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Stress, Inflammation and Weight Loss: Understanding the Connection and Strategies for Management

Stress plays a major role in affecting a person’s physical and mental health. It can lead to behavioral changes. It is also known to bring changes in a person’s body weight.

A person may start eating excessively or there may be a decrease in appetite due to stress.

Stress, Inflammation and Weight Loss: Understanding the Connection

Stress can affect most of the body’s processes. Its effects on bodily processes can lead to weight loss in different ways.

Stress can lead to poor dietary choices and can contribute to widespread inflammation and weight loss. It can cause inflammation and activation of the vagal nerve because of the inflammation.(1) This can influence the way the gut processes and metabolizes food. Stress, Inflammation and Weight Loss: Understanding the Connection

In a stressed body, the release of epinephrine is triggered by the sympathetic nervous system.(2) A rush of epinephrine activates the body’s fight and flight response. Epinephrine also causes the heart to beat faster and speeds up breathing. This can lead to a burn of good number of calories. It can also affect how the gut digests food and alters glucose levels.

The body’s response to stress is controlled by the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis which affects cortisol levels. Under stress, the pituitary gland signals the adrenal to release cortisol, which increases the body’s fuel for energy releasing fatty acids and glucose from the liver. Chronic stress impairs the functioning of the HPA axis causing changes in metabolism and thereby the eating habits.

Stress affects the communication between the brain and the gastrointestinal system making symptoms more apparent. The symptoms that show up include heartburn, gas, bloating, vomiting, constipation, muscle spasms, diarrhea, increased or decreased appetite, and difficulty in swallowing.

Strategies for Management of Stress

There are various techniques that can be adopted by a person to reduce stress. These include:

Many times, people look for food to reduce stress. Instead, they should try and incorporate nutrients into the diet:

  • Omega 3 fatty acids that help in reducing the level of stress hormones
  • Complex carbohydrates that help in regulating blood pressure and raise serotonin levels
  • Magnesium as it helps in improving sleep quality and decreasing fatigue and headache
  • Vitamin C helps in reducing stress and helps the immune system to function properly. It also helps in lowering the cortisol levels

Those experiencing stress should also try to get more sleep and avoid caffeine. Lack of sleep and excess caffeine can worsen anxiety.

Other Useful Stress Management Techniques for Weight Loss

There are a few ways in which stress can be controlled and weight can be in check.

Go for a Walk

Going for a walk is the easiest way in which a person can burn a few calories. It also helps in reducing stress. It boosts endorphin levels and increases feelings of well-being. It can also give respite from the negative feelings that contribute to stress.

Taking Deep Breaths

Slow and deliberate filling of the lungs with oxygen decreases the anxious feelings of being out of breath. It can also slow down a racing heart.

Deep breathing exercises can be helpful in reducing cortisol levels in both males and females and can also help in slimming down.(3, 4)

Grab Some Protein

Under stress, a person always reaches out for something sugary and salty. It is the protein that can provide the expected relief.

Foods including nuts, seeds, cheese, salmon, and turkey are all natural sources of the amino acid tryptophan which can increase the feeling of relaxation and well-being.

Tryptophan is known to have a positive effect on those with depression.(5)

Protein also gives a feeling of fullness and keeps a person away from unnecessary snacking or binging on processed snacks.


Stretching can be a huge calorie burner and can also be a relaxing method for self-care and changes in mood.(6)

Stretching helps in the release of dopamine which is a feel-good hormone and reduces cortisol levels.

If self-help techniques do not help in relieving stress, it is always good to see a health professional. There might be a medical condition that needs to be cured to relieve it. Stress may lead to weight gain or weight loss as it affects many bodily processes. Stress hormones can lead to changes in appetite and metabolization. There are a variety of self-help techniques that can be helpful in decreasing stress as well as be helpful in shedding those extra kilos.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 18, 2023

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