The 8 signs ‘silent’ stress is making you sick – from a splitting headache to a dodgy tummy

The 8 signs ‘silent’ stress is making you sick – from a splitting headache to a dodgy tummy
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BRITS are more stressed than ever - with three in four of us feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope.

And the effects of stress can seriously impact our bodies, increasing the body's inflammatory reactions - causing a whole host of unpleasant health issues.

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With millions of days lost every year to stress, scientists also found last year that happy people generally have healthier hearts - and shockingly, the risk of heart attacks and strokes soar by over half if you are stressed.

While some symptoms may be obvious, others linked to stress may surprise you.

Here, we look at the eight "silent" signs stress is making you sick - and what to do to fix it.

1. Your weight starts to fluctuate

Stress often makes you take up unhealthy behaviours such as overeating or undereating.

Doctor Shanna Levine said: "Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which impairs your body's ability to process blood sugar and changes the way you metabolise fat, protein, and carbs, which can lead to weight gain or loss."

Experts suggest snacking on nuts if you notice this happening - as they're packed with magnesium which seems to help keep cortisol levels low.

On top of this, the fibre will fill you up if you've been gorging on food and the protein will help if you're under-eating.

Broccoli is also a great thing to add to your diet as it's high in folic acid, which aids stress reduction.

2. You keep getting headaches

If you've never suffered from headaches but suddenly your head is constantly throbbing, you may be overly stressed.

Stress releases chemicals that can cause changes to nerves and blood vessels in the brain, which brings on a headache.

It can also trigger migraines or make them worse as it's common for your muscles to tense up when you're stressed.

If you don't want to take ibuprofen, try dabbing lavender oil or peppermint oil on your temples when a headache starts.

Drinking water is also one of the simplest and most effective home remedies for headaches as dehydration leads to a loss of fluid from the brain.

3. You break out in itchy red bumps

Lots of people break out in itchy red bumps known as hives when you're stressed.

If your body has been under excessive stress your immune system begins to struggle and your body starts releasing the chemical histamine to fight off your ailment.

If the stress doesn't go away, you essentially develop an allergic reaction and, boom, you're covered in hives.

When your immune system is weakened by stress, your skin can also become irritated by things it never used to be sensitive to, such as soap, cold or heat, lotions, or laundry detergent.

Experts suggest putting a cool, damp towel on the affected area and if that doesn't work taking an antihistamine.

4. Your brain feels fuzzy

Stress can make you feel mentally sick as well as physically poorly.

Too much of the stress hormone cortisol can make it harder to focus or concentrate, causing memory problems as well as anxiety or depression.

When this happens, the best thing to do is take some time out and relax until you regain your focus.

Try closing your eyes and breathing in and out slowly, concentrating only on your breath.

5. You have a dodgy tummy

Stress can disrupt the function of your GI tract in more than one way - causing the body to produce more digestive acid, leading to heartburn.

Doctor Deborah Rhodes, a Mayo Clinic internal medicine physician, said: "It can also slow the emptying of food from the stomach, which causes gas and bloating, and may even increase the number of times your colon contracts, leading to cramping and diarrhoea."

Medics suggest taking an over-the-counter antacid, which neutralises stomach acidity and is used to relieve heartburn, indigestion or an upset stomach.

The best ways to beat stress

1. Take time out: Try to put yourself first at least once a day, to give your brain the rest it needs to stay engaged and alert.

2. Exercise: Everyone knows that exercise releases feel-good endorphins, which give you a chemical boost. But getting active can also help lower your stress levels by boosting the chemicals dopamine and serotonin.

3. Avoid caffeine: Millions of us reach for a cup of coffee as an afternoon pick-me-up everyday, but if you're already feeling stressed, too mucn caffeine doesn't help. It stimulates the nervous system, which can make you feel more anxious and panicky.

4. Make connections: If you're getting stressed at work, taking a few minutes to chat to your peers can help. Occupational health expert Professor Cary Cooper says: "If you don't connect with people, you won't have support to turn to when you need help."

5. Practice gratitude: Try and recognise your accomplishments, and think of something to be grateful for every night.

If you prefer a home remedy, toast is said to be one of the best stomach ache remedies - especially if you've burnt it because the char absorbs the toxins that are making you ill.

The probiotic qualities of yoghurt also make it a good cure as it eases digestive discomfort and boosts your immune system.

6. You always have a cold

Stress suppresses the immune system, which makes it easier for you to get sick and harder to fight off bugs.

Dr Levine said: "When people are stressed, they get sick. It could be a cold or cold sores, which pop up because the immune system can't suppress the virus."

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh infected volunteers with a cold virus and those who reported in a survey that they were coping with many stresses were twice as likely to get sick as those with fewer problems.

7. You've broken out in spots

If your face is suddenly a mess of pimples, stress might be causing your breakouts.

When you're stressed, not only is it likely you'll be touching your face more often but your body pumps out more hormones, like cortisol, which causes skin glands to produce more oil.

This excess oil can get trapped inside hair follicles, along with dirt and dead skin cells, producing acne.

Topical creams containing benzoyl peroxide or Salicylic acid can clear up acne if applied regularly.

For a more natural approach, wash your face with green tea or dab on some pure aloe as their antibacterial properties can promote healing.

8. Your hair is falling out

Losing a few strands of hair is normal but stress can disrupt that cycle.

Significant stress pushes a large number of hair follicles into what's called a resting phase, and then a few months later those hairs fall out.

Stress can also cause the body's immune system to attack your hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.

With this it's a matter of patience, as once your stress level returns to normal your hair should stop falling out.

Stress is something that most people will experience at one point or another.

Fortunately, there are many ways to help relieve stress, such as practising mindfulness, exercising and doing yoga.

NHS video explains the symptoms of stress and how to deal with it

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