The Role of Glycans in Stress Tolerance
Feeling stressed? Your Glycans know.
Stress in the Modern Way of Life
The body secretes cortisol when confronted with stress, and it’s nothing new as it’s been occurring for thousands of years ago already. The changes came when stressors have been varied and new ones were added to our lives today. According to the American biologist Robert M. Sapolsky in his research titled Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping, many chronic diseases can result from attempts to cope with the stress of rapid social, cultural and technological change. The necessary degree of stress needed for performance and productivity balance becomes excessive because of these which threatens the health and happiness of modern populations.
This, however, doesn’t make the past any less stressful than today’s society of course. Past populations have been involved with a lot of warfare, epidemic disease, unemployment, and poverty. It happens that stress seems to be the inevitable result of the psychological pressures generated by the unfettered growth of industrial and technological capitalism, which states that some of the stressors have been different throughout the centuries.
According to various researches and surveys, here are some of the top reasons for modern life’s sources of stress:
- Financial pressure
- Workplace demands
- Hectic schedules
- Poor health (both physical and mental)
The science of stress
Here’s what happens on the scientific side of freaking out.
As soon as the body recognizes the weight of pressure, the nervous system instructs the body to release stress hormones including adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. These produce physiological changes to help us cope with the difficult factors which we see to be against us (threat, danger, uncomfortable situations, etc.) This is called the stress response.
What systems of the body are affected?
Following the stress response, there are of course physical changes during a stressed body condition.
Respiratory system. This one is immediately affected. This is because we tend to breathe harder and more quickly in an effort to quickly distribute oxygen-rich blood around our body. It is more of an issue with people who have respiratory problems such as Asthma, anxiety, or panic attacks that could lead to hyperventilation.
Immune system. Cortisol released in our bodies suppresses the immune system and inflammatory pathways, and the body’s ability to fight against illness is reduced.
Musculoskeletal system. Excessive muscle tension causes body aches and pains which may result in tension headaches and migraines.
Cardiovascular system. The heart rate and blood pressure increase and doesn’t return to normal when stress is repeatedly occurring (of it becomes chronic). It can cause damage to blood vessels and arteries, increasing the risk for hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
Endocrine system. Our metabolism is affected. Stress signals coming from the hypothalamus trigger the release of stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and then blood sugar (glucose) is produced by the liver to provide you with energy to deal with the stressful situation. There is an increased risk of diabetes.
Gastrointestinal effects. Heartburn and acid reflux can be experienced especially if there have been changes in your eating habits. The ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients is reduced, thus resulting in episodes of stomach pain, bloating and nausea, diarrhea, or constipation.
Reproductive system. For men, the production of testosterone and sperm is affected while women can experience changes to their menstrual cycles and increased premenstrual symptoms. These are all possible mainly because of chronic stress.
However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is not entirely bad. A stress response is normal and can be life-saving in certain situations because the nerve chemicals and hormones released during stressful situations prepare the body to react – also called the fight-or-flight mode. The reactions of the body during this situation can actually boost your immune system, too.
But then again, it’s all about balance. Having more or less of a lifestyle is mostly directing you to worse conditions.
Glycosylation, Stress, and Aging
Glycosylation is a regulated mechanism of secondary protein processing within cells. It plays a critical role in determining protein structure, function, and stability.
Biological aging occurs based on a number of factors considered beyond your date of birth, such as genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, diseases, and other conditions. It happens as you gradually pile up damage to various cells and tissues in the body. It is also known as physiological or functional age.
What are glycans?
Glycans are one of the four building blocks of life (DNA & RNA, Proteins, and Lipids). These are complex carbohydrate molecules attached to many proteins and lipids. More than half of all our proteins are glycosylated, and the part with glycan often significantly influences a protein's structure and function.
Glycans are also influenced by environmental influences because their sequence is not predetermined in our DNA, unlike RNA, and other proteins. It is also affected by many types of diseases and changes with age. These characteristics make Glycans an important factor in determining one’s biological age.
Why is it important?
- More than half of all the body’s proteins are glycosylated.
- Glycans attached to the antibodies modulate their activity and determine if they will have a pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory function
N-glycans and stress tolerance
Research on N-glycosylation as evidence of accelerated physiological aging talked about how high levels of stress and glycans are linked to each other. According to this study, “traumatic stress leads to an accelerated process of physiological aging, as revealed by a shift in the N-glycosylation profile that is typical of persons with higher age, which is possibly mediated by a state of low-grade inflammation.”
“The research used detected changes in glycosylation characteristic for aging to show that cumulative exposure to traumatic stressors accelerates the process of biological aging in people with PTSD and trauma-exposed individuals.”, GlycanAge® writes.
Coping up with stress
How can you effectively manage the amount of stress that you go through every day? Here are some useful tips.
- Make health a top priority. Go for regular checkups
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Recognize signs of stress such as difficulty sleeping, lack of energy, long-term negative thoughts, lack of appetite, etc.)
- Make a to-do list to manage your time and avoid overload
- Give yourself credits and periods of rest for what you’ve accomplished each day
- Let go of problems that are out of your control
- Consider yoga or meditation
- Give breathing exercises a try
- Spend some time outdoors for a change of scenery
- Try on new hobbies/activities that you’re interested in or what you think looks promising
- Learn to practice gratitude. Being able to appreciate what you have in life even if not all you want is there helps fight or reduce stress
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Your health choices and lifestyle can have a significant impact on your biological age. Start your healthy living journey now.