From work deadlines to money woes, there’s a lot to be stressed about in daily life. Your body can handle stress in small doses, but too much stress can wreak havoc on your health. Keep reading to find out how stress affects your metabolism.
Stress is the body’s way of reacting to a perceived threat. When your body thinks it’s under attack, it releases hormones that help you respond to a survival situation. This is called the ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
When discussing the impact stress has on our metabolic function, we must first introduce two key stress hormones: cortisol and epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and stimulation of these two hormones, which increase the availability of blood flow and glucose.
Glucose, broken down from carbohydrates, provides a fast source of energy for the muscles in case you need to fight or run away. The stress response was developed for our caveman ancestors, so although we may not need to flee from a lion anymore our bodies don’t necessarily know that.
Once a perceived threat has passed, hormone levels will return to normal. However, when we experience long-term or ‘chronic stress’ the body stays in the fight-or-flight state. This can lead to excess glucose being produced, which your body stores as fat.
While acute stress is commonly associated with appetite suppression and weight loss, chronic stress is a different story. Prolonged exposure to cortisol has been shown to increase appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Evidence also suggests chronic stress leads to behavioral changes that can cause weight gain. For example, less physical activity, comfort or ‘stress eating’ and increased alcohol intake.
There are a number of simple things you can do to help lower your stress levels. Here we round-up five of the most effective methods.