Is Stress Getting in the Way of Achieving Weight Loss Goals?
Modern living and stress seem to go hand in hand these days. It may be no surprise to you that the effects of stress can have a significant impact on physical and mental well-being. Nevertheless, you may not know that the effects of stress can impact other body systems potentially slowing the achievement of health and weight loss goals.
Given the effect of stress on losing weight or improving digestive function, it is important to understand what the stress response is and how it affects you.
Fight or Flight – the Ancient Coping Mechanism
The stress response is an evolutionary strategy to cope with immediate dangers, such as an approaching lion!
In response to an external threat, the chemical messengers, adrenaline, cortisol and
nor-adrenaline are released from your adrenal glands, which enables you to either stand and fight or flee as fast as you can.
In modern times, the feeling of being under constant stress, whether from work, family or financial pressures is interpreted by your body in the same way. This can lead your body to be in a permanent state of emergency. This is significant as stress may be the underlying reason for a seemingly unrelated bodily imbalance, such as an inability to digest well when you are under pressure.
What is Stress Doing to Your Body?
A chronic state of stress can have widespread negative effects, such as:
• Poor digestion – reduced digestive secretions can lead to bloating, abdominal pain and reflux.
• Irregular blood sugar control – cortisol signals the release of sugars into the bloodstream in anticipation that muscles will need fuel to help you run away. These sugar spikes can lead to weight gain if the sugars are not utilised as muscle fuel and instead converted to fat.
• Hormonal imbalances – lack of libido, menstrual irregularity and fertility issues can all arise when your body switches to making stress hormones in preference to sex hormones.
Breaking the Cycle
There are several nutrients and herbs that can help calm an overactive stress response, which may be stopping you from achieving your health and weight loss goals.
Magnesium is essential for the nervous system by supporting the appropriate functioning of your brains chemical messengers, the ‘neurotransmitters’. Magnesium also produces energy, helping you resolve the fatigue that may come with being stressed.
B vitamins (often taken as a complex) work as a team with magnesium to support your nervous system as well as play a role in energy production themselves.
Adaptogen Herbs – a class of herbs known as ‘adaptogens’ may be helpful to increase your body’s physical and mental capacity to cope with stress. Traditional adaptogenic herbs include withania, rehmannia and rhodiola. If stress makes you uptight you may also need anxiolytic herbs. These help reduce feelings of anxiety and promote more restful sleep. Passionflower, zizyphus, and magnolia are all anxiolytic herbs that have been extensively studied for their mild sedative and calming effects.
During your naturopath appointment, Cindi will assess your stress levels and recommend formulas that contain combinations of these herbs and nutrients depending upon your needs. Over time your personalised prescription will break the cycle of chronic stress and get you back on the path to well-being.
Top tips to manage stress
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to help manage stress and optimise your well-being:
• Exercise regularly – a fabulous stress buster, exercise helps burn up excess adrenaline whilst releasing the ‘feel good’ chemical messengers, the ‘endorphins’.
• Get enough sleep (seven to eight hours) – practice good ‘sleep hygiene’ techniques such as no TV or computer time for at least half an hour before bedtime and avoid caffeine in the afternoons.
• Meditate – particularly helpful if you cannot “switch off” your brain at night. There are numerous techniques available to help calm an overactive mind, such as transcendental meditation, mindfulness and creative visualization.
Stress is a part of modern lifes, but it needn’t get the better of you or keep you from reaching your health and weight loss goals.
Cindi Young is a leading Gold Coast Naturopath specializing in women’s health, adrenal and thyroid issues and the application of a nutritional ketogenic diet.
Cindi Young is available for naturopath consultations at The Cycle of Life in Robina, Gold Coast and at Parkes Avenue Dispensary in Byron Bay. She is also available for online, skype and phone consultations Australia wide.
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