9 'Undercover' Symptoms That Could Mean You’re Too Stressed And Damaging Your Bones - Save Our Bones

It’s an unequivocal scientifically proven fact that stress reduces bone density, yet the Medical Establishment completely ignores this. Ironically, mainstream medicine's approach to an osteoporosis or osteopenia diagnosis can be very stressful in itself (I know it was for me).

Chronic stress causes the body to produce cortisol, an acidifying hormone that has a detrimental effect on bones. Unfortunately, your body could be producing this hormone in response to stress without you even realizing it.

Today you’ll learn how to identify nine ‘undercover’ stress symptoms and what you can do to mitigate your response to life’s inevitable stressors.

Let’s start with a physical symptom that’s easy to ignore, yet it’s a classic sign of too much stress.

1. You Feel Dizzy And/Or Light-Headed

When you get hit with an onslaught of stress, your breathing automatically becomes rapid and shallow. This makes sense for a fight-or-flight situation, but over time, unrelieved stress can result in chronic shallow breathing that you may not even realize is happening.

It’s a medically proven fact that rapid, shallow breathing has an acidifying effect on the body, and that sets the stage for bone loss. In contrast, slow, deep breathing actually alkalizes the body by ridding your blood of acidifying CO2.

2. You’re Emotionally “On Edge”

Emotions are not signs of stress per se – they’re signs of being human! But over-the-top responses to everyday incidents can be a sign of chronic stress. You might feel edgy, as if the slightest annoyance will send you into a rage, or cause you to break down in tears.

This hyper-emotional state can be attributed to your brain stem dominating your cognition. This is the most primitive part of your brain, and when stressed, your body takes steps to simplify and narrow down brain function to the basics: fight or flight. But you need more than this primitive response for everyday thinking, reasoning, and emotional processing. If the brain stem remains in control for long, you might find that your higher cognitive abilities seem to be degrading.

Have you ever been so tired that everything seems funny? The effect of chronic stress is not unlike getting a case of unstoppable laughter when you’re over-tired, because your brain is so taxed and exhausted under chronic stress that you can’t “pull it together” to handle your emotions.

3. You Have Chronic Headaches And Body Pain With No Apparent Cause

Headaches have become so common in our society that they’re easy to ignore as “normal.” But chronic pain, whether in the head or elsewhere, is not normal, and can be a sign of stress. That’s because your body is in “overdrive” when you’re stressed, creating muscle tension in the head, neck, and shoulders, which can create pain.

According to a study published in the Oxford Journals, chronic pain and stress-induced cortisol levels are related. Researchers found that:

“… patients with chronic back pain have higher basal cortisol levels than healthy individuals… Basal levels of cortisol and chronic pain intensity are associated with a stronger pain response in the anterior hippocampal formation.”1

In plain language, the hippocampus – the primary area of the brain that deals with stress – responds more strongly to pain when cortisol levels are high. So a mild headache can feel incapacitating when you’re stressed out, and other body aches and pains come to the fore.

The hippocampus is also involved in the function of memory, which brings us to our next point.

4. You Have Trouble Remembering

When you have too much on your plate, your brain is overwhelmed and you find you’re unable to organize everyday details like appointment times, where you put your car keys. Everyone forgets things now and then, but if you find it’s a habitual problem, then it may be a sign that you’re under a great deal of stress.

The bottom line is that stress has a negative effect on your brain that can manifest as chronic absent-mindedness and frustrating forgetfulness…which adds to your stress.

5. You Experience Digestive Problems

If you’ve ever had a sudden fright, you know why the ensuing sensation is often called a “punch in the gut.” When faced with a frightening situation, your digestive system temporarily shuts down while your body focuses all of its blood, hormones, and neurological processes on the fight or flight response.

This shut-down is intended to be temporary, of course. Under chronic stress, though, the effects on digestion continue long-term, causing problems like indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, and even vomiting.

If your digestion is awry, then besides making you miserable, you’re not absorbing the nutrients your bones need.

6. You Find Yourself Resorting To Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional glass of wine or other alcoholic drink, or eating a “naughty” treat now and then. However, if you find yourself drinking in order to feel less stress, or binging on junk food, then your stress levels have hit a point where you’re turning to destructive behavior to cope.

Of course, excessive alcohol and junk food have an acidifying effect on the body, which in turn, causes loss of bone density.

7. Insomnia

Although stress wears you out, it can, ironically, make it hard for you to get enough sleep. Cortisol is intended to keep you “driven” and awake, and it keeps your body on overdrive. And with all your responsibilities and obligations on your mind, it can be very difficult to relax and get to sleep.

