Some experts estimate that 75 to 90 percent of all medical visits are directly or indirectly related to problems caused by stress. Stress is a big problem in today’s society, largely due to social networks, long working hours and lack of physical exercise, among other factors. And while there are many diseases recognized as a consequence of stress, there is one disease that people often overlook: the impact on hormone levels and the ability to maintain a healthy weight.
Any source of stress in the body, whether it is physical or emotional stress, triggers the production of the hormone cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is an important element for our survival, as it is the hormone that makes us react in dangerous situations, such as jumping out of range of an approaching car at high speed.
The problem is that when we are constantly in stressful situations, the level of cortisol remains high and this impacts many bodily processes, such as metabolism and emotional stability. Some studies indicate that chronically overproducing cortisol is linked to anxiety, sleep problems , hormonal imbalances, fertility problems, and of course, weight gain.
When it comes to weight loss , stress can be a difficult problem to detect, because you may not know that it is the cause of the obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goals. Here are 5 ways chronic stress can negatively affect your quality of life , impair hormonal balance, and consequently hinder weight loss.
Cortisol is a hormone related to the ability to be alert, so its main function is to keep people motivated, awake and receptive. Cortisol levels are usually highest in the morning and decrease throughout the day, reaching their lowest point at night, when it is time to go to bed.
When levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, such as adrenaline, are higher than normal during the day, it can be more difficult to fall asleep, or sleep through the night. It may until you wake up between 2 and 4 in the morning energetic but confused. This lack of sleep can directly impact maintaining a healthy weight, as sleep deprivation affects levels of leptin and ghrelin , the hormones that dictate appetite and feelings of fullness after eating.
It’s no secret that the busier and more hectic life or schedules get, the more difficult it is to maintain a healthy diet. Especially when it comes to new eating habits, some studies show that stress pushes people back to old integrated habits as a result of environmental cues.
Due to the interference of stress hormones in mood, sleep, and digestion, high levels of stress often contribute to sugar and carbohydrate cravings . In addition, some studies show that people who are more sensitive to the effects of cortisol tend to consume more calories on stressful days compared to people who are less sensitive to cortisol. Due to the effect of stress on hunger, people who are more sensitive to cortisol often have cravings for sugary foods when they are sad or overwhelmed, so there is a greater risk of gaining weight and developing health problems.
Studies that have examined the relationships between stress and eating habits have found that elevated stress levels are a very important risk factor in the development of many types of addictions, including food addictions. Additionally, stress can contribute to an increased risk of obesity and other metabolic diseases that are closely related to eating highly palatable, high-calorie foods that cause feelings of euphoria (such as highly processed, high-fat, or high-fat foods). sugar). This is because stress lowers the levels of “happiness hormones” like serotonin. Therefore, we seek the pleasure and well-being produced by neurotransmitters through comforting foods.
Stress is a leading cause of digestive problems and imbalances, such as constipation or diarrhea (both associated with IBS), gastric reflux, and FODMAP food intolerances. This is due to the inflammatory action of stress, which can damage the tissue of the gastrointestinal tract, making it difficult for nutrients to be properly absorbed and increasing other symptoms related to leaky gut syndrome .
Digestive problems cause great discomfort and can make it difficult to follow a varied diet rich in fiber and whole foods, which is an essential part of weight loss. Also, a lack of certain nutrients (due to malabsorption) can increase appetite in an attempt by the body to get the vitamins and minerals it needs.
And of course, eating too much due to stress can also lead to digestive problems. Some studies have shown that increased stress hormones can affect the signals received by appetite hormones that indicate when it is time to eat and how much to eat. Some recent research suggests that ghrelin secretion is “extremely sensitive to both acute stress and chronic stress.”
It is possible to lose some weight simply by eating a healthier diet, but physical activity is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy weight, feeling good about your own body, and staying in good health. Due to the inflammatory properties of stress and the debilitating action it has on the immune system, it can also cause symptoms that make it difficult to lead an active lifestyle, such as lack of energy, slower post- workout recovery , frequent illnesses and pain or stiffness in muscles and joints.
One of the functions of cortisol is to transport blood glucose (obtained from carbohydrate sources in the diet) to the muscles in order to deal with threats or sources of stress. When the body is constantly stressed and glucose is diverted to combat potential threats, there is less energy, or fuel, left for brain activity and mood stabilization.
Some studies have shown that hormonal changes due to stress can negatively affect the ability to access memories, can make it difficult to create new ones, and decrease the ability to create new healthy habits . In stressful situations, you are more likely to revert to old habits due to goal-directed behaviors. This can block your ability to associate exercise and / or a healthy diet with improvements in your mood and well-being, leaving you without the motivation to try to stick with good habits.
The effects of stress on the body are serious. What can you do to improve your stress management ? Simple things like a morning routine or snacking on healthy snacks can help relieve stress. The exercise is another effective way to combat stress .