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How are stress and weight gain associated?

Stress can cause weight gain! It is defined as the body’s response to physical, mental, or emotional pressure.  Stress can cause chemical changes in the body that can alter your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Stress can even affect the way you feel, so why would it not affect weight gain?  The Sympathetic nervous system causes a multi-complex response to occur. Let’s simplify the response. The fatty acids from adipocytes are released into the blood stream. Then glycogen is converted to glucose to provide energy. This is followed by insulin being inhibited during the activation of stress. 

The body releases glucocorticoids which prevent the release of insulin from the pancreas allowing glucose, fatty acids, and amino acids to go to the tissues that need them.  For most individuals, this is considered the fight or flight response. However, when under a long duration of chronic stress, the exposure becomes less adaptable by the body.  And this stress can cause weight gain. The risk of chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system contributes to an increase in fat storage.

Not only are there natural body responses you are unable to control due to chronic stress there are also dietary choices that may also contribute.  However, some individuals lose their hunger when stressed.  These determinations are from genetics, severity, length of time, learned behaviors, and present weight.  What are some common stressors? Low socioeconomic status, personal conflicts with family and friends, stress at work, poor self esteem, difficulty balancing work and home, poor social support, or caring for a sick family member.  Individuals with chronic stress have an increased risk of more visceral fat, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic disease.  

In Conclusion

There are multiple ways to work with chronic stress including knowing the root cause, making changes if possible, and seeking assistance when needed.  Some over the counter supplements are useful depending on your health history such as DHEA.  However, always seek medical advice prior to starting any natural medications.