Do you tend to crave more carbs, sugar and candy when under a lot of stress? First off-you’re not alone. Second off-there may be more to the story here than just a lack of willpower to say no to sugar.
Say hello to cortisol!
Cortisol is a bodily hormone that is pumped out when you’re super stressed-think fight or flight mode! This mode is a survival mechanism that makes us ‘ready to fight’ – due to the ancestral connection for the need to fight for our food or run from a predator!
So, is this a good or a bad thing?
Both! In the short term, it is good that we have elevated cortisol so we have the energy to make it through a good stressor-like a tough workout class or run to catch the train you’re running late for.
When is it bad? When it is activated over the long term; chronically elevated cortisol can be detrimental to the entire body. Some of these effects include adrenal fatigue, obesity, digestive issues, and even fertility struggles. More specifically, in the context of sugar, high cortisol levels trigger the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream, therefore, increasing blood sugar levels. Simultaneously, certain “flight or flight” muscles (think those that help you run from a predator) become more insulin sensitive because those muscles need to store sugar for energy (1). Over time, this constant exposure to glucose causes the cells to become resistant to the insulin that your pancreas is secreting. Insulin resistance is NOT good-it means your cells don’t know how to uptake the sugar for fuel and more of it sits in your blood aka HIGH BLOOD SUGAR and increased diabetes risk! The empty cells become starved of sugar and therefore signal to the body that they need more sugar and carbs-causing a sugar craving. Studies have also supported that cortisol binds to hypothalamus receptors in the brain causing appetite stimulation (2). An increased appetite can lead to a tendency to overeat and increase insulin resistance and diabetes risk as well.
In summary: long term high stress=chronically elevated cortisol that can cause insulin resistance and increased sugar cravings!
How do you combat this? Stress can never be eliminated- that’s life! But what you CAN do is improve how you handle stress. How can you naturally improve your stress response? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Sugar Detox blog post!