Stress and its Effect on Nutrition

Stress and Nutrition 

In modern times, Stress has become our number one health enemy. Stress has become ubiquitous, and its effects often remain hidden, manifesting only in subtle symptoms at first. But, make no mistake; it can lead to enormous health issues down the line. 

Previously I discussed ways to help manage stress by improving exercise and more passive techniques such as breathing exercises. In this blog, I’d like to talk about stress and nutrition – its effects on nutrition and how we can utilize good nutrition to counteract stress and enable our bodies to better cope with the effects of it. 

Stress, anxiety, worry and overwork can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, which causes more stress, leading to a very harmful cycle.  Below is a list of common bad habits people sometimes indulge in when overwhelmed, tired and worried. 

Stress-Induced Habits 

  • Drinking Too Much Coffee: Usually increased stress means longer hours and pressure at work, so you may find yourself drinking more cups of coffee through the day to keep yourself going. 
  • Eating the Wrong Foods: Stress results in cravings for foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. This occurs due partially to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This may result in increased consumption of junk foods, sweets, and unhealthy snacks. 
  • Skipping Meals: Due to the time constraints which often come with periods of higher stress, eating a healthy meal tends to drop down on our list of priorities, and you might find yourself skipping breakfast or not eating lunch because there’s just too much on your to-do list. 
  • Mindless Munching: Emotional eating may also increase when stress is high, we eat when we are not hungry but because it feels comforting or chasing the “sugar high” 
  • Forgetting Water: as with skipping meals, drinking good amounts of water tends to decrease in priority, which may lead to dehydration. This is made even worse when the consumption of soda drinks, alcohol and coffee rises during times of stress. 
  • Fast Food: Because of the convenience of quick meals, stressed people often increase their consumption of fast foods, laden with anti-nutrients which negatively affect your health. 

The Impact of the wrong foods during stress 

  • Blood Sugar Imbalances: When your food demands are not met or when foods without needed nutrients are consumed, blood sugar fluctuations may result. In the short term, these fluctuations may lead to mood swings, fatigue, poor concentration and other negative consequences which will exacerbate stress. In the long term, greater health problems such as hyperglycemia and even diabetes may be the result. 
  • Side Effects of caffeine: Caffeine in excess can lead to poor concentration, anxiety, palpitations, lower levels of productivity, and problems with sleep. An even higher level of the stress hormone cortisol is often the outcome. 
  • Poor Health Outcomes: Chronic high stress and its effects on nutrition may have significant long term effects such as decreased immunity, worsening of an existing health issue or even the start of a new one, as is often seen in psoriasis and other skin conditions. 

Healthy choices during periods of stress 

In addition to having stress reduction techniques in place and ensuring enough quality sleep, it is vital to follow a healthy eating programme during times of stress. In this way, we can ensure that our bodies have a good supply of the nutrients it needs to counteract stress, and the body’s increased demands for nutrition is met. 

A fresh, clean diet is important – lots of fresh vegetables (not overcooked), fresh fruit, ample amounts of fresh water, good quality proteins, and healthy fats are essential. Limit anti-nutrients, such as refined carbohydrates & excessive sugar consumption, excessive caffeine intake, soda drinks, alcohol, processed and smoked foods and so on. 

The practitioners at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic are well-versed in helping you to manage the triggers of your skin condition. 

Phillip Bayer, Senior Practitioner 

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