Site icon Women Fitness

Stress: A Factor in Abdominal Weight Gain


Stress can affect virtually any part of the body and produce physical, mental and emotional symptoms including allergies, dizziness, headache, heart palpitations, environmental sensitivity, impaired coordination, impaired immunity and weight gain.

In a healthy body, carbohydrates are converted to glucose and a blood glucose level of 60-120mg/dl is maintained without thought to the dietary consumption of carbohydrate. In the glucose intolerant population, carbohydrates are readily converted to glucose and the pancreas responds to this shift in blood sugar by secreting an excessive amount of the hormone, insulin. Insulin’s job is to remove the glucose from the blood stream and help it to enter the body cells. If done properly, the blood glucose level returns to the normal range regardless of the amount of carbohydrate consumed. If this system is not working correctly, a quick rise in blood glucose followed by an over production of insulin occurs. The excessive insulin is not recognized by the body cells so is unable to remove the glucose from the blood stream. The result is an increase in blood insulin levels, which has an appetite stimulating effect.

Weight gain is often associated with emotional eating and the too-busy-to-exercise lifestyles of people under chronic stress. But researchers are finding that changes in the body triggered by stress, such as elevated cortisol levels, can cause insulin resistance and weight gain.

Under stress, the body excretes corticotrophin-releasing hormone and adrenalin. This reaction stimulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex. In turn, cortisol, a glucocorticoid, stimulates glucose release into the bloodstream, which, during periods of chronic stress, creates an excessive release of insulin. Insulin, which is part of the endocrine system, is a fat-storage hormone that overrides the stress signal from adrenalin to burn fat. The excess release of insulin gives the body the message to store fat in the abdomen.

Consider the types of food women crave when stressed—carbohydrate-rich and often sugary comfort foods. Stress drives the carbohydrate cravings. This, combined with the hyperinsulinemic (insulin resistance) state that many people are in, creates the recipe for weight gain. Chronic stress is a big piece to the obesity puzzle that has 50 percent of people overweight and another 29 percent obese. French fries, chocolate bars, and ice cream are some of the common comfort foods that people gravitate towards and reach for when stressed.

The problem is not simply that people are eating too many carbohydrates and thus if they starve their bodies of these foods they will become lean and healthy again. The body needs carbohydrates for brain fuel, fiber and phyto-nutrients. Rather, the metabolic dysfunction in processing carbohydrates needs to be corrected.

Learning Ways to Handle Stress

Nutrients to Handle Stress

Stress is a normal part of life. What really matters are how much stress, what kind of stress, and ultimately how each individual handles the stress they face. Long-term stress takes a physical toll because the body tries to find ways to adjust to metabolic changes. If lifestyle modifications do not work—leaving a stressful job, exercise, meditation—then biochemical and nutritional factors may be useful. Pharmacists can educate their customers about nutritional therapy and have a lasting influence on their health.

Related Links

Exit mobile version