Updated: Oct 19
Let’s have a look at how what you put into the gut can interact with your nervous system. Starting by talking about cortisol, the stress hormone. This hormone is released by the adrenal to help people deal with stress and regulate blood sugar levels. However, too much cortisol has some series negative side effects. While cortisol can help in a stressful situation, too much cortisol will cause a slew of negative health issues. Sometimes this is referred to as cushing syndrome or hypercortisolism. According to the Mayo clinic, “…the hallmark signs of Cushing syndrome — a fatty hump between your shoulders, a rounded face, and pink or purple stretch marks on your skin….high blood pressure, bone loss and, on occasion, type 2 diabetes.”
Do not eat in front of the computer or TV and distract your brain while chowing down. Do not emotionally eat bags of chips or pints of Cherry Garcia. Here’s why:
Sugar –The same hormone that helps maintain stress maintains blood sugar levels, cortisol. Therefore, when we spike our blood sugar levels, we also spike our cortisol production. If that isn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Cortisol is released by the adrenal gland. Ingesting too much sugar or spending too much time in the sympathetic nervous system (“fight or flight”) will lead to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue will materialize as a whole list of other negative issues. So don’t eat sugar because you’re stressed. In fact, you may be stressed because you eat sugar. BTW there are 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. Go ahead and google if you’re not sure if there is added sugar in your foods. This is why doctors refer to sugar as “the white death.”
Artificial Sweeteners - Someone might try to avoid the health issues of sugar by switching to artificial sweeteners. Some studies claim that artificial sweeteners will lead to a hike in blood sugar, migraines, obesity, and mood disorders while other studies claim they are safe. There are a range of artificial sweeteners on the market. While the debates rage, I will sit on the sidelines. However, I always go with natural sources over chemicals. Therefore, if you can’t kick a little sweetness, do the real thing in moderation. Chocolate above 72% Cacao has some good health benefits and will subdue the sweet tooth. Just remember moderation!
Processed Carbohydrates (AKA More Sugar) – Processed carbohydrates get broken down into simple sugars. (glucose) Therefore, a spike in your blood sugar levels which gets us back to consuming sugar.
Processed & Refined Carbohydrates - Do your blood sugar any favors. Skip the sugar and fake sweeteners and try these natural sweeteners instead. Processed, refined carbohydrates might taste good to your tongue, but they’re not doing anything for your body. For starters, they have no nutritional value and are actually worthless calories. They also lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels that can cause you to feel moody and irritable. Many processed carbs, particularly standard packaged foods, are high in sodium. Aside from making you extra thirsty, the extra sodium causes your body to retain more fluid. Which then forces your heart to work harder to keep the blood pumping. It can also increase blood pressure making you feel bloated and generally unwell, which can certainly increase your stress levels.
Alcohol - A glass of wine might help you feel more relaxed after an intense day, but you’re likely negating any of alcohol’s health benefits. Instead, adding more stress to your life. Drinking alcohol can increase the production of hormones that will leave you feeling anxious and more stressed than before you began imbibing. It can also increase blood pressure and heart rate and trigger those same stress-like symptoms within the body. Lots of alcoholic drinks are also packed with sugar, which means you’ll be getting a double whammy of stress-causing ingredients. First, from the alcohol, and then from whatever way-too-sweet mixer is used in your cocktail. If you think you’ll sleep off the stress, that’s unlikely. Alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns. While you might fall asleep more easily than usual, you won’t get the deep sleep that’s necessary to feel refreshed. The result is a cranky morning after and, you guessed it, more stress.
Excess Caffeine - If you can’t function without your morning cup of Joe, you don’t need to give up coffee completely. However, if you’re regularly drinking several cups each day, you’re likely going to find yourself feeling more stressed than you’d like. Too much caffeine can spell trouble for your adrenal glands by overstimulating the body. It’s important to remember that caffeine isn’t found in just coffee. It’s also in soft drinks, certain types of tea, energy drinks, over-the-counter pain relievers, and even chocolate.
Choose Stress-Busting Foods - A review published in May 2017 in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews found that eating disorders and obesity can be associated with psychological stress. Cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal glands, also increases appetite. Stress can affect food preferences, too. Studies have shown that “physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both,” according to Harvard Medical School. But there are certain foods that have been shown to reduce anxiety. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which are natural mood boosters. Almonds are full of magnesium, a mineral that helps manage cortisol levels. Oranges and other citrus fruits contain vitamin C which can lower blood pressure according to research published in January 2017 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Hope you enjoyed this blog!
Stay Healthy My Friends