Here's How Stress Can Change Your Body Beneath The Surface, According To Experts

by Caroline Burke

Stress is an everyday part of life, but that doesn't mean it's any less frustrating when it completely derails an otherwise perfect day. Whether you're stressing yourself out over a new relationship, a fight with a friend, or a totally crammed work day with way too many deadlines, there are a lot of unexpected ways stress can affect your body. Most of us are probably familiar with the more obvious signs of stress, like a racing heartbeat or a frenzied mind, but you probably didn't know about all of the internal ways stress can impact you physically, from your teeth to your gut.

Look, for the most part, you can't avoid stress, so your goal shouldn't be to take it out of your life entirely. Rather, it's all about finding healthy ways to navigate and cope with it, and minimizing the amount of strain stress puts on your body — and, believe me, you're about to find out just how much stress really can affect your insides.

All you can really do is pay attention to some of these physical signs, and then figure out what helps you decompress and relax. Whether it's yoga, meditation, therapy, artwork, or a simple movie night with a friend, the goal is to find what helps you chill, so you know exactly how to feel better when one of these signs of stress rears its ugly head. Here are five unexpected ways stress can affect your body.

Bad Breath

According to health empowerment speaker Anastasia Turchetta, RDH, bad breath might just be a sign that you're a little bit too stressed out in your daily life. "Stress reduces saliva, and bad breath and dry mouth [usually] have a relationship, depending on your current state of health," she tells Elite Daily.

If all the brushing and flossing in the world doesn't do a thing for your bad breath, try doing some deep breathing exercises to dial down your stress levels, and see if that has any effect on your dry mouth. Either way, it's probably not a bad idea to talk to your dentist about this, too, to see what your options are.

Sore Or Bleeding Gums

Unless you just flossed for the first time in a few months, sore or bleeding gums aren't really normal, and sometimes, Turchetta says, this can be your body's way of letting you know something else about your health is off.

"Stress, especially longer-term or chronic, releases cortisol into your body and weakens your immune system," she tells Elite Daily. Your bleeding gums could be a sign of more bacteria entering your body, Turchetta explains, and your immune system is essentially just unable to fight it all off. Again, if this is a persistent issue for you, it's in your best interest to talk to your doctor and/or dentist about what's really going on.

Sore And Tense Muscles

If you're feeling like you just did a three-hour barre class, but in reality, you haven't moved all week, it might just be a big bout of stress that's making your muscles tense up. According to Richard Purvis, a health and wellness practitioner and author of the book Recalibrate: Six Secrets to Resetting Your Age, muscle tension is "the body's way of guarding against injury and pain."

This can be dangerous in more ways than one: Purvis tells Elite Daily that chronic tension in the neck, shoulders, and head area could lead to migraines and head pain in the long run, if you don't find a way to relax.

Heavy Breathing

Are you breathing through your mouth, even though your nasal passages are clear? Purvis tells Elite Daily that heavy breathing can be a sign of stress, and even though this isn't a huge deal for some people, he says it might be a bit more dangerous for others: "If you suffer from asthma, getting essential oxygen [when you're stressed] can be difficult."

Of course, having difficulty breathing is always a red flag in any context, so it's best to bring this up ASAP to your doctor to see if you should carry around an inhaler with you, or if there are any specific breathing techniques you can do that would help you relax.

An Appetite You Can Never Fully Satisfy, Or A Total Lack Thereof

Severe stress can lead you to eat more or less than you actually want to eat, Purvis tells Elite Daily, and if it gets really bad, it can throw your stomach off entirely, potentially causing things like diarrhea or constipation. "If your stress becomes chronic," Purvis adds, "you might develop ulcers or severe stomach pain."

If you're wolfing down your lunch without really thinking, or suddenly have no interest in food whatsoever, it might have something to do with how stressed out you are. Pay attention to your overall mental health, so you can properly explain how you're feeling to a health care professional in relation to your diet and get the best treatment you can for your symptoms.