More and more people are becoming aware of stress. This awareness is not limited to its consequences, but also as a realization and a self-analysis. As a result, most of us seek professional help. This could be in the form of psychiatrists, counselors or psychologists.
Due to a lot of information availability, we now have also learnt to figure out stress and the fact that it can be work related or related to personal life. We seem to think that the following are the only causes of stress:
- Work pressure or conflict at the workplace
- Desire to grow fast, greed and expectations mismatch
- Marital or other family problems
- Interpersonal or relationship issues
- Worry regarding finances, children, illnesses or the future
- Very recently, people have just begun to realize that lifestyle issues can also cause stress. These are things like sleeping late, sleeping less or not staying fit.
However, what you may be missing out on is incorrect eating habits. This one reason by itself leads to mental, physical and physiological stress.
What’s Stressing You Out?
Yes, unhealthy eating causes stress. Even if you do not have problems at the workplace or in your personal life, you can still be very stressed. We usually tend to think that stress can only be mind-related and ignore diet and eating habits completely. In fact, one of the major causes for clinical stress in children is related to the food they eat.
It is not just about what you eat, but it is also about how much you eat, when you eat, what you drink and in which way do you consume your food. All of these can actually lead to mental stress.
In fact, in so many cases these days, it is not a genuine stressor or an adverse situation which is resulting in stress. It is actually your dietary habits that may be causing stress. Shocking, right?
Eating Habits and Stress
Now imagine, you have (or you may actually have) a generally happy and ‘stress-free’ life with no major work or life challenges. Let’s say that you are also reasonably fit and involved in some physical activities like exercise, walking and other chores. This means you are healthy and fit with a great personal and professional life.
Now, let us assume that the only problem you have is your dietary habits or a liking for good food and drinks. If this is the case, then you could be doing any one or some or all of the following:
- Eating at the wrong time(s) or in a haphazard fashion.
- Eating the wrong types of food, frequently. This could be outside food, street-food, junk-food or foods normally considered to be unhealthy.
- At times you could also be overeating, especially, when you like something.
- You may be a fast-eater or believe you do not need to waste time on meals. Therefore, you tend to eat quickly and do not give enough attention to chewing properly.
- You do not eat with focus. You normally eat while talking, working or in front of the television, computer or smartphone.
- You may like your sugary or alcoholic beverages and have them a several times a week.
What Happens When You Eat Unhealthy?
Every time you binge eat or drink, you overload your stomach with a lot of food that is either unhealthy or partly-chewed food. Also you tend to feed your body when it doesn’t need it. This leads to the digestive organs working overtime.
Gradually, the body tends to perceive this as actual stress. The body perceives binge eating as a signal that there is shortage of nutrients. The body sends signals to the brain that something is wrong. The brain then instructs the organs, hormones and systems to go into a stress response mode. A lot of extra chemicals and hormones are released to manage the unwanted food.
Blood is diverted from other essential functions to the digestive system to help break down food into nutrients and its absorption. Due to this, the body is working hard all the time on a prolonged basis. Sometimes, it is overworking for even months or years without any chance to recover or rest.
The Result: Due to this, the body then stores more sugar, fat and cholesterol. It may also divert some energy from other muscles to the digestive ones.
Relate this to how we feel when we over-eat or eat at the wrong time.
We feel as if we cannot move; there is no physical strength and lethargy sets in. The body wants to sleep and so does the mind. In all of this, long-term health suffers. Where health suffers, the mind follows. This, in turn, impacts the mind and all the other organs creating a cycle of stress. The net result is diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac problems and even cancer. Eventually, incorrect eating or dietary habits can induce stress in a perfectly healthy and fit person.
Counter Diet Induced Stress
The solution to diet-induced stress is actually very simple.
- Eat foods that are simple and nutritious.
- Eat less at every meal and keep regular timings.
- Avoid eating late at night.
- Avoid all wrong kinds of food including meat, spicy and hot food, fried food, baked food, breads, pizzas, processed food, sugar and refined flour.
- Avoid beverages like coffee and alcohol.