Why stress is so bad for you
When you feel stressed your body is preparing you for ‘fight or flight’. Unlike the past, when our ancestors were hunting for food or encountering wild animals, and stress helped them to react extremely quickly, ‘fight’ to modern people means you feel irritable, aggressive and stressed out, while ‘flight’ means you feel anxious and want to run away, feeling trapped in your circumstances. Do you ever feel like this?
Many people live in a state of anxiety. They arrive at work stressed out from commuting, then they have to contend with a lot of stress at work. By the time they go home they are in a state of near collapse. Unfortunately, a life of non-stop 21st-century stress takes its toll on your body’s chemistry.
The chemistry of stress
In such a state of stress your body is producing two hormones: short acting adrenalin and long-acting cortisol. Together, these hormones do everything they can to get your blood sugar level up: telling the liver to break down stores of glycogen, then turning it into glucose and pumping it into your bloodstream. This blocks the ability of insulin to take glucose back into storage. As a result, your blood sugar level goes up to get it round the body faster. You are gearing up for a fight. If you’re stressed for weeks at a time, your cortisol levels stay high and your DHEA levels – a healthy adrenal hormone – go down. This is bad news. High cortisol levels – the hallmark of the overstressed – make you even more insulin-resistant and even more prone to putting on weight. Let me explain why.
Insulin puts glucose into storage, whereas adrenalin and cortisol rapidly raise the glucose supply to muscle and brain cells for the action of ‘fight or flight’ – partly by blocking insulin’s fat-storing effect. That sounds like good news, at least in the short term. And it is. That’s why high stress and lots of stimulants, such as coffee, can keep you thin for quite a few years. (That might even be why coffee consumption is associated with a lower diabetes risk, because there ......
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