How Stress Changes Your Brain

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Stress is more than just a feeling; it actually changes your body and brain on a number of levels and hinders your body’s normal repair and defense mechanisms. Over time, these biological changes can also make stress feel more overwhelming and hard to manage, trapping you in a chronic stress cycle that can have widespread negative impacts on your long-term health.  Here are the physical and mental impacts of stress.  

How Stress Changes Your Body 

Ongoing stress keeps your internal alarm system on high alert, with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin circulating through your body. A constant surge of stress hormones can fuel out-of-control inflammation and damage, harm your cellular mitochondria (that produce vital energy), suppress immune function, reduce your antioxidant defenses, and deplete your body’s stores of essential vitamins and minerals. 

With all of these changes going on at the cellular level, stress can make you seriously ill. Initial signs of stress overload, including headaches and digestive problems, can turn into fatigue and immune suppression, and pave the way for chronic, inflammatory health conditions to take over.1-6 

Common side-effects of stress on your body include: 

  • Inflammation 
  • Muscle tension, fatigue and joint pain 
  • Digestive problems including diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and abdominal pain 
  • Weight gain 
  • Immune suppression 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • High blood pressure  
  • Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels 

Stress heavily can impact your immune system. Being trapped in a chronic stress cycle can increase your risks of cytokine storms, autoimmune flare ups, allergies, and other immune overreactions. On the other hand, feeling stressed and overwhelmed can also hinder your natural ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and even cancer cells, leaving you vulnerable to serious acute and chronic illnesses.  

How Stress Changes Your Brain  

Chronic stress harms cognitive health and is linked to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.  High levels of cortisol, as well as high insulin, reduce brain function and are linked to problems including7,8:  

  • Brain fog and memory loss 
  • Trouble retaining new information 
  • Attention deficits and inability to concentrate 

How Stress Fuels Chronic Diseases 

Over time, the inflammation-driven changes in your body that are caused by chronic stress can lead to serious conditions and diseases, including:9 

  • Cancer 
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity 
  • Autoimmune disease  
  • Neurological conditions 
  • Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Depression and burnout syndrome 

Healthy Stress Relief Tips 

As stressful as this all sounds, there is good news. Research shows that there are healthy stress balancing methods that provide effective relief from chronic stress, and reduce your risks of our most serious inflammatory conditions including cancer and heart disease. They include: 

  • Yoga and Tai Chi 
  • Meditation and deep breathing exercises
  • Spending time in nature 
  • Healthy sleep habits 
  • Regular, gentle exercise 
  • Proper hydration 
  • Unprocessed, anti-inflammatory diet 

In addition to lifestyle choices and healthy stress relief practices, there are also researched extracts and nutraceutical agents shown through extensive research and clinical use to reduce stress, help calm the brain and body, promote a balanced mood and optimal mental health, and more.  

Supplements for Healthy Mood and Stress Responses 

My top recommendation for reducing stress and supporting long-term health on the cellular level, is a powerful extract called pure honokiol. This single compound is purified from Magnolia officinalis bark, a stress-relieving staple of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Extensive research shows pure honokiol is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can cross the blood-brain barrier and reduce stress, boost mood, improve cognitive health, and support overall neurological wellness.  Pure honokiol promotes healthy neurotransmitter activity in the brain, including support for GABA activity which is essential for combatting stress and improving the body’s healing capacity. Pure honokiol also promotes healthy cellular regulation, making it an excellent ingredient for reducing stress while also reversing the cellular impacts of stress and inflammation in the body.  

Finding healthy stress solutions is the most important thing we can do today to ensure optimal immunity, energy, and long-term wellness. Not to mention, quality of life.  


  1. Liu YZ, Wang YX, Jiang CL. Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017;11:316.  

  1. Henderson NC, Sethi T. The regulation of inflammation by galectin-3. Immunol Rev. 2009 Jul;230(1):160-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2009.00794.x. PMID: 19594635. 

  1. Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain: a psychoneuroendocrine rationale for stress management in pain rehabilitation. Phys Ther. 2014;94(12):1816-1825.  

  1. Mayer Ea. The neurobiology of stress and gastrointestinal disease. Gut. 2000;47:861-869. 

  1. van der Valk ES, Savas M, van Rossum EFC. Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?. Curr Obes Rep. 2018;7(2):193-203. doi:10.1007/s13679-018-0306-y 

  1. Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13-17. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007 

  1. Lupien SJ, Maheu F, Tu M, et al. The effects of stress and stress hormones on human cognition: Implications for the field of brain and cognition. Brain Cogn. 2007 Dec;65(3):209-37. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2007.02.007. Epub 2007 Apr 26. PMID: 17466428. 

  1. Machado A, Herrera AJ, de Pablos RM, et al. Chronic stress as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Rev Neurosci. 2014;25(6):785-804.  

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, et al. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 

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