Stress is a catch all term we hear many times a day. We all have a story to tell, and many times our stories include the stresses and stressors we have in our day to day lives. Stress is a major influence on our health and our weight. In fact, many experts on stress say that stress can alter virtually every chemical function in our body. When our bodies are stressed, the adrenals release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is released when the body is in what is called the “flight or fight response,” which is the adapted response we have when we are under attack and are preparing for battle. If the cortisol levels remain elevated for prolonged periods of time, our internal chemistry can start to change since the adrenal glands are linked to almost every endocrine gland in the body. Our immunity can decrease, blood sugars can increase, and cholesterol levels are elevated. High levels of cortisol can accelerate fat storage, especially around the mid section. Many people with high cortisol levels crave high fat, high sugar foods which exacerbates the cycle.
Per Bjorntorp, a researcher in Sweden at the University of Goteborg coined the phrase “Civilization Syndrome,” in which he proposes how stress may be a major source of risk for metabolic abnormalities leading to chronic disease. He further proposes that the levels of chronic stress along with increased amounts of alcohol, overeating, and smoking lead to an increase in the neuroendocrine response which leads to visceral (deep tissue in the mid section) obesity, leading to insulin resistance, hypertension, high cholesterol, adult diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
A change in our eating can be the impetus for assisting the body with reversing this metabolic response, along with relaxation exercises and learning how to de-stress with meditation, yoga, or relaxation. Studies indicate that those who exercise regularly are able to handle more stress in their systems. Adequate sleep on a regular basis is also known to assist with assistance of the adrenal system.
Copyright 2010 Susan B. Dopart, M.S., R.D.