What is stress?
• Stress is triggered by the Sympathetic Nervous System. This is the system that signals to the brain you are under stress.
• Stress is the fight or flight response
• Physiologically, the body reacts to a situation where you have the need to either stand up and fight or run away
• It is a necessary response for your survival, so it is not ideal to suppress stress completely.
What happens when your body is stressed?
• The body secretes cortisol, which is the hormone that helps you deal with stress.
• It also secretes adrenalin to give you the power and energy that you need for fight or flight.
• And finally it secretes glucose into your blood stream for a quick burst of energy.
Let’s explore this in more detail:
• When you are stressed, your body thinks it is either in danger or needs to act quickly to acquire a food source.
• Think paleolithic era – we either had to run away from a tiger so we wouldn’t get eaten, or chase am animal for food.
• Either way you needed a quick burst of power and energy.
• In today’s day and age, we don’t have to run away from tigers or chase our food.
• We have other stresses like work, money, school, life etc.
• Our lives are so fast that we are in a constant state of stress unless you make a conscious effort to reduce your stress and by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. More on that later.
How does it effect your fat loss goals?
• Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands to regulate blood sugar and inhibit insulin response in a state of stress, to give you a burst of energy that you need.
• The inhibition of insulin prevents glucose from being stored, so that it can be transported to the largest muscles for energy.
• When you are constantly stressed, you have a constant elevation of cortisol.
• Insulin converts glucose to glycogen to store it as energy. If insulin is inhibited glucose is not converted to glycogen and therefore unable to store as energy. The cells therefore do not get the energy they need to function optimally.
• This increases fatigue and brain fog. This may explain how you are feeling, if you are constantly feeling exhausted and flat.
• It also means a constant elevated state of blood glucose.
• These can have many serious negative effects
• Your cells are screaming for energy, so your brain signals for the secretion of ghrelin, the hormone that tell your body you are hungry.
• As a result, you feel hungry all the time and nothing satisfied your appetite.
• The cells’ needs for glycogen causes sugar cravings.
• This leads to overeating and choosing high carbohydrate and high sugar foods.
• The excess glucose in the blood that goes unused is then transported to the liver and metabolized into fat.
• Some of this fat is transported back around the body through your blood in the form of triglycerides (3 fat molecules bound together); another form of energy.
• Any fat that is not used as energy is stored as adipose tissue around the body.
• Excess triglycerides around the body increases inflammation and therefore cholesterol since the role of cholesterol is to reduce inflammation.
• The excess glucose also increases inflammation, further increasing cholesterol.
• It also increases risk of insulin resistance and Diabetes type 2 since the pancreas is being overworked and unable to keep up with demand.
• The fat that is not converted to triglycerides, is converted to visceral fat and stored around the abdomen.
• Visceral fat increase risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and other health issues associated with Metabolic Syndrome.
• One of the other roles of cortisol is to reduce inflammation. However constant elevated cortisol levels can suppress your immune system making you more susceptible to colds, flus, cancers, autoimmune diseases and develop food allergies.
• When your body is working hard to combat all of these issues is reduces or shuts down other not so vital functions such as digestion and the production of sex hormones.
• Poor digestion increases risks of ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, nutrient deficiencies due to poor absorption, and much more.
• Reduction in the production of sex hormones leads to reduced libido, impotence, PCOS, and menstrual issues.
What can you do to reduce your stress?
• Increase activities that trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This is the system that signals to the brain to relax and suppress the stress response.
What are some things that trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System?
• Taking time out each day by yourself, for yourself
• Take a break; walk away from whatever you are doing that is causing you to feel stressed. Come back to it when you are feeling up to it.
• Avoid stress inducing behaviour such as:
o Use of recreational drugs
o Consuming excess carbohydrates and sugary foods
o Getting insufficient sleep
o Over consumption of caffeinated beverages (stick to 1-2 per day)
o Insufficient water intake
• Going for a walk
• Sitting in the sun
• Walking on grass, barefoot
• Talk to someone. Talk to a friend, counselor, psych, your doctor, support group.
• Breathing exercises
• Writing in a journal
• Writing a gratitude list
• Breathing exercises
• Eat nutritious meals
If your symptoms of stress persist, speak to your health care professional about having your cortisol levels tested via a saliva test. If chronic stress is then diagnosed, your health care professional can offer the best advice to help you return to optimal health.
– Coach Terri