Four Surprising Side Effects of Stress

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Four Surprising Side Effects of Stress

It’s no secret that stress can mess with your day—not to mention your well-being in general! But the sleepless nights are just the beginning. Consider these four surprising side effects of stress and what you can do about them.

Food Cravings

Ever had a rough day and reached for chocolate to calm yourself down? You’re not alone. Research has shown that people dealing with stress tend to consume more calories than those who are more relaxed. What’s worse is these additional calories usually come from sweets, which may contribute to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Tip: Outsmart your body’s desire to stress eat by reaching for foods that have been proven to help you de-stress, such as pistachios and vitamin C-rich citrus fruits.

Stomachaches

Stress seems like a mental issue, but it can also disrupt the way your body normally functions. When it messes with your gastrointestinal system, you may experience stomach pain, digestion problems, or heartburn. One study involving almost 2,000 participants found those undergoing the highest levels of psychological stress were more than three times as likely to experience stomach pain compared to study participants with lower levels of stress.

Tip: Do whatever it takes to relax. Research has shown that exercising, practicing mindful meditation, and taking slow, deep breaths are all effective stress-busting methods.

Hair Loss

Don’t blame it on old age! Stress could be the reason your hair seems to be falling out. The medical name for this issue is telogen effluvium (TE). The condition is marked by a decreased number of hair follicles. This causes dormant hairs, usually on the top of the scalp, to shed. Chronic stress is one of the main factors that contribute to the onset of TE.

Tip: You can’t magically wish the lost strands to grow back, so your best bet is to reduce stress. Even something as simple as laughing at a comedy on TV or a funny video of your grandchild can help.

Lower energy (due to lower CoQ10 Levels)

Simple things like prepping for houseguests to larger problems like worrying about your financial future can cause your body to produce free radicals, which are molecules that can damage healthy cells. Your body uses antioxidants, such as a vital vitamin-like nutrient we all possess called CoQ10, to help reduce the harmful effects of these threatening free radicals. It’s an important defense mechanism, but the process may diminish your body’s normal CoQ10 levels, which in turn may leave you feeling tired and lethargic.

Tip: Take a CoQ10 supplement to help your body maintain optimal levels.

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Sources:

Effluviums, American Hair Loss Association.

Noji, S, Takayanagi, K. (2010) A case of laughter therapy that helped improve advanced gastric cancer, Japan Hospitals.

Mertz, H. Stress and the Gut. 

Halder, SL, McBeth, J, Silman, AJ, et. al. (2002). Psychosocial risk factors for the onset of abdominal pain. Results from a large prospective population-based study, International Journal of Epidemiology.

Van der Zwan, JE, de Vente, W, Huizink, AC, et. al. (2015). Physical activity, mindfulness meditation, or heart rate variability biofeedback for stress reduction: a randomized controlled trial, Applied Psychophysiology Biofeedback.

Epel, E, Lapidus, R, McEwen, B, et. al. (2001). Stress may add bite to appetite in women: a laboratory study of stress-induced cortisol and eating behavior, Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Sauder, K, McCrea, C, Ulbrecht, J, et. al. (2014). Pistachio Nut Consumption Modifies Systemic Hemodynamics, Increases Heart Rate Variability, and Reduces Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes: a Randomized Trial, Journal of the American Heart Association

Brody, S, Preut, R, Schommer, K, et. al. (2002). A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress, Psychopharmacology.

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