Which of these is worse: stress or a bad diet? And what does your sex have to do with it?
We know a bad diet wrecks havoc on bodies, including skin, hair, mental mode, sleep, hormones, our microbiome and everything in-between. Over time, a bad diet results in much higher risks of developing serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
But did you know that long-term, chronic stress actually has similar effects on our bodies as well? Think about it this way- have you ever been so stressed out that you developed a headache. Or you couldn’t sleep? Or eat? (or perhaps over-ate?)Or your stomach hurt? Sound familiar?
Negative impact of stress on our digestive system is really not a new concept. But a study (on mice) suggests how dramatically different male and female mice responded. Gut microbes of male mice that were exposed to stress only (with no diet change) did not change. However, female mice handled the in the same manner (exposed to stress only with no diet change) saw dramatic shifts in their gut microbes, changing as if there were actually eating a high-fat, junk food diet. Whoa!
Let’s be careful to not think that this means men aren’t ever affected by stress and can eat whatever they want. And for us women- this is not the time to throw in the towel and give up.
Our bodies were designed to deal with stress, think flight or fight. We run across a tiger, every system in the body that isn’t needed at that moment (like digestion) gives up its energy to help the body either fight, or run away from, the tiger. Once we get away from the tiger, our body calms down and eventually returns to a normal state.
In modern society, we don’t necessarily run across tigers but we do have traffic, bad bosses, bills, kids, relationships, news, politics, alarms, deadlines, noise, toxic environments, pesticides … something is always there to cause us stress. So we are always in this flight or fight state (ie, chronically stressing the body functions).
The biggest problems arise when we live in this chronic state of stress. Chronic stress increases [silent] inflammation in the body, which is at the heart of every chronic disease known to man.
The best way to respond to this study, and studies like it, is through lifestyle changes. Reduce stress or learn to manage it. Here are a few of my favorite ways:
- try more restorative exercise like yoga/tai chi/qigong
- eating whole, clean, organic foods (most of the time)
- slow down, be more mindful and present
- take time for self care
Do you need help managing stress? Reach out let’s talk about how having a Health Coach on your team can improve your health.