6 Ways Stress Affects the Body

stressed woman

Guest blogger, health coach and personal trainer, Danielle Reynolds talks about how stress affects the body and what you can do to address it.

Stress is your body’s natural response to potential danger which not only affects your mental well-being, but your physical and emotional health. If left untreated, stress can wreak havoc on multiple systems throughout your body, including your:

  • Muscular system

  • Immune system

  • Digestive system

  • Reproductive system

  • Endocrine system

Stress in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it protects you from harm’s way. However, in an overwhelming fast paced environment stress can become more chronic and less temporary, leading to a wide variety of health problems. I see this all of the time in my clients. Like so many people, they get in a rut of accepting chronic and high levels of stress as being “just part of life” and begin to wonder why they aren’t feeling well, are tired, having mood swings and possibly gaining weight.

How can you tell if stress is having a negative impact on your well-being? Your body is probably trying to tell you something but are you listening?

Here are 6 ways to tell if your body is asking for help!

1. You can’t sleep

sad woman

Almost everyone will agree that lack of sleep is not only exhausting physically but also mentally. No one feels good after getting less than a good night’s sleep and you may even begin feeling sick or run down, have difficulty focusing or concentrating, experience mood swings or need to take naps during the day.

Sleep is vital in maintaining normal body function. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke explains that sleep is a way for your body to remove toxins from your brain, maintain the ability to learn, create memories and concentrate. If you are not getting enough quality sleep, you may be increasing your risk for chronic medical problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and obesity.

2. You aren’t making good food choices

french fries

When the body is under stress the adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol. This hormone not only increases appetite but causes higher insulin levels leading to low blood sugar and food cravings. You may notice that during times of stress you begin to crave unhealthy sugary and fatty foods.

Cortisol levels become elevated when your body feels threatened in some way…when you are in “fight-or-flight” mode. This may not seem like such a terrible thing, however, when your body is in a chronic state of stress, these high cortisol levels can lead to changes in weight, how your immune system fights invaders and increases your risk for developing chronic diseases.

Elevated levels of cortisol may increase your risk of developing certain chronic medical problems like:

  • Diabetes and blood sugar imbalances

  • Weight gain

  • Lowered immune system function

  • Gastrointestinal problems

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Problems with fertility like erectile dysfunction and changes in menstruation and ovulation

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Thyroid disease

  • Depression

  • Dementia​

3. Problems with digestion


Many will argue that the gut is the source of balance for your body’s entire natural ecosystem. Thus, when your gut health is not optimal, your entire natural ecosystem is compromised.

Stress can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms and conditions like:

  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

  • Inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Food antigen-related problems

  • Development of certain ulcers including peptic ulcers

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

When it comes to gut health a good variety of robust flora is the goal!

4. You have tight muscles

tight muscles, chiropractor

Most people who are stressed explain that their body hurts. Their muscles are tense, cramped and tired. When the body is under stress our muscles tend to tighten up and often times do not easily release.

This type of muscle tension can cause symptoms like:

  • headaches

  • shoulder pain

  • generalized body aches

5. You are feeling depressed and/or anxious