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How does ongoing stress affect the body?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Stress causes many people to stress eat. Stress eating is a type of emotional eating, which contributes to excess calories, and when done often enough causes weight gain. In addition, the type so food people crave when stressed is generally high fat and sugar. Stress also causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that promotes body fat and makes it harder to lose weight, especially around the stomach. And when someone is stressed they generally sleep less. Chronic fatigue causes the hormone ghrelin to rise. Ghrelin is the primary hunger hormone, and causes someone to feel hungry even when they don’t need to eat. Stress also affects the immune system, and can make someone more prone to illness and fatigue. In short, stress affects the entire body system.

Emilia Klapp
Nutrition & Dietetics
In addition to chronic fatigue, depression, and other issues connected to an overflow of the body’s stress hormones, there is other damage that ongoing stress can cause. This includes:  
  • Altered immune function
  • Increased blood pressure, a risk for coronary-artery disease
  • Increased stomach-acid secretion, which can cause ulcers
  • Weight gain
  • Provocation of asthma attacks

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.