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Thursday, December 01, 2022

This is how a good vacation transforms our cells (and what happens to them when stress returns)

This is how a good vacation transforms our cells (and what happens to them when stress returns)

We don’t realize it, but a large part of us live in a state of almost constant stress. Since the sound of the alarm clock snatches us from Morpheus’s arms until we try to fall into his arms again, we are usually subject to a variety of stressors that can affect us quite seriously.

In fact, chronic stress is a serious enemy of physiological balance and one of the main triggers of diseases such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, and chronic inflammation. Essentially, those diseases whose origin is related to the habits of life.

Therefore, it is important for the body to take breaks to relieve stress and cell damage. The question is, do we really rest on vacation? Or, instead, do we become more stressed out when we are part of a stampede, traffic jams, queues at airports, and an umbrella race on the beach?

side effects of stress

We constantly receive information from the outside, but also from the inside in the form of sensory stimuli. This is how we detect whether we are hungry, thirsty, sleepy, in pain, restlessness… Many of these sensations depend on nerve conduction, but others arise because our cells and organs release substances like these. which inform other cells and organs. We know these substances as local factors and hormones.

For example, when we need to react quickly to protect ourselves from danger, we release substances such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, which activate organs to produce a rapid response that either alert or directly allow us to escape.

These stress hormones request a defensive or aggressive response from our bodies necessary for survival. We notice it immediately in symptoms like dry mouth, sweaty hands, increased heart rate or headache. The problem is that, in general, we get stressed when we are at the office, on the couch, at home, in the supermarket or chatting with friends. In those situations, our bodies receive danger signals, but our muscles and organs don’t respond to them (we don’t fight or run).

When that “paradox” persists over time, it causes us serious problems. Chronic stress puts our cells in a state of constant activation that generates molecular and cellular damage, chronic inflammatory responses, and a whole set of side effects that affect our health.

Solution? Take on life with some peace of mind.

Essential relaxation: the effect of endorphins and other hormones

Rest and relaxation have more than proven beneficial effects on cells. For now, scientific evidence indicates that rest and restful sleep helps to eliminate accumulated damage and restore the natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness.

Melatonin or the “sleep hormone” plays an essential role in this regard, as it activates the elimination of damaged cellular structures. It prevents the accumulation of cell waste and prevents the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

On the other hand, a pleasant holiday releases endorphins in our body. Known as the “happiness hormones,” these are small proteins that stimulate the centers of pleasurable feelings in the brain. They are considered endogenous opioids and our neurons release them when we are in a state of rest, pleasure and when we exercise. Although the molecular effects of these neurotransmitters are not fully elucidated, some evidence suggests that they may inhibit the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Another neurotransmitter that is released when we are resting is serotonin, another substance also known as the “happiness hormone”. Its deficiency has been linked to a number of diseases, particularly chronic fatigue, but also with dementia or the severity of COVID-19.

holidays improve health

Considering all these factors, enjoying a relaxing vacation that takes us away from daily stress is vital to recovering the physical balance that allows us to maintain good health.

By lowering levels of stress hormones, increasing the hormones that produce pleasure and relaxation, it helps to eliminate the accumulated damage to cells over time and prevent many diseases. It is not necessary to visit exotic destinations or dream beaches: just put the pressures aside, relax and enjoy without any worries. It benefits us a lot in health and our cells appreciate it.

And when the holidays are over, it won’t hurt to note how good well-organized rest is for our bodies.

Guillermo Lopez Luchu He is a professor in the field of cell biology. Associate Researcher at the Andalusian Center for Developmental Biology. Researcher in Metabolism, Aging and Immune and Antioxidant Systems, Pablo de Olavide University

this article was published basically in Conversation.

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