GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Lifestyle

October 5, 2012

Tired, gaining weight? It could be stress

It’s a well documented and widely accepted fact — stress is not good for your body.

Stress has been around since the beginning of human existence, and although you may not frequently find yourself being chased by hungry prehistoric animals, stressful situations cause the same physiologic responses they did thousands of years ago.

Our bodies and minds are wired for stress in the same way they were during the times of our ancestors. The “stress reflex” is an innately primitive response to a dangerous mental or physical situation and is the primary mechanism by which our autonomic nervous system functions to deal with threatening or harmful situations.

You often hear people say, “He or she is under a lot of stress,” and understand the implied negative connotation associated with it. But do you really know what stress does to the body?

If your nervous system is compelling you to read on, do so at your own risk — it could be stressful.

Stress can cause loose stools. The hormone cortisol is released during stressful periods and can wreak havoc on your digestive tract. It’s the reason why you may have had the sudden urge to run to the bathroom before a big event, meeting or test. Be careful though, too much cortisol can give you irritable bowel syndrome which tends to hang around for a while.

Stress can cause impotence in men and a loss of libido in women. A hard day at the office, family problems and mounting bills are all enough to gravely affect performance in the bedroom. And ironically, poor sexual performance leads to more stress; it’s unfortunate but very true.

Stress can make you fat. Weight gain during periods of stress without any change in diet (in fact, you could be eating less than normal) is a commonly recorded phenomenon. Your digestive system slows tremendously, which makes processing what you eat much more difficult. As a result, sugar levels spike and our bodies increase fat storage to accommodate the unused products. Furthermore, cortisol is directly related to belly fat which in turn leads to heart disease.

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