Stress seems to have become part and parcel of modern day life. When we feel stressed, depressed or anxious, we often opt to ‘eat our feeling’ and more often than not, our feelings taste like pizza. However, stress can now be linked to most of our diet and digestion based disorders, like diabetes, irritable bowel (IBS), obesity and high blood pressure.
The high levels of cortisol we experience when stressed lead us to crave foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. As well as overeating, we can often lack appetite when stressed. Our fight-or-flight response can cause our bodies to suppress the digestive system, stopping it from breaking down food and filtering water, which can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, blood sugar imbalances and poor nutrient absorption.
Stress is now one of the most common causes of poor health we face in western culture. With 77% of Americans claiming stress as part of their daily lives. Stress not only affect the choices we make surrounding food, it also affects our bodies in ways we may not have considered. For those that try to live a healthy lifestyle and eat a balanced diet, high stress levels could in fact be sabotaging your efforts.
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How Important is Stress When Considering Diet?
Cortisol is the hormone our bodies use when dealing with stress and fear. The receptors that detect cortisol are found throughout the body, in nearly all cells. Aiding a range of necessary functions, cortisol helps to keep us awake and alert, to run our metabolism, to balance blood sugar levels, and to reduce inflammation.
However, research into the long-term dangers of having consistently high levels of cortisol have shown numerous health disadvantages. Situations that triggers negative emotions — like anxiety, worry, anger, or frustration — can all contribute to high cortisol levels that can affect metabolism, hormone balance and immune response. Such imbalances can produce symptoms like weight gain, depression, blood sugar imbalance leading to diabetes, high blood pressure, insomnia, and poor digestion.
The high cortisol levels associated with chronic stress causes our bodies to store blood glucose in an attempt to give us more energy to fight the perceived attack. Because of this reaction, constant stressful habits can have long-term effects and make you more likely to develop diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
As well as cortisol release, stress can affect our bodies on a cellular level. Our cells can either be in growth mode or stress mode. When in stress mode, our cells become closed, making it hard for them to absorb essential nutrition, oxygen and hydration, also inhibiting them from getting rid of nasty toxins. This can lead to cells becoming nutritionally unbalanced, in turn making us more susceptible to disease.
We may make efforts to drink that green smoothie in the morning and take all the recommend supplements, but chances are if you don’t have a handle on your stress levels, you may not be getting all the nutrients you need.
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Your Endocannabinoid System — Stress Affects That Too!
Since discovering the the effects of CBD on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), I have become somewhat fascinated with this system I didn't even know existed until recently. The ECS was discovered in the 1980s by scientists investigating where the psychoactive compound THC binds itself in the body. The ECS regulates more than just a few of our bodily functions: it controls your intestines, glucose metabolism, energy homeostasis, and stress response, among others.
When your ECS is out of balance, it can lead to metabolic and bowel problems. A report into the role diet plays in the health of your endocannabinoid system states that ‘the interplay between diet and the endocannabinoid system is key to understanding today's obesity and diabetes crisis’. The diet of a stressed out person tends to be high in calories, sugar and refined carbohydrates. These foods cause metabolic stress and improper glycemic indices function, leading to diet-induced glucose toxicity caused by excess sugar intake. When your body reaches this point it can be a indication of a ongoing diabetes problem. A constant sugary food diet over time can eventually cause your pancreas to build up a tolerance to sugar and eventually stop it producing insulin. It is important to keep an eye on blood sugar level as its one of the causes of type 2 diabetes.
CBD to Rebalance Your ECS
Using cannabis can stimulate your body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors that are linked to your endocannabinoid system. While stimulation of CB1 receptors differ from that of CB2, CBD indirectly affects the CB2 receptor found in our peripheral nervous system, fatty tissue and immune cells. CB2 cannabinoid receptor stimulation can play a key role in enhancing nutrition and controlling metabolism.
Preclinical research shows that CB1 and CB2 receptor stimulation can prevent or alleviate diabetes that is linked to obesity, control appetite and reduce inflammation. When CBD is teamed with a diet low in refined carbohydrate and high in green leafy vegetables and natural spices like black pepper, cloves and rosemary, it can counteract metabolic stress and inflammation that a junk food diet can induce.
It is important to note that maintaining a low poly-saturated diet is essential when combatting diet-related disorders. While our bodies need fat to survive, replacing them with a healthy balance of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids is crucial in preventing and managing obesity and metabolic syndromes. These essential fats found in oily fish, walnuts, flax and hemp seeds react with your CB1 receptor. When taken in the right ratio (generally lower omega-6 and higher omega-3), it can in fact help reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
When embarking on a new health regime to improve our diet and wellness, sometimes we neglect that the way we live our lives can have a negative effect on our body’s function and inhibit its ability to absorb nutrition from the food we eat. Keeping an eye on stress levels is an important factor, as it’s an integral part in receiving the full benefits of the food and supplements that we take.