Friday, July 06, 2007

Stress = Weight Gain!

The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and produce hormones that, amongst other things, help us to adapt to stress. The hormones adrenalin, cortisol and DHEA allow us to respond to an emergency by channelling the body’s energy towards being able to ‘fight or take flight’, improving oxygen and glucose supply to the muscles, and generating physical and mental energy. This effect helped our previous ancestors to cope with truly life-threatening situations. During a stress reaction, the blood thickens in order to help wounds to heal. In modern life all this occurs when you get stuck in a traffic jam, receive bad news or arguing with your spouse. Tea, coffee, cigarettes and chocolate have a similar effect as they contain caffeine, theobromine, nicotine or theophylline. These compounds stimulate the release of adrenaline.

However, this instant energy has some downsides. The body slows down digestion, maintenance and repair so that it can channel energy into dealing with whatever is causing the stress. The consequence of prolonged stress is associated with speeding up the ageing process, several diseases of the digestive tract and the balance of hormones in general.

If you live off stimulants such as coffee and cigarettes, high-sugar diets and stress itself, you increase your risk of unbalancing thyroid function. This causes the metabolism to slow down with weight-gain the result. Calcium imbalance is a risk – resulting in arthritis and problems associated with sex hormones. These are the long-term side-effects of prolonged stress, because any body system that is over-stimulated will eventually under-function.

Certain nutrients are required for stress hormone production. For adrenalin sufficient vitamins B3 (niacin), B12 and C are necessary. The natural anti-inflammatory cortisol has its production seriously halted without sufficient vitamin B5. The need for all these nutrients, together with those required for energy production such as vitamins B and C is elevated with prolonged stress.

No comments: