Stress can prove to be more than just an emotional burden. It may also impede our bodies from properly absorbing essential nutrients. When we’re stressed, the body releases hormones that interfere with nutrient absorption in digestion. Unfortunately, this could cause many problems including fatigue and weakened immunity.
Although we often think of physical stressors like lack of sleep or demanding work, psychological stresses can also have a detrimental impact on our body. A 2020 study by clinical psychologist and researcher Dr Adrian Lopresti indicated that prolonged emotional duress may deplete important micronutrients such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and niacin from the body. This could eventually weaken your immune response to external threats.
During a stressful period our ability to absorb and process micronutrients can be drastically reduced. These vital vitamins and minerals are fundamental for several biochemical reactions that occur throughout the body. This can lead to micronutrient depletion and further hinder physical abilities like concentration and attention. Unfortunately, due to increased levels of hormones like cortisol or catecholamines excreted during high-stress levels, we may actually require more nutrients than usual.
A 2019 study published in the journal Advances in Integrative Medicine explored how disasters affect our body’s fight or flight response. In a stressful situation, vital nutritional resources are reallocated to cope with immediate threats, while cognitive and emotional processes become suppressed as a result of this short-term prioritization strategy. If stress levels remain high for an extended period, however, it can cause lasting damage due to depleted nutrient stores that occur from such intense survival demands.
When feeling stressed, we often crave unhealthy comfort foods instead of nutritious meals. Comfort food has the power to stimulate our reward area of the brain, releasing dopamine and providing us with a sense of pleasure. Though sugar is usually at the forefront in many comfort foods, it’s not alone – fat and salt can act as tempting agents too when they are present together. Even stronger effects come from liquid sugary drinks like soda which trigger faster release of dopamine leading to addiction among stressed populations. Additionally, alcohol consumption or medication use may rise during these moments for temporary relief.
Stress eating can become a destructive habit with dire consequences for your health. Long-term comfort food binging has been linked to abdominal fat gain and insulin resistance, which are precursors of diabetes as well as chronic medical conditions like heart disease and cancer. Research studies have found that even excess belly fat increases the risk of dementia later in life.
During times of stress, it’s beneficial to supplement your diet with essential vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are effective in supporting neurotransmitter production related to mood, mental health, and sleep, making sure you get the most out of each day. Nutritional supplements such as multivitamins, B-complexes & magnesium/zinc can ensure that your body is equipped with all its necessary building blocks for a balanced state of well-being.
A nutrient-rich diet is crucial for keeping bodies primed with the necessary elements they need during difficult times. Also, make sure you take time out of your day to relax and de-stress for a healthier lifestyle.
To view the original scientific study click below:
The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence