Minimise the negative effects of stress with our support plan:
- Learn what happens to your body when you get stressed
- Understand why you put on weight around the middle
- Use these tactics to combat stress for a healthy body and mind
Stress is part of everyday life and 75-90% of doctor visits are stress related, so it’s time to understand what’s going on in your body and what you can do about it!
UNDERSTANDING THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF STRESS
The adrenal glands are designed to deal with and react to stress; they are small, pyramid-shaped, no larger than a walnut, and sit above your kidneys. When stress hits you, the adrenal glands produce stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, in what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
This is what happens to your body when you get a surge of stress:
- Breathing rate increases – to help oxygenate your muscles and brain, so you can think and move faster, as well as getting rid of excess carbon dioxide.
- Heart pumps faster and blood pressure increases – blood flow diverts away from your organs (including the stomach, bowel, ovaries, testes) and towards your large muscles, to help you escape from danger.
- Blood becomes thicker – when blood is thicker and stickier, it is primed with immune cells, and ready to clot in case you get wounded.
- You feel more alert - fat and sugar stores break down and release more energy into the bloodstream (= high blood sugar).
- Pupils dilate – to help your visual awareness.
- Urgency to go to the bathroom - your bladder and bowel muscles relax to let go of extra weight that could slow down your escape.
These physical changes are relatively useless in modern day stress, because we don’t tend to do much fighting or running away!
You could be sitting in your car, at your desk or in a confined space like a queue or train carriage and the excess energy that your body has helpfully produced has nowhere to go.
SHORT-TERM EFFECTS OF STRESS
The knock-on stress symptoms affect your whole body:
- Digestive issues like churning, diarrhoea or constipation
- Skin conditions like psoriasis and acne can get worse
- Disrupted sleep
- Feelings of depression
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle aches/pains/twitching
Ideally, these symptoms should be temporary because stress hormones should only stick around in your body for 2 hours.
*Tip*: If you have the opportunity (and you're fit enough), you can reduce the negative impact of stress by doing a short blast of exercise, run up a couple of flights of stairs, do some squats and lunges to expend the extra energy in your blood stream.
>> Find out what happens to your body when you’re stressed every day..
Stress hormones increase sugar in your blood and encourage the laying down of fat around your middle
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF STRESS
If you’re feeling stressed every day or even several times per day, and this is on-going, then the physical changes (that should only be temporary) now become damaging to your health.
- Fat around the middle - When you don’t use up the extra sugar in your blood stream, it causes weight gain, especially around your middle (your body’s way of protecting your vital organs), and inflammation.
- Food cravings - craving sugar and fat can be a survival mechanism.
- Metabolism slows down – this is another one of your body’s protective mechanisms.
- Painful digestive issues, including IBS – because your digestion has ground to a halt!
- Fertility and libido are reduced – your body is concentrating on survival, and believes that your environment is not suitable for a baby, so stressed individuals can have problems conceiving.
- Lowered immunity – cortisol switches off the immune system.
- Worse PMS or menopausal symptoms – a good balance of sex hormones isn’t possible when your body is focussed on producing stress hormones instead.
- Raised heart disease & stroke risk – your heart rate and blood pressure rise, and blood becomes thicker, which all increase the chance of complications.
- Raised diabetes & cancer risk – due to the high blood sugar levels you experience when under stress.
- Acceleration of ageing – when your body spends all its energy on fight or flight, then your repair and recovery functions (that keep your skin healthy and aches and pains at bay) are reduced.
- Adrenal fatigue – when your adrenal glands simply get worn out. This is a serious condition where sufferers can barely get out of bed in the mornings.
When under stress, your energy is diverted away from your repair and recovery functions, this results in faster ageing!
>> Read on to find out the anti-stress rules that really work!
If you’re under chronic stress, you can take additional load off your body by avoiding the following choices:
- Sugar (chocolate, sweets, cake, cookies) – the sugar rush always ends in a sugar crash, this triggers more cortisol in the body.
- Refined carbohydrates (white flour, potatoes, cereals) – these are digested quickly, your body turns them to sugar, and they have the same effect as sugar.
- Tea & coffee – caffeine stimulates adrenaline (this is why you feel alert and energised after drinking coffee). But if you’re already stressed, it will overwork the adrenals, putting the body under more strain.
- Smoking & alcohol – these are toxins, they rob your body of nutrients and overwork your detoxification organs.
- Hard-to-digest foods – foods that don’t agree with you, such as those known to irritate the gut like wheat and milk, can put the body under more strain because they activate your immune system.
Stressed? Take an additional load off your system by avoiding stimulants, sugar, and refined carbs
RESPECT YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
There are 2 sides to your nervous system:
- The sympathetic nervous system known as your ‘fight or flight’ stress response.
- The parasympathetic nervous system, known as your ‘rest and digest’, the side of your nervous system that is required for repair, digestion and immunity.
These two sides of your nervous system function interchangeably, not at the same time.
- Don’t eat when you’re stressed - if you’re in fight or flight mode during meal times, you won’t be digesting your food properly, leading to digestive issues. This is why eating at your desk is also a bad idea.
- Exercise when your stomach is empty – a workout taps into your fight or flight mode, so make sure your body isn’t trying to digest a meal at the same time.
The anti-stress nutrition rules1. Eat foods that release energy slowly – protein, fibre and fat
- Protein foods: Organic Burst Spirulina (add 1tsp to a green smoothie or in a glass of water with lemon juice), organic meat from grass-fed animals, game meats, organic poultry, wild caught fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, natural yoghurt, sprouted beans/seeds.
- Fibre-rich foods: vegetables, fruit, soaked seeds such as Organic Burst Chia. Healthy fats: coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, oily fish, avocados, organic butter, eggs and meat from grass-fed animals.
- Focus on weaning off, reducing and replacing because going cold-turkey can put your body under even more strain!
- Don’t start the day with caffeine; drink water/herbal tea/lemon water first.
- For caffeine-free energy, add 1tsp Organic Burst Maca to a mug of nut milk.
- Replace cola or energy drinks with green juices and water.
- Eat energy-balancing snacks with protein.
- Magnesium in dark green leafy vegetables, seeds, almonds.
- Essential fats in oily fish, walnuts, olives.
- L-Carnitine an amino acid found in red meat (go for organic and grass-fed 1-2 times per week) or Organic Burst Spirulina – take 1-2 tsp in water or smoothies per day.
- Vitamin C in fruits, green leafy vegetables, sprouts, tomatoes, broccoli.
- B vitamins in green vegetables, beans, peas and Spirulina.
- Zinc & iron in seafood, meat, Brazil nuts.
- Water to aid delivery of energy and nutrients to the cells.
- Organic Burst Maca is an adaptogen that supports healthy hormonal balance and, provides nourishment, as well as improving your energy levels. Try 1tsp in your breakfast bowl.
- Don’t wait until you are starving to eat
- Stop eating before you feel full
- Never exercise on a full stomach
- Take time out to enjoy food
- Give each meal your full attention
- Digestion starts in the mouth – chew your food to start the release of digestive juices, remember your stomach doesn’t have teeth!
A FINAL NOTE
In this article, the focus has been on managing the effects of stress with diet and lifestyle measures, and we haven’t looked at addressing the route causes of your stress, which of course you mustn’t ignore! You may need to speak to your colleagues or family members to find support and solutions.
Other great measures include yoga, having an Epsom salt bath, massage, sport, and putting your phone down!
Good luck and stay chilled.