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, 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. Stress shuts down digestion and makes it difficult to properly break down food.
During a stress response:
Your mouth gets dry; this is problematic since saliva contains important digestive enzymes.
Stress hormone levels rise.
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. Indeed, research tells us that stress decreases the number of good bacteria living in the gut. 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. Using superfoods and Blasting daily can help cells get the energy they need.
- 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. 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.
- 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.