggling to get out of bed, complete exhaustion during the day, cravings for sugary and processed foods, lack of energy, decreased ability to handle stress, increase time to recover from illness and feelings of a foggy head.

Have you spoken to your health care professional and had tests completed to rule out any major illness?  Testing of your stress hormones and key nutrition parameters such as iron, thyroid, vitamin D levels, vitamin B12 can help understand how your body is coping with stress or if you have any nutrient deficiencies known to impact stress and anxiety levels.  Ensuring the correct testing and analysis from the start enables a more targeted treatment strategy to help recovery and manage stress.


Changes to your diet or nutrition to manage a health condition should only be undertaken with advice from a suitably qualified nutritional health professional.

This factsheet is for general information only. Please contact me to discuss your individual needs.