Is stress stopping you from losing your stubborn belly fat?

Published on: 6 August 2022, 23:22 pm IST

One of the side effects of stress can be a slowdown in your weight loss journey! Yes, you read that right - it may burn your chances of losing belly fat.

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Does stress impact weight loss?
Does stress impact weight loss? Image courtesy; Shutterstock

We may not realize it often, but he side effects of stress are far too many on our body. It hampers not just mental peace but has its bearings on our physical health too. Experts say stress is linked to gut health, and therefore, our weight issues. If you have been doing everything right by the books when it comes to diet and exercise, but are going through stress, it may be a roadblock in your weight-loss journey.

According to gut health expert Smriti Kochar, stress can lead to situations where we may workout too much and not eat enough. Or even vice versa.

“Your body may also go into autoimmunity where your immune system is constantly flaring up and that can drive up your stress hormones which signal your body to start storing fat for later use. Stress, by itself, can increase your cholesterol as well as blood sugar levels, leading to metabolic dysfunctions,” Kochar wrote in an Instagram post.

Balance is the key – be it in diet or in exercise.

“Spending hours in gym and running long distances etc can drive the body into a stress mode very easily! Instead, do short effective workouts and couple them with a balanced, nutritious, diet,” she suggests for those working their way to burning belly fat.

Check out Smriti Kochar’s Instagram post to know more about why you might be finding it tougher to lose the fat.

Side effects of stress on gut health

The human gut is often called the second brain of the body. Dr. Vinay Dhir, Senior Consultant Gastroenterology and Interventional Endoscopy, SL Raheja Hospital, tells Health Shots that through a complex mechanism, the gut’s secretory, immunological, and movement functions are influenced by the brain.

“We all have experienced ‘butterflies in the stomach’ or a bout of diarrhea before giving a presentation or a critical examination. This anxious feeling is nothing but stress. All this happens as the gastrointestinal system is sensitive to all types of emotions, especially stress,” he adds.

The side effects of stress includes a fight or flight response by activating the autonomic nervous system, thereby impairing movements in the stomach, and increasing activities in the large intestine. This can also lead people to experience nausea or diarrhea.

What happens to the gut when stressed?

Chronic stress increases the sensitivity of the gut in specific individuals. It can lead to:

Acidity
Although the body may not be secreting excess acid, the patient experiences symptoms of acidity because the mucosa becomes more sensitive.

Obesity
Another typical stress response is overeating, which causes obesity in the long term with detrimental health effects on the heart, liver, and other organs. This also explains the heavier struggle one faces against weight loss.

Stress can lead to overeating
Stress can lead to overeating. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How are gut disorders impacted by stress?

Chronic stress can exacerbate the symptoms of many gut disorders including Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), says Dr. Dhir.

Although IBD is not caused by stress, the signs of the disease will be exacerbated in the presence of stress.

“Stress can cause the brain to release certain hormones, which affect the enteric nervous system. This has a direct bearing on the movements of the gut as well as the sensitivity of the gut. Thus, patients experience bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea,” explains the expert.

How to manage stress for healthy gut?

Stress alleviation is often a challenge in modern times, and medicines alone have a partial effect. One should adopt various coping techniques for managing stress in life as it can help reduce your risk of diseases or ailments.

Adopt a holistic approach
Emphasize on lifestyle changes such as better diet, exercise, meditation etc.

Diet
Some food items are also attributed to changes in mood. These include chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, spicy foods, and fatty foods, and these should be avoided.

The last word

While we cannot eliminate stress from our lives, it must be tackled effectively so that it does not impact a person’s overall well-being and health. If you cannot tackle stress properly, it is best to consult a specialist at the earliest opportunity.

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