The Answer To Stress: What Is It?

How do the body and mind react to stress: We all go through periods of stress at some point in our lives. Stress affects us in different aspects of our daily lives and may even end up conditioning us. However,  do we know what the stress response is?

Stress occurs when cumulative wear occurs in different systems of our body after a prolonged or poorly regulated response. The allostatic charge is the price the body must pay when it is forced to adapt to adverse circumstances.

For this not to happen,  our bodies have processes of adaptation that they put in motion in the face of stressful situations. They are intended to restore balance or homeostasis.

Thus, the body always tries to return to a stable state after experiencing imbalances in its homeostasis. But how does this process work in the body?

The Stress Response

When the body detects stress, the body sets up a series of physiological and metabolic changes to adapt. Thus, these changes that the body realizes appear, for example, when we do physical exercise. They also enable us to better assess the situation by increasing our vigilance, our state of alert and our decision-making.

Faced with the onset of stress, the first system that activates is the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The hypothalamus is responsible for starting this system, which integrates information from sensory and visceral pathways.

The hypothalamus then activates the paraventricular nucleus,  which enables the pre-ganglion neurons of the spinal cord. The latter in turn activate the sympathetic ganglionic chain that increases norepinephrine in the innervated organs.

Effects of increased noradrenaline release in the stress response

Increased contraction force and heart rate.

Vasodilation of the coronary arteries.

Relaxation of the branchial musculature and increase of the respiratory rate.

Peripheral vasoconstriction.

Hepatic glycogenolysis (glycogen breakdown).

Hyperglycemia.

Activation of the sympathetic ganglionic chain also activates the marrow of the adrenal glands. This increases the release of adrenaline, in addition to norepinephrine.

These last two starts non-innervated structures through the sympathetic nervous system. They also reinforce the effects previously produced by norepinephrine.

Effects of adrenaline release increase

Increased rate and strength of cardiac contraction.

Muscular vasodilation and heart.

Dilatation of the airways  (which facilitates pulmonary ventilation).

Contributes to the generation of sweat (dissipates heat).

The decrease in non-vital physiological processes in the short term (inflammation, digestion, reproduction, and growth).

Stimulates hepatic glycogenolysis  (glucose production).

Inhibits the secretion of insulin and stimulates that of glucagon in the pancreas (high glucose levels).

Moreover, following the action of norepinephrine, the salivary glands secrete an oral enzyme called alpha-amylase. This enzyme cares for the digestion of carbohydrates and is responsible for eliminating and preventing bacteria in the mouth.