Now many of us are at home 24/7 people have been asking why they want to eat all the time
The shift from going out when we want to being inside most of the time takes quite an adjustment. As we get to grips with a new routine, working from home or tackling a list of DIY jobs, some people have noticed that they are eating more.
While part of the reason we keep heading for the fridge may be boredom or just the novelty of being at home with food within easy reach, there are other physiological reasons we may seek out a quick snack fix. For many of us this time is also stressful as we try to make sense of the situation we are in and what it means for our future.
Food is more than calories. It’s information. The body is a wonderful machine, constantly sending us signs and signals about the information (or nutrients) it needs to function at its best.
Angela Attwood is a Nutritional Therapist specialising in nutrition for hormonal health, fertility and pregnancy. In this guest blog she describes how cravings may be a sign of stress hormone imbalance and how this may also affect fertility.
When we are stressed our body reacts in the same way it has done for millennia – and equips our body to fight or run away from the stress.
Our adrenal glands produce stress hormones which (among other things) signal that we need a quick source of glucose—our body’s main source of fuel—so we go for whatever is readily available.
Eating something high-sugar that is also high in fat (like donuts, chocolate, cake, biscuits and sweets) also triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with feelings of reward and satisfaction. By falling into this trap, we train our brain to think ‘you need to eat this to help you feel better’.
Using these foods to regulate our mood and lower our stress is a short term fix. In the long run, it just sends us on a rollercoaster – with our energy, our mood, stress levels and sleep.
In contrast, when we have a steady release of glucose into the blood stream throughout the day via slow releasing carbohydrate foods such as vegetables, fruits and wholegrains, pulses and beans, and protein we’re productive, sharp, and full of energy as well as being nourished and supporting our stress response.
If sugar doesn’t do it for you, reaching for savoury, salty foods – crisps, salted nuts, cheese and biscuits – may also be a sign that your adrenal glands are under strain and, similar to sugar, that hankering for salt could be attributed to stress.
The adrenal glands are also responsible for making hormones that regulate blood pressure by controlling fluid levels and electrolyte balance in the body.
Chronic stress may impair adrenal gland production of these hormones which may result in low blood pressure and cravings for salty foods. If you experience these symptoms along with fatigue, excessive thirst, headaches and nausea, it is worth a trip to your doctor.
Stress and fertility
Stress has an effect on fertility too – activating our ‘flight or fight’ response puts us in survival mode when the only thing that is necessary is to run away from or combat the stress. This means that functions the body deems non-essential to survival are put on hold – which includes making a baby and digesting our food.
For men, persistently high cortisol levels resulting from long term stress may decrease testosterone levels, which may result in decreased sperm health and count.
If you would like to find out more about how lifestyle and nutrition can support you in managing your stress levels and cravings, which may also support your fertility please contact me for a complimentary 30 minute consultation.