Stress and Sympathetic Nervous System Response
We all know that stress is bad for us, but what is really going on behind the scenes when we are in a stressed-out state? When we are stressed out, we are engaging our sympathetic nervous system, also known as a “fight or flight”. The sympathetic system is necessary for our survival, but being stuck in this state can have a negative impact on our overall health, especially if we are stressed out daily and engaging in this “fight or flight” system, we can cause more harm than good.
A constant engagement of the sympathetic nervous system can increase anxiety, keeping us in an anxious/nervous state that never seems to end, turning into a constantly stressed-out state that can affect our mental health and quality of life. We want to address stress and restore balance or homeostasis in our bodies, which is exactly what our endocannabinoid system controls.
When we are stressed, blood is shunted away from our digestive tract, which can have a negative impact on our gut health by messing with our ability to digest food and absorb nutrients, ultimately leading to possible nutrient deficiencies, which can lower our health even further. We need to lower our stress and use something health promoting to do it with!
We know that 70% of our immune system is also located within our GI tract, therefore being in a constant stressed out state will lower our immune system and when you add nutrient deficiencies and decrease GI tract blood flow, it is a double-edged sword.
When we are stressed out, our adrenal glands will produce adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone and although they serve a purpose, too much can be a huge problem. Cortisol is released from our adrenal glands, which increases blood sugar levels, so we have a source of energy during our “fight or flight” state. However, constant cortisol release results in consistently high blood sugar levels, which leads to chronic inflammation and high circulating blood sugar.
High sugar levels in our blood stream are detrimental to our tissues and organs because it is considered toxic and damaging, which can cause permanent damage to our kidneys, nervous system, blood vessels, and eyes (1). High blood sugar can contribute to high blood pressure (hypertension), type II diabetes, vascular inflammation, plaque deposition (atherosclerosis), cholesterol issues, and obesity, so addressing excessive cortisol release is important when talking about stress.
Stress can contribute to system wide inflammation from head to toe, from the inside out that will cause a snowball effect when it comes to our health and set up the very foundation that contributes to many disease processes.
So, how can we slow or stop cortisol release when stressed?
CBD was shown to decrease the amount of cortisol that is released when we are in a stressed state by the adrenal glands, and because of the anti-inflammatory properties it also addresses inflammation at the same time (2).
They could not invent a pill that has all the benefits that cannabinoids have, even if they tried. What makes me most upset is that we all deal with stress daily and studies have shown how beneficial cannabinoids like CBD are when managing stress, yet no one knows about it. The study that discusses how CBD can lower cortisol (which benefits type II diabetes as well as many chronic diseases) was published 30 years ago (1993).
This is why I love cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. They are safe, effective, and give us a healthy alternative to addressing stress, lower cortisol release, regulate blood sugar, improve our mood and mental health, all while addressing inflammation at a cellular level.
One amazing herb with seemingly endless benefits.
- Petrie, J. R., Guzik, T. J., & Touyz, R. M. (2018). Diabetes, Hypertension, and Cardiovascular Disease: Clinical Insights and Vascular Mechanisms. The Canadian journal of cardiology, 34(5), 575–584. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cjca.2017.12.005
- Zuardi, A. W., Guimarães, F. S., & Moreira, A. C. (1993). Effect of cannabidiol on plasma prolactin, growth hormone and cortisol in human volunteers. Brazilian journal of medical and biological research = Revista brasileira de pesquisas medicas e biologicas, 26(2), 213–217.