It is no secret that stress impacts our bodies in many ways and that it could be detrimental to our health. One way that we often ignore is the impact that stress has when it comes to assimilating the food we eat; stress directly affects our digestive system. Have you ever thought that you go through a lot of effort ensuring you are eating the right foods and yet you feel as your body is not responding? That scale number is always going in the opposite direction and you constantly feel deflated with results? Have you stopped to think stress could be the reason?
On one side of the equation is choosing and eating the right foods, as this is a major component of being healthy, and on the other side of the equation is what is happening around you and to you, in what state are you in once you start eating, what about at digestion time? Even, what is happening afterwards?
Here is a fact: whether the stress is real or imagined (as our brain can not differentiate), stress plays a huge role in how our bodies absorb and digest foods and can directly cause our digestive system to shut down. Eye opener huh? Here are some things that happens once our bodies detect the presence of stress:
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Quickened respiration
- Inability to eat
- Released adrenaline and cortisol
- Blood flow re-routed from digestion to extremities
- Decrease ability to burn calories
- Decrease thyroid hormones
- Decrease nutrient absorption
- Increase salt retention
- Increase cholesterol levels
- Increase constipation
- Increase inflammation
- Insulin resistance
This is just a short list of what happens to our bodies, the list is quite endless. Think about it: this is our bodies in survival mode! It is almost as if the body starts playing an alarm because something is not aligned, something is wrong. Our bodies is in continuous communication with us…how many times do we stop to listen? We need to understand that stress can directly lead to many illnesses, can even be life-threatening. It is truly incredible how many times we run to the doctor because of things that come up that we would have never linked nor blamed stress for.
Guess what? The good news is that it is not the end of the world! While it is true that stress can affect us mentally, emotionally, biologically and structurally, we need to understand that it is also true that WE ARE definitely in control and that we need to dedicate time to recognize presence of stress and identify cause in order to come up with a plan to recover. You may feel that figuring out how to manage stress can be extremely stressful in itself. Stress management does not have to be another chore on your list. We already know things like exercising, yoga, listening to music, meditation, etc. are great actions to manage stress, take note of these other actions that that will help tremendously:
- Do not eat in a rush – take (at least) 20 minutes to eat your food
- While you are eating, put your fork down between bites…chew and enjoy that food
- Take deep breaths in between bites
Do not underestimate the simplicity of these actions…these could have a positive impact in how you feel! Start with your next meal and pay attention to how you feel!