Common Problematic Eating Habits Caused By Stress
I see more and more people eating while they are performing other tasks and completely distracted. For instance, we often eat while we are checking emails, talking on the phone, or watching the news. Isnt multi-tasking the best way to be more productive? Eating doesnt require much focus, right?
While being productive is often praised in our society, eating while doing other activities may not be appreciated by our digestive system, as we arent focused on the action of eating.
The process of digestion why it is important to eat mindfully and chew your food!
The process of digestion begins in our mouth. Mechanical digestion, which refers to mechanically breaking down food through chewing, as well as chemical digestion, which refers to enzymes breaking down food, both start here. In the mouth, an enzyme, salivary amylase, produced by salivary glands, breaks down starches , converting them into smaller carbohydrates.
Now, imagine eating on the go. Digestion cannot properly take place if eating quickly and swallowing food before chewing it properly. There is not enough time to allow amylase to do its job.
Once the food leaves the mouth, after being partially digested, the food forms a mass called a bolus. This bolus then travels down the esophagus into the stomach. It is important that gastric juice, which contains hydrochloric acid, and a protein digesting enzyme called pepsin, is acidic enough.
Other Ways To Reduce Stress
Meditation is a great way to calm your mind, plus its free and you can do it anywhere, anytime.
Yoga may help with practicing mindfulness not only is it a great form of exercise but it incorporates meditation to slow down and calm the body and mind.
Get outside for fresh air and to connect with nature.
Good quality sleepis of utmost importance for long term health and regeneration. Few people can function properly with less than seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
Regular, gentle exercise is very beneficial for relieving stress and decreasing negative emotions such as worry or anxiety. However, for people with significantly depleted adrenal hormones, intensive cardiovascular exercise may further deplete adrenal reserves.
Regular relaxation needs to be built into daily life. Reading, having a bath, getting a massage or listening to music are great ways to promote relaxation.
Counselling or other therapies may be beneficial for those having to cope in the face of severe stressors.
If you are feeling stressed and anxious, do not disregard it. Seek advice from your GP or health professional.
Kerry Torrens is a qualified nutritionist with a post-graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years, she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
Seek Out Social Support
Friends, family, coworkers, and other sources of social support can help buffer the adverse effects of stress. If you cant do an in-person visit, make a phone call, attend an online meet-up, or schedule a FaceTime session.
Consider proactively scheduling events on your calendar. Make a twice-weekly date to walk with a friend. Sign up for a weekly support group or safely meet up for coffee.
The activity itself isnt as important as a social connection.
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Serve Salmon Twice A Week
Pictured Recipe: Cocoa-Rubbed Salmon with Orange Salsa
“To keep your wits about you when life gets hairy, you need omega-3s, especially DHA,” says Somer. In a study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, people who took a daily omega-3 supplement for 12 weeks reduced their anxiety by 20 percent compared to the placebo group. You won’t get the same mood boost from the omega-3s in flax, walnuts and soy, though, so shoot for about 2 servings a week of wild salmon or other oily fish and/or talk to your doctor about DHA supplements.
The 5 Best Foods To Eat When You’re Stressed
Your day is chugging along just fine â and then you receive âthatâ email. Or maybe you’re in a particularly busy season of life and your daily stress levels are higher than normal. One way you may choose to soothe your stress: with a snack. Or maybe takeout.
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Let’s be real, though. You’re probably not reaching for a nice plate of baby carrots and red pepper strips. Your body and brain might be asking for foods higher in sugar and/or fat. You know, ice cream, chips, cheese curls, candy.
“While comfort foods may help with stress in the short term, longer term the effects don’t last and can lead to weight gain and poor health,” Melina Jampolis, MD, physician nutrition specialist and host of the podcast âPractically Healthy by Dr. Melinaâ, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Stress-coping strategies go beyond food, of course â give a friend a call, take a break, spend five minutes outside â but you âwillâ need to eat.
There are certain nutrients that will nourish a stressed-out body. Focus on “nutrient-dense foods rich in healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, along with lean protein, B vitamins and magnesium-rich foods to better manage chronic stress,” Dr. Jampolis says.
Here’s a closer look at the foods that help fight stress when your day dips into overwhelming territory.
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Remove Common Offenders From The Kitchen
Most people can name the foods they reach for when responding to stress. After identifying your stressors, the next step is to remove go-to foods, especially if theyre high in sugar, heavily processed, or high in fat.
This involves eliminating the foods and snacks you reach for when stressed from your kitchen, your desk at work, or your car.
Replace them with more nutritious options that can help curb hunger when youre feeling stressed.
