How Stress Can Impact Your Body


How stress can cause weight gain

When we are stressed the body releases the hormone cortisol. While it has many positive uses in the body, when it is elevated for long periods of time it can start to have negative effects. When we are stressed the body goes into what’s known as Fight or Flight mode – basically it thinks its being chased by a sabre tooth tiger and decides it’s either got to run or be a badass and stay and fight this sucker. To do this it needs more glucose (the bodies number one source of energy) so cortisol triggers the release of glucose, which triggers the release of insulin to help it into the cells of the tissue. While this extra energy is great, it’s not so great for those of us who are ploughing away on our laptops stressed out about meeting a deadline and not really using all this extra energy. So what happens? Any extra glucose is transferred into fat and stored around the middle and so how stress can cause weight gain and contribute to diabetes.

How stress can impact fertility

Stress can also impact the ability to conceive. The hormones cortisol and adrenaline released during times of stress are produced in the adrenal gland (on top of the kidneys). This is also where many of the sex hormones are stored. When one hormone is out of sync all the other hormones are too. When the kidneys become overworked due to excess cortisol it is unable to function optimally and mange our sex hormones. If we consume too much glucose by food it triggers the release of the hormone insulin and this spikes our blood sugar and contributes to sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Imbalanced blood sugar puts additional stress on the body and thus releases more cortisol and the cycle continues. It’s called the dance of the hormones and many reasons why people (both men and women) have difficulties with their fertility.

How stress can cause digestive issues

As I said, when we are stressed the body prepares to fight or flee and increases glucose. However there are more reactions that happen in the body because of this. The digestive system shuts down and bowel movements can slow. The body doesn’t care that you have just had your dinner, you’re being chase by a sabre tooth tiger! It needs all the energy it can get to fight this dude not to digest your food. And so our digestive system can become slowed causing constipation or it can speed up and cause diarrhoea. When the digestive system isn’t working optimally nutrients aren’t being absorbed sufficiently and this can lead to nutrient imbalances and impaired immune system. It can also contribute to what’s known as Intestinal Permeability or Leaky Gut where small gaps in the intestines form and food particles escape into the body and this can cause inflammation in the body and lead to further issues like IBS, Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease and many other digestive issues. This is why many people who are stressed find that they gain weight, have intense cravings, a poor immune system, stomach cramps, nausea, constipation or diarrhoea (or both), discover food sensitivities and difficulty conceiving.

Implementing some daily stress relieving exercises can be hugely beneficial for your health. Not only for your weight or fertility but your digestion also.

If you want to learn more about how to manage your stress listen to our podcast “You Have Time For You” with Caroline Meade.

If you’ve been thinking about boosting your mood through lifestyle changes and diet - we’ve got the perfect course for you!


Elysia Doody is a Functional Nutritionist & Exercise Coach specialising in female health and wellness and the founder of The Female Wellness Hub.

She’s embraced Functional Medicine to address her health concerns, and is now helping as many women as possible in a similar position. Taking everything she’s learned through education, her own health, and working with clients, she’s keen to share it all through online programmes.