It''s Only Natural; Our Innate Response to Stress ...
Weight Gain is Linked to Stress
How Serious is ... Long-Term Stress ... Do You - Have A Cell Phone - Voice Mail - E-Mail - Or Pager?
In the October issue of Obesity Research, Swedish researchers reported that men whose excess pounds accumulate around the waist also tend to have changes in the activity of the HPA axis. The investigators think that these brain and hormone changes are the result of living with chronic stress.
In this day of cell phones, voice mail, pagers, and email ... it is almost impossible for anyone who tries to keep up ... not to feel pressured - a lot of the time. These new technologies have raised the general level of ... too much stress.
Humans were not made - to live under conditions of relentless stress, which many people have today. Under such conditions, many people will eat more and gain weight, but certain vulnerable people will have an abdominal distribution of the excess fat.
Many people, often rewarded themselves with food ... after a stressful day. You might say to yourself, "I deserve ice cream.." Others, however, develop cravings for salt, fat, and other sugars to counteract tension. We usually blame such a response on psychology - after all, eating is one way we nurture ourselves. But there also may be a physiological reason. Let''s call it .. the "stew and chew" response.
When we experience something stressful, our brain''s release CRH, which puts the body on alert and sends it into "fight or flight" mode. As the body gears up for battle, the pupils dilate, thinking improves, and the lungs take in more oxygen. But something else happens as well: Our appetite is suppressed, and the digestive system shuts off temporarily. CRH also triggers the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help mobilize carbohydrate and fat for quick energy. When the immediate stress is over, the adrenaline dissipates, but the cortisol lingers to help bring the body back into balance. And one of the ways it gets things back to normal is to increase our appetites so we can replace the carbohydrate and fat we should have burned while fleeing or fighting.
When was the last time you responded to stress with such a bodily response? In today''s modern world, this elegant survival mechanism may be an anachronism that causes the body to refuel ... when it doesn''t need to.
Yet, it''s not just quick, unsettling episodes that can prove problematic. Feeling stressed-out over a long period of time is fattening, too: Sustained stress keeps cortisol, that cursed hunger promoter, elevated and that keeps the appetite up. too.
And there''s another factor as well. If stress and cortisol levels stay high ... so will insulin levels. Insulin takes extra calories your body doesn''t need .. and puts them into fat cells. Making more of them ... and making them bigger!
Sex ... Not As Good
Stress can lead to diminished sexual desire and an inability to achieve orgasm. Men may experience erectile dysfunction; women may develop menstrual irregularities ... and stress may even affect fertility ... or libido in women.
The typical victim of severe stress suffers loss of concentration at work and at home and may become inefficient and accident-prone. The hippocampus, which is where memory cells in the brain are produced and stored, is highly activated during the fight or flight response. Prolonged exposure to cortisol - the major stress hormone -- is now believed to actually damage brain cells in the hippocampus; damage may result from long term exposure. Although some memory loss occurs with age, stress may play an even more important role than simple aging. In one study older people with low stress hormone levels tested as well as younger people in cognitive tests; those with higher stress levels tested between 20% and 50% lower. If stress is chronic or extremely severe ... memory loss may become permanent.