As I mentioned, we recently moved to Washington state. It was a quick move to find a place to live, get an office and deal with some family drama. As well, we had to maintain our Las Vegas and California offices in the meantime. For me, it has been pretty stressful. I am certainly not complaining, as many other people have way more stress than me. But we all know that moving/family/business can be darn stressful.
With that said, I want to talk about the effects of stress on your body. Stress and its impact on the body could be a 300-page blog. But for now, I am going to talk about stress and its effect on cortisol and insulin production.
Stress can be many things, mentally or physically induced.
Mental Stress Examples (to name a few):
- Rushing and running late
- Conflict with another person such as arguing with a co-worker
- Watching the news or TV shows like “TheWalkingDead.”
- Family Drama (been there, still there)
- Vacations, weddings, graduations: yes, happy stress can still affect your body
Physical Stress Examples:
- Intense cardio exercise classes
- Long distance running
- Manual labor
- Drinking coffee
- Skipping meals, fasting, long period without food
What does stress do? Below is a list of the effects of stress on your body:
Stress will cause your adrenals to produce more cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to maintain or raise blood sugar. When cortisol increases, it will mobilize muscle tissue to convert it to sugar. The rise in blood glucose will stimulate the pancreas to release
Insulin is a fat-storing hormone. When insulin rises, your body will store the glucose as fat, predominantly in the torso or stomach. Many refer to this as “belly fat” or “muffin top” or “back fat.” Cortisol rising due to mental or physical stress can happen even if you have already eaten.
As mentioned above, cortisol catabolizes muscle tissue into amino acids and turns it into sugar. Well, that sugar is then stored around your abdomen/belly. This is why people will complain that their weight is the same, but their bodies look different. They will have thin legs and larger stomach. Stress can cause you to lose muscle mass and replace it with belly fat.
Stress can cause sugar and carbohydrate cravings. These cravings are almost impossible to ignore. Because of cortisol’s impact on insulin, this creates ups and downs in your blood sugar. This can cause you to avoid eating healthy foods opting for sugary carbs. Don’t feel guilty because this is a biological process. Willpower never wins when competing against biology. I won’t lie, this happened to both Dr. Rob and I during our move. We both had dessert so frequently that it became more of a habit than a treat. Even though we know the impact sugar has on the body, and all the nasty things it can do. I still wanted to eat ice cream, and I am lactose intolerant! Biology always beats your willpower. Techniques to beat biology is another episode. But there are ways to curb sugar cravings while in the midst of stress. Because sometimes, there are stressors that we have no control over.
Stress can cause or exacerbate anxiety. The rise in cortisol will reduce GABA. GABA is a hormone that makes us feel happy, relaxed and safe. Stress causes cortisol to rise and GABA to fall. The result is anxiety and overreacting to stress.
Stress will disrupt your sleep cycle. Cortisol is naturally secreted in a diurnal curve, which occurs over a 24 hour period. Our cortisol is highest in the morning, so we are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for the day. Over the day, cortisol will reduce so we can sleep at night.
Stress can cause the cortisol to rise at night causing trouble falling asleep. And the cortisol can bounce up and down all night causing trouble staying asleep. Of course, this causes you not to feel rested upon waking and fatigue during the day. You might even feel tired or sleep in the afternoon between 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Lowered Thyroid Function:
Stress can cause your thyroid function to drop. Your thyroid has many functions, which again is whole another topic for a future episode.
But in short, lower thyroid function can cause:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Lowered stress tolerance
- Dry skin
- Digestive issues
Chronic stress will eventually cause lowered immune function. Elevated levels of cortisol over time, will show a reduction in white blood cells. White blood cells are one of the main sources of immune defense for us.
Stress can cause us ladies’ menstrual cycle to become disrupted. Most have heard of missing periods due to stress. But more commonly stress can cause more frequent periods, such as two periods in a month. Stress can cause heavier periods, more cramping, more PMS.
The body is smart. But it doesn’t understand the difference between a bear chasing you or the 100 things on your plate for the day. In fact, being pursued by a bear would only last 15-30sec at the most. But chronic long-term stress, the body cannot figure out why you haven’t been eaten or got away.
During extended periods of stress, the female body decides, ‘now would not be a good time to be fertile.’ Often high levels of chronic stress will turn off ovulation. As the body knows, times of stress, war, famine, fight/flight would not be conducive to gestation. Let alone raising babies.
The world we live may not be fatally dangerous. But the constant barrage of “life-stressors” can have a lot of effects on our bodies. From weight gain to sleeplessness to anxiety and menstrual issues.
If you have concerns/questions, feel free to leave a message in the comment box or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.