By Dietitian Anthony Glanville
If you’re alive, you’ve got stress. Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to your health and safety. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones and increasing your heart and breathing rates. Your brain gets more oxygen, giving you an edge in responding to a problem. In the short term, stress can be a good thing. It keeps us alert, motivates us, and can make us work harder. Chronic, long term, day in and day out stress can cause a variety of symptoms and can affect your overall health and well-being in a variety of ways!
Cortisol and your belly
Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that gets released when you are stressed. Repeated, long term elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain and also an increase in fat sored around your abdomen (otherwise known as visceral fat). This type of fat has been shown to lead to increased risk of CVD, diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancers. Managing stress can keep the kilo’s off and make you live longer!
Bloating and your Digestive System
Our understanding of the link between the brain and the gut increases every day, Links are now being seen between stress and your digestive system – with some that suffer from stress reporting an increase in bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, or poor gut function. Stress makes your gut a less hospitable place to live, with decreased enzyme and transporting function and a less ideal balance of gut bacteria. This can lead to more bloating!
How stress affects food choices
Many studies of stress have shown a link between high chronic stress and poorer nutritional choices. Many people often turn caffeine, high carbohydrate meals, and sugar to help relieve stress (by making you feel happy and energetic) These are short term fixes that ‘kick the can down the road’, as opposed to solving chronic stress. This short term fix of not lowering stress levels, making you go back for more, combined with the already known dangers of excessive consumption, can lead to an avalanche of bad health.
How to Manage Stress
The key to lowering stress, and therefore decreasing your risk of many metabolic diseases is to focus on long-term lifestyle changes that help your ability to lower stress and improve your reaction to it.
Focusing on exercise, mediation/breathing exercises/yoga, workplace environment and habit alterations, and looking at improving your diet by recuing intake of process foods, particularly carbohydrates, and increasing your intake of whole foods (like fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds) and healthy fats.
Come see any of the Dietitians at Pinnacle Health Group for more information about reducing stress through your diet.
Anthony Glanville is a Dietitian at our Sydney Westpac Sites