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How Stress Dissolves Your Bones

Stress and bone health go hand in hand.

Did you know that an estimated 95 percent of disease is caused or worsened by “bad” stress?

Stress is your body’s response to a particular situation and can be a positive or negative force.

Stress can be a good thing. It can motivate you to take action or solve a problem. Stress that’s caused by exercise initially tires us out, but later energizes us. In these cases, stress can be helpful.

It’s when stress is constant over a long period of time that it can have a detrimental affect on your mental and physical well-being. It affects many of your body’s systems and can even affect your bones and their ability to function healthily.

The Connection Between Stress and Your Bones

When you’re stressed your body releases a steroid hormone called, cortisol. Cortisol increases blood sugar, suppresses the immune system and even aids in digestion of fat and proteins. [1]

But if stress is prolonged, cortisol levels remain high, resulting in inflammation in the body.

And when your cortisol levels are high, this affects your bone health. While you can feel some forms of stress such having sore muscles and joints or being mentally exhausted, you cannot always feel what’s going on inside your body.

For instance, when your body is inflamed due to high cortisol levels, you can’t feel the effect this has – which is a reduction in your body’s ability to absorb calcium. And you cannot feel your body excrete higher amounts of calcium due to inflammation and stress.

As a result of the inflammation, decrease in calcium absorption, and an increase in calcium excretion that high cortisol levels bring, the number of bone-building cells (a.k.a osteoblasts) in your body are also at an all time low.

Obviously when your bone-building cells are suppressed, your bone’s ability to renew itself is impaired.

Now who would have thought that stress could possibly impact your bone health to such a degree?

Well now that you know, here’s how to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

5 Simple Ways to De-Stress Your Life

To keep you on track to a stress-free, bone healthy life – here are a few ideas:

  • Humor, Laughing: Laughing produces serotonin and also creates more endorphins which gives us a natural high, reduces stress and helps us take on a more positive perspective. You can feel your mood change when you have one of those good ole belly laughs. [2]
  • Fill Your Nutrient Gaps: Eat organic fruits and vegetables rich in calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B as they help with serotonin production. Completely formed serotonin can be found in bananas, kiwis, pineapples, plantains, plums, tomatoes, and walnuts.
  • Meditation: Meditation allows your body and mind to rest, relax and rejuvenate. A common misconception of meditation is that you sit with no thoughts. But this is farthest from the truth! Meditation trains yourself to place attention where you want, which gives you the ability to direct your thoughts and emotions in more peaceful directions.
  • Black Tea: A cup of tea has been traditionally associated with stress relief. Now, new research suggests drinking plain black tea may fight stress and promote relaxation. Researchers in London have found that tea drinkers have lower levels of cortisol after exposure to stress. [3]
  • Get Moving: Exercise helps to boost endorphins and reduce stress. Research shows that 20 minutes each day is all that is needed to experience the benefits. You probably already know that exercise directly strengthens bones, plus it helps with balance so we are less likely to fall and fracture a bone – in other words exercise has 3 – count ‘em – 3 separate ways to benefit your bones! (reduced stress, increased bone strength, improved balance). [4]

These are just a few ideas you can use to get you relaxed and put you in a state of calm.

It’s important to make time for yourself and for your health: set aside some time at the beginning or end of your day and focus on de-stressing your life.


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Author: Monica Straith, BS

Monica is the PR and Outreach Manager and Fitness Lead at AlgaeCal. She’s an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Nutrition Specialist, and has a B.S. and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she played varsity soccer for four years. Monica pulls from her experience in athletics and health to contribute to AlgaeCal and has also been featured on myfitnesspal blog, Prevention, and Huffington Post.


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