Stress levels and weight loss are intricately linked. Stress-filled life events can cause rapid loss can be detrimental to health.
Stress affects individuals differently. In some cases, stress could lead to skipped meals or completely lose the desire to eat. However, this change is often temporary and regular eating habits may return once the stressor has passed.
Read on to find out how stress can impair your body’s normal functioning and what you can do to manage stress-related weight loss.
Besides weight loss, stress can cause other symptoms, including headaches, indigestion, muscle tension, mood changes, fatigue, difficulty falling or staying asleep and memory issues. Chronic stress can lead to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and obesity.
Under stress, you may participate in unusual behaviours and activities, such as skipping meals and doing something that requires attention as a source of distraction, or staying up late watching TV. That is to say, disruptions like these can increase reactions to stress. Stress can impair sleep. Not only does it make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep, but also affects the quality of stress, making you feel achy and fatigued.
How stress impacts the body
Firstly, stress triggers the body’s acute stress response (flight or fight). This physiological mechanism signals the body to prepare itself for a threat and releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline lets your body get ready for strenuous activity and also decreases appetite. In addition to this, Cortisol signals your body to temporarily suppress functions that are not required during ‘stress’ including digestive and immune system responses.
Subsequently, when digestion is slowed down, an individual under the fight or flight response can experience stomach pain, heartburn, and either diarrhoea or constipation. In addition to a loss of appetite, stress can affect how your body processes food. Affecting the vagus nerve, the rate of digestion decreases. Therefore, the production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes are not as effective. As a result, this leads to poor breakdown and nutrient absorption, resulting in inflammation in the gut, and potential gastrointestinal conditions.
Above all, drastic weight loss can be a sign of malnutrition, and individuals experiencing this should seek professional healthcare immediately.
Tips to manage stress-related weight gain
- Reduce stress altogether. Try meditation or practice mindfulness, regulating breathing can lower levels of stress and promote relaxation.
- Get to the root cause of the stress. Toxicity, magnesium vitamin B12 deficiencies, and gluten allergies could be changing your brain.
- Take a multivitamin and nutrients to help balance the stress response. Vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, cordyceps, and ashwagandha are known to have relaxing compounds.
- Eat small meals often. During high-stress, you may forget or avoid eating so set an alarm on your phone to remind you. In the same vein, eat foods like oranges, carrots, leafy greens, salmon and nuts packed with nutrients that boost the immune system and also regulate the nerves.
- Exercise regularly as this produces endorphins (feel-good hormones)
In short, if this resonates with you then…
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