Stress Belly: Ring a Bell?

We’ve all heard about the “beer belly” and the “mid-life belly,” but did you know that when our nervous system goes into overdrive, our body stockpiles fat that we could do without.

Stress and sleep

Sonia Chartier

15 March 2014

Stress in and of itself is a positive thing. It’s our body’s way of reacting to physical and/or psychological aggression. In fact, our bodies are genetically programmed to set in motion this survival response when stimulated. By releasing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, the sympathetic nervous system prepares to cope with stress.

These hormones are secreted by two glands located above the kidneys, known as the adrenal glands. When released into the blood stream, these hormones mobilize our body to respond to stress.Several areas of the body are affected by this process:

  • Your heart beats faster;
  • Your muscles become tense due to an influx of blood;
  • Your digestion slows;
  • Your hairs stand on end to impress your enemy(!);
  • Your awareness is heightened.

The fact that your hairs stand on end may seem strange, but, as in animals, this is a primitive survival response going back to the first humans. Of course, today’s stress is quite different from that experienced by our ancestors; we are subjected to much more psychological stress than physical stress. However, the physiological response is the same, whether you’re being attacked by a woolly mammoth or worried about arriving late at daycare.

Adrenalin triggers the instantaneous physiological responses mentioned above. Our body has to increase its metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to produce the energy required. Then, the cortisol kicks in to maintain a constant blood-sugar level in order to keep up the flow of energy to the heart, muscles and brain. Its role is to make sure our body has constant reserves, allowing it to resist as long as possible.

So, if our body is in a continual state of alert day after day, it is always renewing its energy reserves. That’s why it deposits these reserves in an accessible spot, just above the kidneys and close to the adrenal gland, in the form of fat. This fat will eventually be converted into sugar to meet the body’s energy needs. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see highly stressed people with a stress belly!

The accelerated metabolism of certain organic substances triggers an increase in the secretion of other substances, including proteins, potassium and phosphorus, as well as a decrease in calcium reserves. Many of the physical problems triggered by stress are actually not a direct result of stress itself, but rather of the loss of nutrients caused by accelerated metabolism during episodes of stress.

Nature to the Rescue!
In cases of intense stress, it is a good idea to take certain plants in liquid extract form: they are absorbed directly into your system without the help of the digestive system, which acts much more slowly.

Avenaforce (Oats)
Oats are rich in vitamin B and calming agents that gently reduce the physical and emotional effects of stress while nourishing the nervous system. It’s the ideal solution for situations where the stress just won’t let up.

Passion Flower
When combined with Avenaforce, passion flower has a slightly stronger effect, easing muscular tension and relieving nervousness. Its calming effect is beneficial for people who are constantly on edge. It also improves the quality of sleep and can be taken both short and long term in combination with other remedies.

If you’re looking for a faster, more targeted effect, use Valerian. It reduces muscle spasms and has an impressive sedating effect on both mind and body. Perfect for short-term stress calling for a fast-acting remedy with no side effects. Do not take Valerian along with other sedatives.

St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort has a positive effect on depression and mood swings. It also acts on the anxiety that can lead to depression. St John’s Wort cannot be taken with other remedies.

To make up for the loss of nutrients, try a supplement rich in vitamin B that has a positive and nourishing effect on the nervous system, such as Bio-Strath.

So, next time your heart rate starts racing and you get butterflies in your stomach, take a step back and assess the situation. Is it a matter of life and death? How we act and react in the face of the events that life throws at us has a direct effect on our level of stress. It’s better to tap into all that energy to stop the defence mechanism that’s been triggered. And don’t worry, there’s no woolly mammoth on your heels!

If you are taking tranquillizers, sedatives or antidepressants, it isn’t wise to take herbs that have similar effects as well. If you feel your medication isn’t working, consult your physician and either change medications or simply try a natural product instead.