Stress affects nutrition in numerous ways, for example it compromises the ability of the body to digest, absorb, process, and eliminate nutrients (such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water) because the body is in a state of "fight or flight.”
The relationship between stress and nutrition can be illustrated through 4-steps:
Step 1: Stress begins to deplete nutrients (such as water-soluble vitamins and several essential minerals) in the body.
Step 2: Nutrients depleted with stress are not restored. The consumption of calorie-rich, nutrient-poor foods (such as comfort foods, fast foods, and processed foods) quite often accompanies stress. Combined with nutrient depletion, foods low in nutrients further stress the body, which is already trying to compensate for the lack of nourishment it is experiencing.
Step 3: The stress response remains chronically elevated when an individual continues to eat certain food substances (such as caffeine, sugar, processed flour, and salt). Healthy nutrients remain depleted, and unhealthy food consumption contributes to obesity and the ingestion of toxins. Elevated stress might also lead to excessive alcohol consumption, further taxing the liver (which filters toxins from the body). The efficiency of the body's immune system continues to diminish.
Step 4: Stress effects reach a peak as poor food choices continue, immune function is in severe decline and, when this happens, health is greatly compromised and can result in potentially serious health conditions (e.g., cancer, colds, flu, etc.).
Remember, your health and well-being are intricately tied to a healthy diet. Eating a nutritious diet requires an understanding of how stress influences food choices and metabolism. Making wise choices about the type of food eaten so stress is reduced is essential.