Many of us still believe that stress is an isolated event; while in reality it is becoming chronic and is directly affecting our health and wellness in different ways. It is such an incredibly powerful influence that even if you are doing everything right in terms of diet, nutrition and exercise, it can still crush your efforts to stay healthy.
Stress VS Digestion
The key to understanding the link between stress and our metabolism is the central nervous system (CNS). The portion of the CNS that plays the greatest influence on gastrointestinal function is called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which have two subdivisions – parasympathetic, and sympathetic nervous system.
The Sympathetic branch activates the stress response and suppresses digestive activity. The Parasympathetic branch relaxes the body and activates digestion. It might be helpful to think of these two parts of nervous system as an On-and-off switches.
Simply put, the same part of our brain that turns on stress turns off digestion:
The effects of stress on our overall health:
Stress can affect your health and metabolism in many other different ways. Consider the facts below to help inspire you to experience the joys of slow and relaxed eating:
The stress response will cause:
Eating healthy food is half of the story of good nutrition. Being in the ideal state to digest and assimilate food is the other half.
The Stress and Craving Connection
During chronic stress, the body is unable to properly control blood sugar. Some researches have pointed high blood levels of cortisol and insulin as the responsibles for our cravings for fatty, sugary foods and caffeine that, once ingested, seem to inhibit activities in parts of our brains related to stress. Not surprinsingly, these foods are called “comfort food”!
Relax and Optimize your metabolism!
Have you had the experience where you’ve gone on vacation, eaten much more than usual, and either lost or maintained your weight? The reason for this is not hard to understand. While on vacation many of us do something that is highly unusual for us – we relax! We move from chronic sympathetic dominance to a parasympathetic state. Our frame of mind changes our metabolism to such degree that we can eat more and lose weight.
Here are the main reasons for that:
1. Cortisol – High production of cortisol are strongly associated with fat accumulation. That’s because one of cortisol’s chemical responsibilities is to signal the body to store fat and not build muscle.
2. Insulin – Chronic stress can also increase insulin levels, another hormone strongly associated with weight gain and cravings.
Couple stress with the high-carbohydrate snacks we consume when feeling anxious and unloved and we are on the way for quick and easy weight gain. If you goal is weight loss, then it is as important to relax, as it is to choose your food wisely.
You could be eating your favorite ice cream cone, but if you’re miserable and stressed-out and guilty while you’re eating it, you are shifting yourself into a stress response, which will put you in a mild degree of digestive shutdown, which means you’re excreting nutrients and not absorbing them fully, and you’re increasing your output of cortisol and of insulin, which will signal your body to store fat.
You don’t need to worry or punish yourself every time you eat. It is totally counterproductive to stress yourself our about weight loss because that same stress causes you to put weight on!
The power of Breathing
The breathing pattern of stress and anxiety state is shallow, arrhythmic, and infrequent. So if we consciously adopt the deep and rhythmic breathing pattern characteristic of the relaxed state we ‘fool’ the CNS, which means that the SNC shuts down, allowing better digestions and absorption of nutrients.
The path way to shortcut the stress response and bring you to relaxed, slow eating is conscious breathing – before, during and after the meal.
Also, the digestive system is hungry for oxygen. Certain parts of the stomach lining consume more oxygen than any other tissue in the body. So, if you want to maximize metabolism, breathing is one of the most effective tools because the greater your capacity to take in oxygen, the higher your metabolic power will be.
Strategies to balance overall stress
A healthy body naturally regulates stress, but we all respond to stress differently so, there’s no “one size fits all” solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, it’s time to take action.
Here are 10 good strategies to dealing with stress:
Create a good relationship with stress – accept the fact that stress is part of our daily lives and we can’t get rid of it. What we CAN do is to decrease the amount of stress and don’t let it take over our lives;
Identify the sources of stress in your life and what changes can be made;
Learn YOUR healthy ways to cope with stress – listening to music? walking the dog? seeing a friend?
Eat a healthy diet by eating real food and avoiding Inflammatory foods;
Connect to others;
Make time for fun and relaxation
Get enough sleep
Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle