Emotional eating is when we eat for any reason other than to nourish the body. It’s when emotions or memories fuel our hunger, rather than a biological need for nutrients. Often, a stressful situation is a trigger to grab bready, starchy, and fatty comfort foods.
It’s no wonder — the sugars in starchy foods encourage the release of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that makes us feel good. For example, many antidepressants block the uptake of serotonin so that more of it stays in the brain, making us feel happier.
Even though comfort foods and sugar may dampen strong emotions, in the long run these habits create more stress on the body and a greater potential for fatigue and depression.
Do You Eat While Stressed?
In short, stress shuts down your digestive power — making it harder to break down food and easier to overwhelm your digestion, your immune system, and your liver.
Emotional eating can leave you feeling worse than when you started. A complete superfood supplement like Vitality SuperGreen can help to calm cravings in times of stress.
During a stress response:
- Your mouth gets dry; this is problematic since saliva contains important digestive enzymes.
- Digestion stops.
- Stress hormone levels rise.
- Inflammation increases.
- Immune function drops.
Stress hormones activate the fight-or-flight response, telling the body to send resources to where they are needed — not to your digestive tract.
So while the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the muscles are flooded with support, other systems in the body receive less help. This is one reason why ongoing stress can lead to problems like heartburn, constipation, or lack of appetite.
Stress also works against the immune system. When we feel stress, we produce stress hormones that tell opportunistic bacteria and yeast to grow.1,2 Indeed, research tells us that stress decreases the number of good bacteria living in the gut.3 Armed with fewer good bacteria, the body is more susceptible to infection, inflammation, and Candida overgrowth.
5 Tips to Combat Stress Eating
- Always choose nutrient-dense foods that give authentic energy to your cells. Whole, nutritious foods are best. But if you're short on time, a green drink can offer pre-digested nutrition that won’t tax your digestive tract and can also give you a good boost of energy and wellbeing.
- Have coconut water kefir on hand. Kefir is naturally soothing to the nervous system. It contains probiotics that make their own feel-good brain chemicals.4 Probiotics also support a healthy inner ecosystem and can repair a leaky gut.
- Supplement with digestive enzymes. This is especially important if you eat while stressed. A full spectrum enzyme stokes your digestive fire and protects against heartburn, irregular bowel movements, and other signs of digestive trouble that accompany stress.
- Rebalance your system after periods of stress. Stress not only weakens the immune system and dampens digestion — it causes inflammation and leaky gut. This is the time to focus on improving digestion, eliminating toxins, rebuilding the gut wall, nourishing the adrenals and thyroid, and replenishing the beneficial bacteria and yeast of the inner ecosystem. Our Digestive Care Multi can help, along with a daily self-care practice that includes healthy foods, exercise, meditation, and rest.5,6
- Accept your emotions — even the ones you don’t like. The best way to manage emotional eating habits is to simply accept your emotions and be with them. In other words, rather than trying to change your emotions or avoid them, acknowledge how you feel.
You can learn how to nurture your body and transform emotions without ignoring them or covering them up with unhealthy eating habits.
This isn’t always easy. But when it comes to maintaining health and vitality, managing stress and how we eat during stressful times is essential. As you learn to manage stress in ways that don’t involve unhealthy food, pay special attention to your digestive system and immune system. They will be good indicators of how your body is handling your emotions.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Emotional eating is considered the norm, especially if you’re under stress. In a stressful situation, you may first reach for starchy, fatty foods as a source of comfort. Starchy foods contain sugars that encourage the release of the feel-good chemical serotonin in the brain. Over the long-term, stress eating can place a burden on the body and increase the risk of fatigue and depression.
When you’re under stress, use these five tips to preserve your digestive health:
- Choose nutrient-dense foods that provide authentic energy. And when you're pressed for time, a green drink can offer pre-digested nutrition that is easy on the gut.
- Keep coconut water kefir on hand. Kefir naturally soothes the nervous system with probiotics that also produce feel-good brain chemicals.
- Supplement with digestive enzymes. If you’re eating under stress, a full spectrum enzyme can stoke your digestive fire and relieve unpleasant symptoms like heartburn and irregular bowel movements.
- Rebalance your system after times of stress. Stress affects immunity and digestion. Use our Digestive Care Multi to restore digestion, support detoxification, rebuild the gut wall, nourish the thyroid and adrenals, and replenish your inner ecology, along with a daily practice of exercise, meditation, and rest.
- Accept unpleasant emotions. Manage emotional eating triggers by accepting and experiencing your unpleasant emotions; emotional avoidance can lead to unhealthy eating habits.
- Lyte, M. (1993). The role of microbial endocrinology in infectious disease. Journal of endocrinology, 137(3), 343-345.
- Lyte, M., & Ernst, S. (1992). Catecholamine induced growth of gram negative bacteria. Life sciences, 50(3), 203-212.
- Lakhan, S. E., & Kirchgessner, A. (2010). Gut inflammation in chronic fatigue syndrome. Nutr Metab (Lond), 7, 79.
- Dhakal, R., Bajpai, V. K., & Baek, K. H. (2012). Production of gaba (γ-aminobutyric acid) by microorganisms: a review. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 43(4), 1230-1241.
- University of Maryland. "Exercise may protect against future emotional stress, study shows." ScienceDaily.
- Creswell JD, Pacilio LE, Lindsay EK, Brown KW. Brief mindfulness meditation training alters psychological and neuroendocrine responses to social evaluative stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Jun;44:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.02.007. PubMed PMID: 24767614.
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