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Tuesday
Apr212015

Don't focus on Weight Loss (part two)

In part one of this series we looked at two components of improving health in order to lose weight – good nutrition and the right exercise program. Now lets look at two more – stress management and sleep.

Stress is the body’s response to a threat. When under stress adrenaline is released to increase heart rate, elevate blood pressure and increase energy. While acute fight or flight threats are rare today, chronic stressors like work, traffic, family matters and money issues are daily occurrences. Our body treats these minor hassles as threats (Mayo Clinic) and pumps out adrenaline and cortisol. Constant stress, whether real or perceived, and the subsequent release of cortisol, can be very detrimental to our health. It has been shown to suppress our immune system and is linked with IBD, IBS, GERD, ulcers and psychological disorders.

As it relates to weight loss and digestion, stress slows digestion, decreases nutrient absorption, alters gut bacteria, and increases gut permeability (leaky gut) and food sensitivities. Stress can also cause cravings for sweets. All this leads to weight gain, especially around the abdomen.

Getting adequate sleep is also very important. Consistent sleep allows for the release of growth hormone, which stimulates tissue and liver regeneration, promotes muscle building, breaks down fat stores and normalizes blood sugar regulation. Sleep also acts like an antioxidant for the brain (Pizzorono, et.al.).

Stress is an important factor to consider when it comes to sleep. Stress can lower the levels of serotonin and melatonin, two neurotransmitters important for relaxation and sleep (Murray). Both serotonin and melatonin are made from the amino acid tryptophan. Adequate amounts for tryptophan containing foods need to be consumed in order to make sufficient amounts of serotonin. Without enough serotonin, not enough melatonin will be produced, and without melatonin it is difficult to fall and stay asleep (Holford).

Stress management begins with identifying your stressors and taking steps to mitigate the physical and emotional impact. While we may not be able to control everything that happens in our life or change our current situation, we can control our reaction and our attitude. How we think and how we react can have a tremendous impact on our body responds.

Strategies for managing stress include eating a healthy diet, which includes plenty of omega-3 fat from fatty fish or fish oil, and eating probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, and kefir or taking a probiotic supplement. Getting regular exercise and 7-8 hours of sleep per night, if possible.  Practicing relaxations techniques such as a body scan or heart rate training using the Inner Balance Program. As little as 5-10 minutes of quite time per day can make a big difference.

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