Chronic stress - the root cause of most health issues & accelerated ageing

As a naturopath that specialises in longevity, my #1 goal is to address the root causes of ageing. And one of the things that accelerates ageing the quickest (and causes a myriad of health issues) is chronic stress! 


First I should tell you, what chronic stress is, because many people don't even realise they are in a chronic stress state (they have been living this way for years and it has become their new normal). I would say 70% of my clinic clients come to me in a state of chronic stress.

Stress is a physiological response, in the form of the release of cortisol (other hormones)

  • Acute Stress is ok, everyone experiences stressful situations, which are temporary and often occurs in response to immediate threats
  • Chronic stress is the issue: it is a prolonged state of emotional or psychological strain that persists over an extended period (more than 3 weeks). Prolonged exposure of Cortisol made by the adrenal glands.


There are lots of factors that can cause/contribute to chronic stress:

  • Relationships
  • Children/Parenting
  • Grief
  • Trauma/Unresolved Trauma
  • Work
  • Finances
  • Being a carer
  • High intensity exercise
  • Crappy Sleep
  • Being busy/busy/busy- no time for rest



Chronic stress isn't just emotional or mental, you can experience chronic cortisol exposure (sneaky stress)....


Sneaky stress is a form of chronic stress, it is when from a physiological standpoint your BODY is under a lot of stress, mentally you may be fine, you can cope (mostly) juggling all those balls in your life, but your adrenals don’t know this, if you are experiencing mental or physical (sneaky) stress your body will have you in that fight/flight mode, and unless you do the work to help pull your body out of survival mode, you will stay there.

Examples of Sneaky Stress

  • Poor quality & quantity of SLEEP
  • Poor gut wall health (leaky gut)
  • Imbalanced Microbiome
  • Poor liver function
  • Hormonal Imbalances (Such as excess estrogen/High androgens/PCOS/Endo/Menopause)
  • Under-active thyroid
  • High sugar intake
  • Blood sugar imbalances
  • Not taking time to rest
  • Frequent alcohol intake
  • Regular consumption of highly processed foods

What actually is stress?

When we encounter a stressful situation, whether it's something that scares us or causes us to worry, or our body is physically stressed (in a state of sneaky stress) our body responds in a specific way.

This response is controlled by our brain and a system in our body called the endocrine system.

First, our brain recognises and interprets the stressor. This happens in certain parts of our brain called the amygdala and the hypothalamus.

  1. Once the stressor is identified, the hypothalamus activates another system called the sympathetic nervous system, which is often referred to as the "fight-or-flight" response. The sympathetic nervous system releases stress hormones like adrenaline and norepinephrine, which cause our body to react quickly to the stressor.
  2. At the same time, the hypothalamus & pituitary gland releases hormones. These hormones then signals our adrenal glands to release cortisol, which is the main stress hormone.

Normally, in a short-term or acute stress situation, this response is helpful. However, in chronic stress, our body gets stuck in this "fight-or-flight" state. This can disrupt the balance of our adrenal glands, leading to an overproduction of cortisol and causing negative effects on our body's feedback loops.

Long-term exposure to high levels of cortisol due to chronic stress can have significant impacts on our health.

In simpler terms, when we experience stress, our body goes into a fight-or-flight mode. This involves the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In acute stress situations, this response is helpful, but when stress becomes chronic, it can disrupt our body's balance and lead to various health problems. Once we have been in a fight/flight state for an extended period of time, the body will stay there (because it still thinks we are trying to survive), unless you do the work to train your body to be safe again! 


I have seen chronic stress cause and contribute to:

  • Hormonal imbalances & PMS
  • Weight gain
  • IBS & digestive issues
  • Fertility issues
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Depression & Anxiety


There are many symptoms your body is in a state of stress, how many of these do you resonate with?

  • Issues with falling/staying asleep⁠ - laying awake for hours or waking between 2a-4am
  • IBS symptoms, bloating, poor gut health
  • Waking up tired⁠ - no matter how much sleep you get
  • Afternoon energy crashes - need caffiene or sugar to get you through
  • Irritability⁠, Anger, Lost Motivation
  • Random Headaches⁠
  • Blood sugar imbalances/Hangry feelings ⁠
  • Aching muscles⁠
  • Depression & Anxiety
  • Low libido
  • Heavy periods
  • Weight gain/Trouble losing weight⁠- especially finding the fat storing around your mid section


Chronic stress can also have a significant impact on the ageing process and overall healthy ageing.

  • Chronic stress can accelerate the process of cellular ageing. Telomeres, which are protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes, naturally shorten as we age. However, chronic stress can speed up this shortening process, leading to accelerated cellular ageing and increased susceptibility to age-related diseases.
  • Prolonged stress can result in increased oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of harmful free radicals and the body's antioxidant defences. This imbalance can lead to damage to cellular components, including DNA. DNA damage is associated with various age-related conditions and can contribute to the ageing process itself.
  • Chronic stress triggers a persistent inflammatory response in the body. While inflammation is a natural defence mechanism, prolonged inflammation can contribute to chronic diseases commonly associated with ageing, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and certain types of cancer. Chronic stress-induced inflammation can accelerate the development and progression of these age-related diseases
  • Chronic stress suppresses immune function, leaving the body more vulnerable to infections, slower wound healing, and increased susceptibility to diseases. As we age, immune function naturally declines, and chronic stress can further compromise the immune system, making older individuals more susceptible to illness and slower recovery.
  • Chronic stress disrupts the delicate balance of hormones in the body. The dysregulation of stress hormones, such as cortisol, can impact the function of other hormones involved in ageing and overall health. For example, chronic stress can disrupt the production and regulation of growth hormone, sex hormones, and thyroid hormones, which are essential for maintaining vitality, muscle mass, bone health, and cognitive function.
  • Chronic stress has been linked to cognitive decline and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease. Prolonged exposure to stress hormones can affect the structure and function of the brain, impair memory, attention, and decision-making abilities, and contribute to age-related cognitive decline.
  • Chronic stress often disrupts sleep patterns and quality. Adequate sleep is crucial for the body's restorative processes, including cellular repair, memory consolidation, hormone regulation, and immune function. Lack of quality sleep due to chronic stress can negatively impact these processes, further accelerating the aging process and increasing the risk of age-related diseases.
  • Chronic stress can take a toll on psychological and emotional well-being, contributing to increased risk of anxiety, depression, and overall mental health decline. The negative impact on mental health can further exacerbate the aging process and reduce overall quality of life.



Does this resonate with you? Do you feel like you are in a state of chronic stress? This is something I specialise in. And I would love to help you. Check out my 12 week program The Longevity Reset where we work to address the root causes of many age related diseases, ageing and poor health.

You can also work with me online 1-1. Book a naturopathic consult via this link