Tap Into Natural Hunger Signals
Mindful eating can also help you learn how soon you get satiated and full after you eat. Only start a meal if you are feeling hungry, but also dont wait until you are starving to eat, or you will end up overeating.
Once you start eating, pay attention to the signals your body is sending you. Instead of waiting until you feel 100% full, try to stop eating when youre about of the way and see how you feel. This may help you limit portions and avoid overeating. Your body knows exactly how much it needs, if you just slow down enough to listen.
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How Stress Affects The Body
Stress triggers a set of biological responses including:
- The release of stress hormones from your adrenal glands adrenaline and cortisol
- An increase in blood sugar
- Rising blood pressure
- Rapid heart beat
All these responses, known as fight or flight, are designed to help you meet physical challenges that threaten your survival when faced with stress . The trouble is, in todays high stress culture, the stress response continually remains on full alert and the body does not have a chance to recover.
Get Refreshed With A Splash Of Water
The body is 75 percent water, so hydrate often. When you are less active, such as during lockdowns and quarantines, its easy to not feel thirsty. Create regular reminders to drink up. Set a timer, or put a pretty glass in a place you frequent often in the house so it lures you to take a sip more often. Its best to avoid sweetened beverages as their high sugar content is harmful to your body, and can lead to unwanted weight gain.
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The Plot Thickens: Gut Health Issues Triggered By Stress
The connection between chronic stress and certain digestive conditions such as IBS , SIBO and intestinal permeability has been documented, although it is still often overlooked.
To learn more, see my article on: IBS, SIBO & Leaky gut.
It may start with occasional digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, and constipation, but as these are so common, they are not always taken seriously. Eventually, many people end up with gastrointestinal symptoms that overtime become debilitating and affect our ability to socialize, go out to restaurants, or even work, due to the fear of stomach discomfort, gas or diarrhea. This may cause many individuals to severely restrict their diets, which is not a healthy solution for the long term.
Becoming aware of chronic stress as a risk factor, recognizing the early warning signs, and taking the right action is key.
While you may be able to address occasional digestive issues by paying more attention to your stress levels, eating a healthy diet, and watching your eating habits, it is always best to consult a qualified health care professional. This is especially important if you have digestive issues on an ongoing basis, are unsure what is causing the symptoms, or find yourself dealing with chronic stress.
On that note, here are some of the digestive symptoms that require medical attention and further work up:
Does Stress Causes Hunger
You have both physical and psychological relationships with food. Your physical relationship with food is based on the types of foods you choose to eat, your eating behavior, or habits and how your body responds biologically to your diet. Your psychological, or emotional, relationship with food is based on how you think about food, how you use food for reasons other than to relieve hunger, and how food relates your body image, or the way you feel about how you look.
Sometimes you eat to satisfy true hunger, to fulfill a physical need to eat and survive. At other times, such as when you stress-eat, you eat to satisfy your appetite, or your desire for a particular type of food, because you believe it will provide relief. Thats a psychological, or emotional, need that generally has nothing to do with actual hunger. Emotional hunger is a driving response to overwhelming feelings and emotions.
Of course, if youre hungry and stressed at the same time, you may well be eating to satisfy true hunger, adds Allison. But, at the same time, you may choose fast food or a sweet dessert over something more nutritious because, at that moment, youre not trying to eat healthfully.
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Why Do We Stress Eat
If you reach for ice cream, candy and potato chips when stressed, youre not alone. There is no doubt that stress influences when and what you eat. Long-term, chronic stress generally causes you to want sugar, fat and refined carbs, which can add up to a lot of extra calories. Why? Hormones.
When cortisol is coursing through your veins, the hormones that regulate hunger and fullnessghrelin and leptin, respectivelyare out of whack. Here are the stress-relieving foods to reach for instead.
Here’s Why Stress Causes People To Overeat And What You Can Do Instead To Avoid Overeating
Do you turn to food when you feel stressed out by work, family, or social obligations? Youre not alone! Beverly Hills psychotherapist Allison Cohen, MA, MFT, helps explain why you eat when youre stressed, how emotional eating affects your weight and health, and what you can do instead.
Stress is a common trigger for emotional eaters because so many everyday life circumstances cause the stress and anxiety that leads to overeating. Some stressors come from within, like the stress you put on yourself to be perfect or the anxiety you feel when you want to ask for a raise or confront a problem youre having with a friend or family member. Other stressors come from outside of yourself, such as the demands of your job, medical issues, family obligations, and social pressure from friends. Some stressors are within your control and some are not.
Both negative and positive events can cause stress, Allison points out. For instance, buying a home, getting married and having a baby are all joyful events but they are still stressful because they involve change, and change always brings new and often anxiety-provoking issues into your life. And thats why both positive and negative circumstances can also lead to emotional overeating, she adds.
