When you’re stressed out, you know how bad it feels. At Nutrition Consultants on Demand, we get it. Not only does stress feel bad, but chronic stress is bad for your health. Its effects are far-reaching, with the ability to upset your physical, emotional and financial health, and it can affect your relationships with other people. Furthermore, stress can be insidious; you may feel like you’re handling the hard situations in your life, but may not realize the impact that stress is having on your body until you get sick.
What many people don’t realize is that stress can affect your nutritional requirements. It can change your body’s metabolic needs, use up certain nutrients, and affect your appetite and digestion. That’s because during a stressful event, your body undergoes a number of biological changes called the flight or fight response. It helps you gear up to either deal with a threat or to run away, and involves a complicated cascade of physiological events. When you encounter something that you perceive to be dangerous, it triggers a part of your brain that tells your adrenal glands to release stress hormones. These hormones prep your body to handle the emergency. Your heart rate and respiration increase, blood is sent to your muscles and your liver ramps up the production of glucose to give you the extra energy that you may need to act.
At the same time, it slows down your body’s systems that aren’t needed to handle the current danger. This includes your immune system, some cognitive functions and your digestion.
The fight or flight response is a beautiful thing if you’re being chased by a tiger or need to avoid an oncoming bus. Your body is on high alert, the stress response enables you to react, and then your nervous system goes back to normal when the danger has passed. The problem with stress is that it’s meant to handle short-term threats. When you’re dealing with long lasting problems, like a job loss, a sick child or a world-wide pandemic, your body stays in a perpetual state of stress. This creates an overwhelming burden on your body, which can leave you at risk for several health issues, including insomnia, high blood pressure, headaches, and elevated blood sugar and type 2 diabetes. Stress also has a huge impact on your nutrition and digestive health. It can cause:
- Loss of appetite
- Food cravings (high fat, high sugar, salty foods)
- Emotional eating patterns
- Heartburn, GERD, acid reflux
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, constipation
- Depletion of vitamins and other nutrients
- Increased metabolic needs for oxygen, energy and other nutrients
How Can a Registered Dietitian Help?
If you’re feeling the physical or emotional impact of chronic stress, it’s time to get some help. A great place to start is with a Registered Dietitian, who can offer some effective solutions for people who are suffering from the effects of stress. At Nutrition Consultants on Demand, our dietitians are experienced and committed to helping clients who’ve had stress derail their health and eating. Through careful assessment of your diet, eating patterns and needs, our dietitians can help you by providing a plan that:
- Contains menus, recipes and tips based not only on your cultural preferences, but that follows the latest science
- Provides education on foods to eat and those to avoid, portion sizes and smart grocery shopping
- Identifies stress-related eating patterns and provides strategies to avoid emotional eating pitfalls
- Takes into account co-occurring health conditions, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, in developing the best plan for you
- Helps you choose healthy and satisfying comfort foods
- Ensures that you’re getting all the nutrients that you need, especially those that can be depleted by chronic stress, and those that may help your brain manage stress better, such as B vitamins, Vitamin D, and antioxidants.
- Helps you incorporate physical activity into your day as a way to enhance your health and to reduce your stress
- Provides follow-up with your dietitian, who will answer any questions, make modifications and add any components necessary to ensure that your plan and strategies work for you
At Nutrition Consultants on Demand, we understand that stress is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to disrupt your health. We also understand how what you eat can really make a difference in maintaining your health during especially stressful times. And we can translate that knowledge and experience into solutions for you. If chronic stress is affecting your health, it’s time to get help, and one of our Registered Dietitians may just be the answer. If you want to know more about dietary solutions for stress, contact us today.