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What Is Stress Eating? Here's How It Can Adversely Affect Your Overall Health

People tend to reach out for sweets and greasy, high-calorie foods when cortisol levels increase because binge eating leads to immediate comfort.

What Is Stress Eating? Heres How It Can Adversely Affect Your Overall Health

Stress is an ever-present companion in our lives, arising from factors such as social, financial, health, family, and work-related issues. The stress response is natural and comes about as a body reaction to overcome difficulties.

Understanding stress hormones:

In the beginning, when an individual is under stress, a hormone called epinephrine is released that reduces appetite. But if there is prolonged stress, another type of stress is released, which is called cortisol.

Cortisol greatly influences our eating habits. People tend to reach out for sweets and greasy, high-calorie foods when cortisol levels increase because binge eating leads to immediate comfort. For example, these comfort foods bring temporary joy when stressed, giving one momentary pause to stress about an issue. This explains why people under chronic stress often resort to unhealthy diets and eating routines.

Slight stress and temporary appetite changes due to epinephrine can hardly affect someone's health. However, prolonged stress and increased appetite due to cortisol release can cause serious troubles for an individual's body.

Consequences of stress eating:

Obesity: When people eat more due to chronic stress, they are more likely to consume a bad diet that comprises high calories and fatty and unhealthy meals, leading to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a result of a buildup of surplus fats in the body through regular consumption of fat, sugar, and calorific foods. There are health hazards, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and joint issues, that arise due to this condition.

Fatty Liver Disease: Fatty liver is also more likely to develop if a person consumes junky diets such as fried, sugary, or saturated food when under stress. It increases the likelihood of developing fatty liver disease. This condition, marked by the accumulation of fat in the liver cells, has become increasingly prevalent. Failure to address eating habits that result from stress can advance into worse liver conditions, pointing out why it is vital to manage stress-related eating habits.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): NASH is another severe condition that may progress from fatty liver disease. NASH is a type of hepatitis that involves inflammation and harms liver cells, posing significant health risks. This is often a consequence of long periods of high-stress diets, which make it difficult for the liver to break down all the fats and sugars that are being consumed.

Liver Cirrhosis: A prognosis of NASH or any other liver problem could result in liver cirrhosis in the worst case. Liver cirrhosis is described as a serious disorder of the liver in which scar tissues take the place of healthy liver tissues, damaging the functions of the liver. Liver cirrhosis is now the main reason for liver transplants and liver-caused deaths. Unhealthy meal habits due to stress can aggravate liver cirrhosis, highlighting a crucial need to take measures to tackle stress eating in order to improve health as a whole.

It is important for everyone to understand how crucial it is for us to manage our stress and eat properly in order not to lose our wellness for a long time.

(Dr. Manish Kak, Consultant - Gastroenterologist, Manipal Hospital, Ghaziabad)

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