Is stress the cause of your slow metabolism?
Many of my clients who come to me specifically for weight gain, are really dealing with in most cases is the effects of stress. Stress can be physical, emotional, or chemical and eventually all can take a toll on your metabolism. We may have a stressful situation, have a toxic environment or even have physical stressors that we induce ourselves.
How does stress do this? It’s all about hormones and inflammation. Each time we encounter stress, regardless of the source, the body responds with the stress response. The stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline rise. The digestive fluids are also decreased which will affect your ability to digest your food.
Humans are adapted to handle stress.
We encounter a stressor and our nervous system responds by activating the sympathetic state in order to protect us. This is where glucose is released for rapid use ( in the case of running or fighting) and blood flow is limited among other physiological responses. Then, the stressor goes away, the human goes back to the natural parasympathetic state.
The problem for us comes when we never leave the sympathetic state and are constantly in the fight or flight stress response. This can happen when we are exposed to chronic stress such as a stressful job, strained relationships, worries about the world around us, toxins in our environment, or inadequate nutrition. Being in a chronic state of stress can initiate or exacerbate other chronic diseases.
Acute life-threatening events, early life stress such as abuse increases the susceptibility of IBD and GI disorders weeks or even decades after the event. Can you think of a stressful event that stands out in your life?
https://gut.bmj.com/content/47/6/861 MAYER EAThe neurobiology of stress and gastrointestinal disease gut 2000;47:861-869.
Stress Can Be In The Past Or Present
Being in a stressed state or having experienced trauma can alter your metabolism via gut damage or elevated stress hormones. When stress hormones are high, the body converts the thyroid hormones into an unusable form (Reverse T3) which slows the overall rate of metabolism.
When we are under chronic stress, the body will pull glucose from the muscles to reduce the stress hormones with glucose. This is the catabolic effect of cortisol.
When stress hormones are elevated, blood glucose levels rise even without consuming sugar or any other foods, as a result of gluconeogenesis as described above. This increase in blood glucose levels also increases insulin, a fat-storing hormone.
Stress affects growth and appetite hormones.
Being under chronic stress also increases estrogen levels because the body’s ability to eliminate it is reduced with reduced thyroid functions. Estrogen is a GROWTH hormone, the stress hormone, and slows metabolism.
When cortisol is elevated, testosterone is opposed which may lead to a loss of muscle mass and difficulty building it.
When we are under stress, we have higher levels of ghrelin, the appetite hormone. “Exposure to stress alters the ghrelin levels and alteration in ghrelin levels significantly affects neuro-endocrinological parameters; metabolism-related physiology, behavior, and mood. “
Stress can affect the gut, thyroid, and hormones that all relate to metabolism. For this reason, reducing calories and exercising more may increase the problem in some cases.