Yet quality sleep is vital for bone health for a couple of reasons. First, your bones undergo a great deal of remodeling and building while you’re asleep. Second, a good night’s sleep is important for keeping your energy levels up so the next day you’ll be motivated to exercise and move, which are vital components of rejuvenating bone.

8. You Are Exhausted Even With Enough Sleep

Perhaps you are able to get enough sleep, at least on occasion. Yet despite getting enough rest, you still find it very difficult to get out of bed in the morning. You feel heavy and exhausted no matter how much sleep you get.

The reason is that stress saps your energy to a significant degree, exhausting you to the point that one or two nights of decent sleep is not enough for you to recover. This ties in with the problem mentioned in the previous point – when you’re exhausted and sluggish, you’re much less likely to engage in bone-building exercise. Instead, you have to drag yourself through the day and end up sitting slumped over for most of the day. Slumped posture is particularly bad for your thoracic vertebrae, setting the stage for kyphosis and even compression fractures.

9. You Get Sick All The Time

It’s not just the fall and winter season that’s to blame for continual sickness. If you’re sick all the time, then your immune system is not up to par. Obviously, if you’re not getting enough rest, then your immune system will be struggling. And stress itself undermines the immune response by disrupting the vital intracellular communication between body systems. The stress hormone cortisol also inhibits white blood cell activity by decreasing the production of cytokines and interleukins.

Can You Relate To Any Of These Nine Signs Of Stress?

I know that there have been times in my life when I could certainly relate to quite a few of the symptoms we discussed above. One of those times was when I received my osteoporosis diagnosis. My doctor truly scared me, emphasizing the debilitating effects of osteoporosis and painting a dreadful picture of my future unless, of course, I took Fosamax.

But after researching osteoporosis in-depth, I knew that osteoporosis is not a disease, and that it can be reversed naturally. But there’s no question that the initial diagnosis was devastatingly stressful.

Other Sources Of Stress

Unfortunately, there are many other stressors in life besides a diagnosis of osteoporosis or osteopenia. A certain degree of stress is inevitable – from parenting to relationships to situations in the workplace, life always has something stressful going on. That’s why learning to manage your response to everyday stressors is so important – stress happens, and how you deal with it is key.

When you take steps to manage your stress, you can begin to actively decrease cortisol levels.

We’ve touched on why and how cortisol is such a detriment to your bones, but I’d like to take a look at this more in depth, beginning with recent research published in the European Journal of Endocrinology.

Study Confirms The Program: Cortisol Destroys Bone Density

Earlier, I mentioned intracellular communication as part of the immune system. In fact, such communication occurs throughout the body between various body systems, all the time. The hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis (HPA) is a good example of this sort of systemic communication, and cortisol levels are indicators of how well this axis is functioning.

Researchers evaluated the cortisol levels in saliva, urine, and blood in 82 women aged 42-61. Levels were measured at various times throughout a 24-hour period. The goal was to evaluate how cortisol influences bone health.

Researchers noted that:

“Our data suggest that variations of cortisol levels within the physiological range may impair bone mass and bone quality.” 2

In addition, they found:

“…a significant inverse correlation between BMD values at the lumbar spine and femur with parameters of adrenal function…”2

The study concludes that:

“…cortisol secretion seems to play a clear negative role on bone health in the first years after the menopause…possibly reflecting a different response of the HPA axis to the ‘stressful’ event of the menopause.”2

The source of the stress may or may not have been reflective of menopause itself; there’s no way to know what else was going on in the lives of the study participants.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that…

Regardless Of The Stress’s Source, The Effect Is The Same – And So Is The “Treatment”

Whether it’s an osteoporosis diagnosis, personal troubles, an overloaded schedule, or just too many responsibilities, the bottom line is that stress hurts your bones.

Getting your stress (and cortisol) levels under control is so important for bone health that in Chapter 14 of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program, I share “Ten easy behavioral changes that can help you reduce stress.” These are truly simple changes you can make in your routine that are very effective at managing stress, such as adopting deep breathing techniques, spending time in nature, and becoming more aware of the positive things in your life.

And there are Foundation Foods that have been proven to reduce stress, such as mushrooms, walnuts, and apricots. So if you have the Program, you have all the information you need to take control of your life and lower your cortisol levels so your bones can flourish.

Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss

Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.

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The Osteoporosis Reversal Program covers every aspect of bone health from nutrition to mental and emotional health. The Program leaves no stone unturned in the fight against osteoporosis!

Till next time,


1 Vachon-Presseau, Etienne, et al. “The stress model of chronic pain: evidence from basal cortisol and hippocampal structure and function in humans.”Brain: A Journal of Neurology. February 25, 2013. Doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/aws371. Pages 815-827. Web. https://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/136/3/815

1 Osella, Giangiacomo, et al. “Cortisol secretion, bone health, and bone loss: a corss-sectional and prospective study in normal nonosteoporotic women in the early postmenopausal period.” European Journal of Endocrinology. 2012. Vo. 166, pages 855-860.

