The physical and mental health of an individual in addition to the person’s behavior can be negatively impacted by stress. Stress has been linked, in some individuals, to body weight changes. Everyone, at some point or another, will feel the effects of stress. Shifts in life circumstances, including employment, money, and relationships, can all contribute to stress.
Stress has a wide-ranging impact on the body’s functions and, in some cases, can even cause alterations in a person’s eating habits. They could start eating an excessive amount or lose their appetite completely. The effects of stress on the body, including weight gain, are discussed in this article. We also cover how to de-stress and when it’s time to see a medical professional for additional care. The following points are known facts about how stress can affect your weight and bodily functions:
- Both stress and weight loss are linked.
- Long-term stress may cause a person to gain or lose weight.
- The effects of stress can be felt in almost every part of the body.
- Several of its impacts on the mechanisms and systems of the body can bring about weight loss in a range of ways.
Inflammation Combined With Stimulation of the Vagus Nerve
Inflammation on a broad scale and a loss of body mass can both be caused by stress, which can also lead to poor dietary decisions. This inflammation may result in stimulation of the vagus nerve, which affects how the intestines processes and metabolizes food. Vagus nerve activation has been linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
The Physiological “Fight or Flight” Reaction of the Body is Triggered
The epinephrine and adrenaline that are produced by the adrenal glands are released into the bloodstream by the sympathetic nervous system when the body is subjected to a stressful situation. An influx of epinephrine triggers the fight-or-flight response within the body, which helps prepare an individual to run away from or fight off a potential danger that is approaching. Epinephrine quickens the rate at which the body breathes and the heart beats, both of which contribute to increased calorie burning. In addition to this, it alters how food is digested in the gut, as well as the levels of glucose in the blood.
Modifications Made to the HPA Axis
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is responsible for regulating the body’s reaction to stress, which in turn affects the amount of cortisol produced. The pituitary gland sends a signal to the adrenal glands to produce cortisol whenever the body is subjected to a stressful situation.
This hormone causes the release of fatty acids and glucose from the liver, which increases the amount of fuel for energy that is available to the body. In addition to these functions, cortisol plays a role in the regulation of the immune response and the reduction of inflammation. Changes in eating patterns and metabolic activity can be brought on by prolonged exposure to stress, which disrupts the normal function of the HPA axis.
Because stress disrupts the dialogue that takes place between the brain and the gastrointestinal (GI) system, GI symptoms are exacerbated when stress is present. The esophagus (also known as the “food pipe”), the stomach, and the bowel are all components of the digestive system that are impacted by stress. Stress can result in gastrointestinal problems such as:
- Indigestion or acid indigestion
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Discomfort caused by gas and abdominal pain
- An appetite that is either increased or decreased
- Diarrhea constipation
- Muscular spasms
Because of these symptoms, a person’s eating patterns may change, which could ultimately result in weight loss.
Is It Possible for Stress to Make You Gain Weight?
In addition to the effects of diet and exercise, stress can lead to an increase in body mass. According to the findings of some studies, stress can lead to:
- Insufficiency in sleep led to an increase in appetite and a desire for unhealthier foods.
- Diminished desire to participate in physically active pursuits
- Each of these variables can contribute to an increase in weight or make it more difficult to lose weight.
A person needs to make every effort to maintain the fitness routine they have established for themselves. In addition to being beneficial for one’s mental health, maintaining a healthy weight and good physical health through regular exercise is a win-win. Exercising can improve overall cognitive function as well as reduce feelings of fatigue.
Additionally, it helps one sleep better, boosts mood, and lowers stress levels. A visible effect can be produced by doing aerobic activity for as little as five minutes. People who want to sustain a diet that is beneficial for their physical and mental wellness, as well as their well-being, can use the following suggestions to do so:
- Maintaining a consistent eating routine and not skipping any meals.
- Avoiding foods with a high glycemic index to avoid spikes and drops in blood sugar.
- Consuming a large number of veggies and fruits will provide one with numerous nutrients and antioxidants.
- Preparing meals in advance to prevent making hasty decisions, such as eating at a fast food restaurant
- After a workout, one should consume a snack that is high in protein and contains healthy fats.
How to Decrease Your Stress Levels
One can experiment with a wide variety of methods to lessen the effects of stress. The following are some potentially helpful strategies:
- Exercises involving breathing and relaxation.
- Practices such as meditation.
- Listening to music.
- Reading a book.
- Implementing techniques for managing time.
- Getting enough sleep.
- Talking to family and friends.
- Practicing mindfulness.
- Doing volunteering.
- Helping others while avoiding substances such as alcohol and drugs.
The types of food that a person consumes can also play a role in determining how well they manage their stress. A person needs to make an effort to get enough of the nutrients listed below in their diet:
- Omega-3 fatty acids can assist in the reduction of stress hormones.
- Vitamin C alleviates stress, aids in the proper functioning of the immune system, and brings down cortisol levels.
- Complex carbohydrates have been shown to assist in the regulation of blood pressure and the elevation of serotonin levels.
- Magnesium has been shown to help improve the quality of sleep as well as reduce fatigue and headaches.
- An individual who is going through a stressful situation should also try to obtain more sleep and stay away from caffeine, both of which can make anxiety worse.
When Should One Go to the Doctor?
An individual should seek assistance from their physician if the individual’s efforts to reduce stress through self-help techniques are unsuccessful. In cases of undiagnosed anxiety and depression, a physician may recommend treatment options or behavioral therapy as treatment options.
If an individual suspect that stress is the root cause of a medical issue, such as high blood pressure, they ought to consult their primary care physician for guidance. If someone consistently loses weight without trying to do so, they should make an appointment with their primary care physician. The loss of weight can be an indicator that there is an underlying illness. The following is a list of stress-related symptoms that may be an indication that an individual needs to seek the advice of a doctor:
- A reduction of more than 5% of total body mass over six to twelve months.
- Lack of appetite.
- A transition in bowel habits.
- The use of drugs or alcohol as a means of coping with stress is a symptom.
In conclusion, the effects of stress on the processes of the body can lead to either weight loss or weight gain, particularly in the case of chronic stress. The output of stress hormones and the functioning of the gastrointestinal system are both impacted by stress, which can result in shifts in both appetite and metabolic rate.
Reducing one’s level of stress can be accomplished through the application of many different self-help strategies. An individual should consult their primary care physician if they are unable to bring their stress levels under control or if they continue to lose weight without trying to do so.