"Health is a large word. It embraces not the body only, but the mind and spirit as well;...
and not today's pain or pleasure alone, but the whole being and outlook of a man."
~James H. West

Lisa's Blog

Do you get more hungry when you are stressed?

Lisa Cutforth - Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hunger hormone may increase in times of stress.

This could explain why often people want to eat more in response to stress.

 It is known that fasting causes ghrelin, a hunger hormone, to be produced in the gastrointestinal tract, which sends a signal to the brain that essentially increases our appetite.  Interesting research has found that exposure to stress can also cause ghrelin levels to rise.  This may be because the body anticipates that it will have increased need for resources or kick in primal survival and danger cues as a form of preparation for disaster.  However, paradoxically, it appears that the behaviours associated with depression and anxiety will tend to decrease as ghrelin levels rise.  Researchers have explained this might have been an evolutionary adaptation: the anti-anxiety effect of hunger-induced ghrelin may have provided a survival advantage.  Our hunter - gatherer ancestors who need to make food accumulation a priority, where able to keep calm and focused while in search of food, or they could have been at risk of becoming dinner themselves should they not have their wits about them. 

So while the ghrelin increase could have an antidepressant effect and possibly even increase energy levels, it could contribute to weight problems.  Similarly researchers are optimistic at blocking the body's response to ghrelin signals in an attempt to control weight by decreasing intake, however this could actually increase anxiety and depression.  It seems that could be a vicious cycle for someone who is prone to comfort eating.  They would feel more anxious and look for food even more to soothe.

Getting hungrier in response to stress and eating more when added to another physiological response to stress, make stress a key player and culprit in weight problems.

Another interesting factor that appears to make stress a contributor to poor weight control is the body's physiological response.  Stressed individuals tend to have increased abdominal fat receptors around their gut, and so will have a tendency to be able to store more or put on more weight during times of times, particularly chronic or ongoing stress.  

So what else could you do with your mouth and stomach in a response to stress that makes you feel better, increases endorphins and has a positive effect on your waistline?


There is a lot of research highlighting the stress management benefits of laughter:

  1. Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, adrenalin, dopamine and growth hormone. 
  2. Laughter provides a physical and emotional release, often you can feel really cleansed and invigorated from a good laugh.
  3. Laughter gives you a good internal workout.  It exercises your facial muscles, your diaphragm, your heart, contracts your abs and shoulders and leaves muscles feeling more relaxed afterwards.
  4. Laughter is a great distraction, if helps bring your focus away from negative emotions like anger or guilt. 
  5. Laughter is a great connector and so has social benefits.
  6. Laughter helps you shift perspective.  Humour can give you a more lighthearted perspective so that something is viewed as a challenge rather than a threat.
  7. Laughter can help you to alter your state.  Even a fake or forced laugh or smile can have a positive effect on your physiology, so lift up the corners of your mouth, throw back your head and LAUGH OUT LOUD!



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