Whilst watching a TV programme about safari holidays a number of years ago, I remember a safari guide describing how he had once been charged at by an angry hippo. When asked what he did, he said “I found I could run surprisingly fast”.
So how could an average guy like this suddenly morph into an Olympic sprinter?
Well, it all comes down to evolution: When faced with potentially life threatening situations like this, the body’s stress response (sometimes called the “fight or flight” response) kicks in. This would have been very useful for our hunter – gatherer ancestors having to escape on foot when the hunt didn’t go their way.
What happens is that the adrenal glands (which are on top of your kidneys – hence the name ad-renal) increase their secretion of corticosteroids into the bloodstream. This causes various physiological changes, including an increase in heart rate and blood glucose levels which raises the oxygen and energy supply to the muscles; this is what enabled our safari guide to suddenly be able to run so fast.
On the other hand, it also slows down the digestive system and the immune system. This is very useful when faced with an angry hippo – all at once, digesting the last meal or getting over that cold doesn’t seem quite so important.
But if the body is under stress for a long period of time this can cause all sorts of health issues.
Research has shown that chronic stress suppresses the immune system, so that you are more likely to suffer from frequent infections such as colds, and will take longer to recover from them.
It is also linked to other health issues like increased blood pressure, headaches and insomnia.
In the long term it can cause a condition known as ‘adrenal burnout’, which is believed to be a contributory factor in conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
One way to help you cope with chronic stress is to re-balance the body by increasing the levels of endorphins and serotonin (the body’s “feel good” hormones). It has been shown that this is one of the effects of acupuncture treatment. Indeed many patients comment on how relaxed they feel after having acupuncture, even when they are receiving treatment for unrelated issues such as back or knee pain.
Stress is the focus of this year’s Acupuncture Awareness Week (2nd – 8th March), so if you’re feeling like there just might be an angry hippo around every corner, why not book in for a FREE half-hour acupuncture taster treatment here at NIHP to see if I can help you feel more relaxed and able to cope with life’s ups and downs?
Give us a call on 0191 398 0000 to book your free acupuncture taster session today.