Stress. We all have it, in one form or another.
Whether it’s running around making sure our kiddos get where they need to be or cramming to meet that deadline, life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. When you think about experiencing emotional stress or stress at your job, you don’t usually draw a line from that to your eating. If I were to tell you that stress affects your digestion, you may think I’m being a little cuckoo.
Go with me here for a second.
Think about something or someone that really upsets you or makes you angry. What happens in your body? For me, my shoulders raise up, my heart starts racing, and my neck gets tense. That’s a physical response to something that you’re thinking.
It’s the same thing that happens between your stress and your eating.
Connecting the dots
When you’re stressed, hormones are produced–mainly cortisol and insulin. When those are in your body, they can cause a tendency to overeat and also cause a difference in the types of foods that you’re wanting to eat. AKA: cravings. They don’t bring on cravings for healthy foods. They bring on cravings for fat and sugar filled foods. Then when you eat those “comfort foods”, they have an effect that inhibits parts of the brain that process and produce stress and stressful emotions. Your mind now thinks that the comfort food is actually comforting you.
That same stress hormone can cause you to overeat as well. Now you’re overeating fatty, sugar filled foods, thinking that it is comforting you, when it’s actually working negatively inside of you. When you’re stressed, your nervous system begins to wipe out the good bacteria in your gut. Good bacteria assists with digestion, helps fight off sickness, and helps your body and brain function properly.
Putting it all together
So let’s recap. You’re stressed. You overeat sugary, fatty foods. You think that you’re comforted, but you’re not. Now you’re probably filled with shame because you can’t believe you just ate that much of whatever you ate. So you’re stressed even more and your digestion starts to get all out of whack. Lather, rinse, repeat. Get the picture??
Moral of the story: stress can and does effect your digestion, effect the way you eat, and effect what your body does with the food you eat.
Not to worry–there are things you can do to counteract this! The next time you’re stressed before lunch, take a few minutes and do some sort of low intensity movement. Take a walk. Go up and down the stairs a few times. Try meditation or just sitting quietly. Listen to some soothing, relaxing music. Something that doesn’t ramp up your stress hormones.
Your gut will thank you!