It may be a big project at work that’s doing it, or it could be a struggle with finances. Whatever the cause is, you’re stressed. In times of stress, our bodies are hit by general adaptation
syndrome. General adaptation syndrome is a three-stage process that sends hormones shooting through the body. It can lead to weight gain and disease.
Although it sounds bad, as the process begins you’ll find yourself feeling great. The first stage is fight or flight. When stressful situations arise, adrenaline and the steroid hormone cortisol shoot up. During this stage you’re getting little sleep but feel energized. People may find themselves eating less and losing weight. This first stage can last a few weeks.
“Then, one morning you miss your alarm. You wake up and feel like you’ve been hit by a ton of bricks,” says nutritionist, Lisa Tsakos. Reaching for that morning cup of coffee and an afternoon
sugary snack to get you through the day means you’ve entered stage two, the tired and wired stage. The poor choices made during this stage shoot up cortisol levels. Cortisol causes inflammation that leads to long-term damage and results in fat being stored around the midsection.
“After a period of stress, you may notice you’ve gained 10 or 20 pounds,” says Tsakos. “The effects of cortisol are so powerful that I’ve seen people gain between five to 10 pounds literally overnight then lose it just as quickly when their cortisol drops.”
Eventually, you arrive at the final stage: burnout. During this stage, adrenaline and cortisol levels have dropped, sex and anti-aging hormones drop as well. The body is exhausted. Within six months to a year later, disease sets in. “Cortisol infiltrates every single cell of your body and inflammation starts to take a toll,” says Tsakos. “It could manifest as arthritis, an allergy, a heart attack or gum disease. How it’s going to manifest is probably a result of your genetic history.” We can’t always avoid what’s causing us stress but changing our diets can help our bodies better respond to potentially stressful situations.
Tsakos’s dietary tips for rebooting your bodies’ response to stress
1. Reframe your brain with the help of B vitamins
B vitamins can help your brain look at a situation from a different perspective and develop a healthy response to situations that could cause stress.
2. Help your body cope with adrenal support
Adaptogens are healing plants, such as holy basil, that help your body cope and adjust to change and stress. Stick with something you can taste like a tea rather than a pill. Speak with a doctor before adding adaptogens to your diet.
3. Get your fibre
Fibre feeds the good bacteria in our gut and keeps the bad bacteria from eating away at our digestive lining. It’s recommended that women get 25g of fibre a day.
4. Fermented foods
Adding fermented foods like Greek yogurt to your diet aids in digestion, reduces inflammation and helps reduce blood sugar levels. It can also help your body create GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), a neurotransmitter that calms the brain.
Magnesium is the anti-stress mineral that promotes relaxation. A supplement can be taken before
bed or when you’re feeling anxious.