Ever wondered what happens inside your body with stress, what are the stress effects on body and how this can affect your overall health and well-being?
Well, when the body is undergoing stress, Low stomach acid due to low HCL production and digestive enzymes stop releasing. Oxygen in the blood is diverted to the muscles instead. Your digestion is put on hold. Hence eating at this time when digestion is compromised can be very stressful for the gut and lead to bloating, gas, constipation, heartburn to begin with! And stress deeply can impact the following:
Stress Effects on Body
Weight: It is one of the major stress effects on body. During stress, there is an increase in cortisol increasing visceral fat, the dangerous kind of fat! It produces cytokines that cause inflammation. Prolonged inflammation in visceral fat can contribute to heart disease, poor blood sugar control, and depression. Cortisol can also stimulate appetite causing the person to take in more calories than they need.
Food allergies and intolerances: When the body is stressed, it releases chemicals including histamines which will intensify food allergies, and thus it is one of the prime stress effects on body. Also when cortisol is high leading to high blood sugar, the body can get sensitive to various foods.
Blood sugar: Blood sugar is one of the prime stress effects on body. When the body is stressed, it produces glucose which fuels the fight or flight response to get ready for the danger. But clearly, the body is not running!! Also chronic stress, cortisol prevents the body from secreting insulin, hence leading to high blood sugar levels and this can set the body for insulin resistance.
Inflammation: Stress creates inflammation and inflammation results in more stress. This stress effects on body and this together can lead to anxiety and depression. Inflammation makes it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Also, inflamed cells are resistant to burning giving rise to higher fat percentages.
Gut Microbiome: The more stressed one is, the less healthy bacteria exist in the gut. Thus not only does stress effects on body but also impacts gut microbiome balance.
Immunity: Cortisol suppresses immune function. During acute stress, immune function is enhanced, but during chronic stress, it is suppressed.
The stress management Foods/ diet has 4 elements
- Reduce the source of stress or have a perception shift
- Herbs and supplements
Reducing the source of stress can cause fewer stress effects on body. For eg sleeping fewer hours can create weight gain, as soon as that is addressed, the goal is achieved. Perception shift helps positive thoughts override the negative ones and prevents the body from being in a constant state of stress.
Diet – Eating certain foods can exuberate stress hence crowding out a few dietary irritants can help reduce the stress effects on body.
- Crowd out sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. These are usual picks at times of stress but the comfort is psychological, they actually make us feel worse! Caffeine and other stimulants can stress the body and heighten its response to whatever is already going on. So if you’re anxious, caffeine can make you more anxious. Similarly, sugar feels calming at the beginning, but is usually flowed by a dip! The same goes for alcohol!
- crowd out junk food if you like to see fewer stress effects on body as these create inflammation, suppressing the body’s immunity, energy and creating brain fog.
- avoid any foods that one is intolerant to during stressful times, when the body is stressed, it releases histamines which can worsen the response to allergies and intolerances.
- When stress is high it is important to control blood sugar levels, stress can make blood sugar unstable and also lead to poor food choices and mood swings. Also during stress blood sugar rises, however, chronic stress can also face low blood sugar bouts leading to overeating. Hence the key is balance! Consider eating every 2-4 hours, consuming whole fruits and vegetables, and eating on a schedule. Eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, high-fiber fruits, and veggies would be beneficial.
- Ensure prebiotics and probiotics in foods and supplement form. Hence fermented veggies and soluble fiber in the form of fruits, veggies, and whole grains come into play. Having a healthy gut can help the body handle or modulate stress. A robust microbiome allows for proper digestion of nutrients which can build up in the body which are depleted during stress.
Herbs and Supplements
Basil – rich in antioxidants and vitamin c, helps the body protect against stress. Can add these leaves in herbal tea or chew a few leaves in the morning
Glutathione – helps to repair the gut lining, glutathione rich foods are;
Chamomile – has a calming effect, can be had as a tea at night
Exercise: We know that a high-intensity workout is best for losing fat and building muscle. But when the goal is strengthening and activation the parasympathetic system, the best results come from calming practices such as Tai chi and yoga. These fluid movements and breath focus practices are meditative and grounding and can bring the body in a relaxed state. Additionally, light aerobic exercise is good for the immune system.
The kind of food we eat affects our mood and at times when we feel a sudden dip in our energy levels, it may be because of not eating right! Hence, we must consume those soul foods that lift our spirit and enhance mental health. When we choose to have the right ingredient it boosts our mood into positivity and strengthens our ability to manage or cope up with stress!
1. Refined and processed foods lead to fluctuation in blood sugar levels. This leaves us feeling low on energy and mood swings. It would be wise to consume whole grains and legumes that help us feel better. Don’t forget to dump the junk foods.
2. Vitamin B6 also known as pyridoxine helps in improving our moods. It is found in spinach, oats, avocado, walnuts and salmon
3. Vitamin B 12 is again an important feel-good vitamin. Healthy B12 levels help you feel good. It helps to combat depression. Its sources are salmon, yogurt, and eggs
4. Dopamine plays a major role in the control of emotions and moods such as feelings of pleasure, motivation, drive, and the joy of being rewarded. Exercise supports improvements in dopamine levels. Hence lifting weights along with aerobic workouts never lets you down.
5. Eating good nuts with essential fatty acids like walnuts and almonds is beneficial.
6. High-quality protein like eggs, lean chicken, fish, skim milk and skim milk foods products are building blocks for a mood-boosting diet.
7. Including high fiber foods in your diet reduces the sweet cravings and dips in the mood.
8. Serotonin is also known as a mood regulator which promotes positive and happy thoughts. Its sources are walnuts, bananas, pineapple, kiwi, plums, and tomatoes.
9. Foods rich in tryptophan are also beneficial as they can be converted to serotonin. Its sources are milk, curd, paneer, fish, and chicken. It is also found in oilseeds like pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, soybean, oats, and whole eggs.
10. Adequate sleep, water status, and stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, sport, dancing, or pursuing a hobby go a long way to cope up with everyday stress.
Take away: stress is actually beneficial for the body. It nurtures growth and inspires you. The belief that stress is negative makes it ugly. The trick is to have a deeper understanding of stress and change our relationship with stress!