What is allostatic load?

You may be aware of some of the physical illnesses and diseases that stress can cause the body; migraine, insomnia, IBS, psoriasis, and heart disease to name a few. The emerging field of psychoimmunology continues to uncover more and more data to show the interactions between the nervous system and immune system and the impact this has on our health. 

When something stressful happens, our body reacts with the production of hormones, changes to our nervous system and to our immune system. This enables us to cope with the stress and keep us safe, it is our body’s way of protecting us. The term ‘allostasis’ devised by McEwen and Stellar in 1993, describes this adaptive process that our body’s go through, in order to maintain a steady internal condition, or homeostasis. This is the case for animals about to go into hibernation, they begin to store fat and homeostasis can be sustained whilst they hide away. However, when we are under prolonged stress this system begins to cause us damage, this is called the ‘allostatic load,’ the wear and tear on our bodies caused by stress. We can produce excessive amounts of cortisol, have consistently high blood pressure causing damage to our arteries and lasting changes can happen in our brains.

So, these stress responses our bodies produce can be protective and damaging. Just as stress helps us to mentally grow, like when we step outside of our comfort zone, it can also cause destruction. Good and bad stress is relative to the person, some can endure lots, some think they are coping because they don’t recognise stress, and others are highly sensitive to unpredictability.

Lifestyle can also increase the allostatic overload, eating too much, not using our energy stores, smoking, and pollution. Smoking, eating doughnuts and being stressed would be a triple whammy if that behaviour was consistent.

In terms of our health, there are lots of things out of our control, you could break your neck tripping over the dog tomorrow, but we can control our response to stress. One of the ways to do this is to make sure we are incorporating relaxation into our lives. Just like carbon offsetting we need to offset the stress, give our bodies a break so we are not under prolonged strain.

The important thing here is education, an awareness of the positive and negative sides of the allostatic load, how this manifests in you as an individual and what you do to maintain a healthy balance. If this has got you thinking and you’re not sure you are in harmony, then maybe hypnotherapy can help.

Hypnosis has been proven to reduce stress and could be an effective method for you, it is certainly relaxing. It is also useful in giving up any bad habits that cause our bodies more stress, or for motivation to create new healthy habits like exercising.

If you would like a relaxing session of hypnosis to give your body a break or need help to change your lifestyle, please get in contact via my contact page.