You may always hear me discuss stress and how we should utilize CBD and THC to reduce stress, but understanding the effects of stress on the human body is important. Just stating that stress is bad, isn’t enough. Let’s paint a picture and learn exactly what physiological changes happen in the body when a stressful response is prolonged and how it can affect our health. Most importantly, let’s learn how to address stress from a healthy standpoint because some of the problems you may be experiencing can be from being under too much stress for far too long.
We have 3 stages of stress response which include the alarm stage (fight or flight), the resistance stage, and lastly, the exhaustion stage.
Stress is necessary to ensure our survival in times of a threat. When we first get exposed to a stressful event, our body changes to engage our sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. To keep it simple, in this stage our blood vessels constrict (blood pressure goes up), heart rate goes up, blood is shunted away from our GI tract (which is needed for digestion), and cortisol is released from the adrenal glands to give us a source of extra energy (raises blood glucose levels and increases insulin resistance).
Shortly after an event of stress is over (like a bear chasing us), our body will return to normal, disengaging our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight system) and re-engaging our parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). The problem is that we aren’t getting out of this sympathetic engagement, and we become stuck in a never-ending loop of stress, high blood glucose, and inflammation. This is important to note because the rest and digest stage is where the body is meant to function for a majority of the time (supposed to anyway). This is where the body needs to be to get a restful night’s sleep, normalize hormones and blood glucose levels, digest food and absorb nutrients, and the stage that the body does healing and cellular regeneration.
The problem is that we get stuck in the exhaustion phase and never get out of the sympathetic system engagement. This quickly leads to irritability, never-ending anxiety, hard time focusing, trouble sleeping, adrenal fatigue, behavior and anger issues.
If we are constantly stressed and engaging our sympathetic nervous system, we can experience lots of digestion issues, including nutrient absorption problems. Remember, we need blood shunted to our GI tract for it to function properly. Activation of the fight or flight system (sympathetic nervous system) shunts blood away from our GI tract. We need blood and energy put into digestion so our bodies can extract the nutrients it needs to ensure optimal functioning.
If we pair poor nutrient absorption, decreased GI tract functioning (where 70% of our immune system is), with lack of sleep (adrenal fatigue), constant release of cortisol (further adding to systemic inflammation and insulin resistance), oxidative stress (generation of free radicals), we are then immune compromised and we are guaranteed to find ourselves in an early grave. The body can’t live and function correctly stuck in the fight or flight response.
This is where CBD and THC come in. CBD was shown to stop the release of cortisol, normalize blood sugar levels, and disengage the sympathetic nervous system and help engage our parasympathetic nervous system, calming us down (1). The calming properties of CBD and THC were shown to also reduce stress and anxiety, improving our mental wellbeing (2). The antioxidant properties of these cannabinoids were shown to reduce oxidative stress, reduce free radical accumulation, reduce inflammation, and protect our cells from such stressors and the negative effects that prolonged stress has on the body (3).
My goal is to show others how much stress can negatively affect our health and wellbeing so we can avoid it, but most importantly, give others a healthier alternative to address stress, besides relying on alcohol or a pill. Relying on alcohol or a pill to manage stress or anxiety is causing further destruction towards a problem we already have. It is like adding fuel to the fire, just covering up a symptom (which is our body’s way of telling us something is wrong) isn’t addressing the issue at hand.
There is not anything wrong with you, you’re just too stressed!
Don’t worry, be happy!
Cheers to these amazing plant compounds and all that they have to offer us, especially when it comes to stress.
- 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.
- Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021