Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Stress Response and Alcohol

Studies have shown that resilience, the ability to cope with stress, reflects how well a person is able to adapt to the psychological and physiological responses involved in the stress response. When under stress, the brain and body respond rapidly, pushing normal metabolic processes into high gear. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis or HPA triggers changes in hormonal levels that prepare the body either to fight the stressor or to flee from it (the fight-flight response). During this process the HPA works very hard to maintain an appropriate balance of stress hormones and other brain/chemicals. Studies have shown that when alcohol is added to this mix, the body is put at even greater risk for harm, because alcohol triggers the release of higher amounts of cortisol. In turn, this alters the brain’s chemistry and ‘resets’ what the body considers ‘normal.’ Unfortunately, alcohol also prevents the body from returning to its initial balance point, so it must set a new point of physiological functioning known as allostasis. The setting of a new balance point puts wear and tear on the body and increases the risk of serious disease.

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