6 key effects of stress on the body

Table of Contents

It’s natural to feel stressed at different times in our lives. From micro stresses such as deadlines and traffic to more prolonged episodes of difficulty, we all succumb to the negative aspects of anxiety from time to time.

When we feel stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is released into the body as part of our ‘fight or flight’ response. Whilst this is natural, too much stress can have a negative impact on our health.

From our skin to our digestion, the tell-tale indicators of stress can manifest in many ways and it’s important to be aware of the warning signs.

Lowered immunity

Feel like you’re always under the weather? When we’re experiencing prolonged bouts of stress, immune cells can be suppressed, reducing our ability to fight off germs. This makes us more vulnerable to infections.

Increasing levels of stress in our busy, never-shut-off lives means we’re at higher risk of autoimmune conditions as our immune systems are put under pressure.

Skin flare ups

Cortisol can be responsible for many unwanted effects, no less bad skin. It’s thought that the stress hormone triggers inflammation in the skin, leading to issues such as eczema, acne, psoriasis and rosacea.

During flare ups of these nature, the impact on confidence can cause a vicious stress cycle which can be hard to break.

Low Libido and reduced fertility

When we’re stressed, passion is often the last thing on our minds. It’s not just the situation we’re in but the physical effect of the stress which can have an impact on our sex hormones.

The structure of cortisol, our stress hormone, is similar to the male and female sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. When our body sees an increase in cortisol, it regulates the other hormones in order to cope with the flood of stress which can see us kissing goodbye to amorous feelings.


Despite feeling tired, when you’re suffering with stress, you may notice difficulty getting off to sleep and when you do nod off, restless or disturbed sleep throughout the night, leaving you feeling less than refreshed the next day.

Stress hormones play a big part in disrupting our sleep cycles as our adrenal glands struggle to regulate. It doesn’t take much of a sleep deficit to begin to have a knock-on effect on other areas of our health.

Digestive problems

There is a good reason our gut is referred to as the ‘second brain’. The two are connected by the vagus nerve which helps explain why, when we’re nervous, our tummy tells us about it!

Stress can wreak havoc on the delicate balance in our gut, leading to many of the signs and symptoms of IBS such as bloating, constipation and diaahoea.

Food intolerances

When cells in the digestive tract are damaged, food proteins can pass through in a condition known as ‘leaky gut. This is when food intolerances can occur, leading to a host of other inflammatory responses as the immune systems send out warning responses to the perceived ‘threat’.

A compromised gut, as a result of stress, doesn’t have the necessary protective bacteria to prevent this response

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