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Foods High In Fiber May Reduce Stress And Anxiety
As Figueroa mentioned, fiber-rich foods are gut-friendly and can play a role in lowering stress. According to a review published in July 2018 in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, a high-fiber diet may be linked with reduced anxiety, depression, and stress. A preliminary study on rats published in the journal Pharmacological Research suggested that fiber may help fight oxidative stress and inflammation two effects that previous research tied to cancer, along with other health conditions.
To add more fiber to your diet, Figueroa recommends eating beans, green peas, berries, almonds, pistachios, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and lots of greens, like kale and broccoli. Whole grains are also fiber champs. Often whole grainbased foods will have a symbol or wording on the package saying so, but look for whole grain or whole wheat listed in the first ingredient to be sure.
We hear it all the time: eat foods that are rich in fiber, and its because they balance your blood sugar and prevent spikes in your insulin levels, Figueroa says.
Additional reporting by Diana Rodriguez.
What Causes Stress Eating
When youre chronically stressed, your body produces cortisol: also known as the stress hormone.
That can ramp up your appetite and make you crave calorie-dense foods , because your body thinks it needs fuel to fight whatever threat is causing the stress.
Thats why stress eating isnt about a lack of willpower.
Its not your fault and you absolutely have the power to change your behavior.
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What Is Stress Eating And How To Stop It In 3 Practical Steps
Do you find yourself turning to junk food or comfort foods during uncertain times?
Perhaps you reach for a pint of ice cream, a bag of chips, or a box of donuts during stressful events, or you find yourself engaging in mindless eating of unhealthy foods when youre feeling uncomfortable emotions?
If youve ever wondered where all the popcorn went when youvereached the bottom of the bag while sitting at the movies or in front of the TV, youre not alone! Youve experienced unconscious eating.
Food cravings and binge eating during times of high emotional stress is often called stress eating, or emotional eating, where youre eating to fill an emotional need instead of actual physical hunger.
And it seems even more likely to happen when were distracted while working at a computer, scrolling through the news feed on the phone, or watching TV.
If any of these things have ever occurred, know that there is a solution.
You can create an even more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Many of my health & wellbeing coaching clients, when they first come to me for help, have found themselves unconsciously eating during stressful times, including comfort foods that have high amounts of sugar, salt and fat that can pack on pounds.
And this kind of unconscious eating can lead to excess weight, lower energy levels and even increased negative feelings often leading to a vicious cycle of even more stress eating!
How Stress Affects Your Digestion
We now have enough data to know that stress is intimately connected to our entire physiology. We are beginning to understand how it affects all the different systems in the body, including our digestion.
When we are stressed, our body is getting ready for fight-or-flight, not to digest food blood flow is diverted away from the gut into the muscles, the stomachs pH level changes, and, with chronic stress, the gut microbiome is altered.
I often see individuals who are going through transitions, or are undergoing particularly stressful periods in their lives, who travel frequently for work or do shift work. They often report gastrointestinal problems such as irregular bowel movements, bloating and stomach discomfort. When on vacation or after their stressful situation has resolved, however, these individuals symptoms can dramatically improve.
When we eat while we are stressed, our digestive system is not optimally digesting the food we eat. Our gut motility changes, and the bodys ability to absorb nutrients from food is impaired. During periods of stress, you also may notice digestive issues, even if you eat a healthy diet.
A Deeper Look at the Gut-Stress Connection
The gut-brain axis
Brain regulates the gut via the EMS , which consists of parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, and pain modulation systems.
The vagus nerve
The gut microbiota
INFLAMMATION AND TOXINS:
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You Dont Have To Make Perfect Food Choices
Not being perfect is perfectly ok when it comes to eating, says Sell. We live in this world that emphasizes perfection, especially when it comes to food. Instead, opt for choices that fit in the categories of good, better, best and some days are just good enough, she says.
Once you get a hang of this approach, she says you can begin to improve your nutrition into a more often than not status. Also, just start in one place like stabilizing blood sugar by eating protein every 3 hours and not skipping meals. Then, you can build from there, Sell says.
How To Stop Emotional Eating From Stress
Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.
As anyone whos watching their weight will tell you that hunger is just one of many reasons that people eat. Those with a tendency toward emotional eating are especially vulnerable to making poor choices.
If youre an emotional eater, you may find yourself eating to deal with uncomfortable emotions, using food as a reward when youre happy, and craving sweets or unhealthy snacks when stressed. Dont worryyoure not alone! The following ideas can help you to cut down emotional eating and develop healthier eating habits, even when you’re stressed.
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