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Paulette

    I am enjoying all your articles. Thanks for all your research and time you put in to help us get better and stronger .

  2. Sheila Hayes

    Hello Vivian,
    Happy New Year to you and your family.
    I haven’t received any emails or articles since the above.
    Is this due to the holidays ?
    My best wishes,

  3. Rowena L

    Send me literature on Arthritis. Here bones are not involved but Cartilage but if
    bones are strong half of he problems will be solved. Would appreciate if Save our
    Bones is sent in PDF format

  4. Joyce Freeland

    I always enjoy your articles, especially the last one on stress which suffer with.. I have scoliosis plus osteo so my bones need a lot of care. thanks for all your information..

  5. Arlette

    I was told I have osteoporosis due to an over active parathyroid gland as noted on a scan. I was told I must have this enlarged parathyroid glan removed. Is this the only solution to this problem?

  6. Tina

    How can I order more True Osteo ? Thank you.

  7. jill

    Thank you for the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.I was prescribed the Actonel,after reading the chemicals that go into the tablet I took your advice & went out and bought the organic calcium,I have 3 compression fractures in my spine,you may remember my recent enquiry & i am doing some of the exercises as gently as possible.Thankyou again from O.Z..Regards J.H.xx

  8. Anne

    Vivien, I’ve just read your very interesting article about the effects of stress on bone strength and find myself in agreement. Also, kidney injury and kidney inflammation can cause a reduction in bone density, as I have discovered myself. After suffering from an acute kidney injury back in 2008, followed by a a diagnosis of vasculitis and kidney inflammation and then 3 years of steroids, I discovered in 2012 that I had osteoporosis. I am glad I was able to be treated for the kidney disease and the steroids were an important part of that therapy.

    Luckily I found your details on line and have been taking weight bearing exercise and eating a healthy diet, following your advice. I am now stable with the osteoporosis and appreciate your helpful tips for improving bone density. As for stress levels, it is important to factor some relaxation and meditation into each day. I find yoga, pilates and meditation help with this.


  9. Dorothy

    Your article on stress was very interesting. I found last year that i had Cushings Disease, which is an overproductiont of cortisol. An operation to remove the rumour on my pituitary sorted that, but as I had had it For several years before it was diagnosed, my body showed many diverse symptoms including serious effects on my bones. I now have a double spondylolisthesis and ‘severe osteoporosis’. I am active despite that and walk every day but find it difficult to do some of your exercises and get very despondent about reversing the osteoporosis which continued to get worse despite the operation. I refuse to take any of the drugs which have the been recommended thanks to your advice but am worried that I am “too far gone” to ever come right. I almost know ‘Save Your Bones ‘ by heart but don’t feel I am making progress and I’m getting very depressed as I fear it’s too late. I don’t know why I’m writing this but I guess I’d value your encouragement.

    • Jane Howard

      Hello Dorothy,
      I have had several fractures in my thoracic vertebrae which is blow. But I have recently found a consultant in the UK, who has prescribed Teraparatide, which consists of a daily injection for 18 months. This will stimulate the parathyroid gland to put calcium back into my bones. I am having this treatment through our NHS.
      Previously I had only been offered biphosphonate drugs, which I didn’t want to take.
      I wish you luck in your search for good health, Jane

  10. Camille brooks

    Thank you for your articles and book. I’m trying to apply it all and I’m looking forward to my dexa scan scores coming up next year. I have a question. I am wondering if you sprout grains And legumes if they become alkaline ? If you can let me know or write an article on it I would appreciate it

  11. Estelle

    Thank you for being such an informed and trustworthy source of information and health! It is much appreciated!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are welcome, Estelle, and community members like yourself are also appreciated!

  12. Linda Bishop

    Your work is one of a kind. thank you so much. However, you have not acknowledged the stress of humans being marinated in electro-magnetic frequencies day and night. The increase of cell towers, airport activity, cell phones and laptops on and near the body and sleeping (the time of repair and renewal of our organs several times during the night) with the wi-fi is on. Wi-Fi is random waves interrupting our bodies’ nightly rhythms of repair. I unplug my wi-fi each night and most wi-fis are auto-set and come right back online. I encourage you to research this community health risk and see what other countries have been doing for several years.

  13. janie

    Looking for information on Estradiol progesterone micronized alternatives for bone health. Thank you very much!

  14. Wynn kenny

    Love your articles! Thank you for caring .

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Wynn!

  15. shahid ali

    I.m Pakistani I like out off country and I love you

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