In my previous post, I shared with you one the four reasons why we experience stress, which boils down to how we perceive situations based on the configuration of our neural network in our brain. So let’s move on to the second potential stress trigger: food.
Not many people are aware of this fact, but what we eat and how we eat can raise our stress levels even without the presence of external stimuli or challenging circumstances. To understand how food has this type of influence, it is important to remember that the stress response in our mind-body system is triggered by the release of primarily two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. Both of these hormones are responsible for increasing muscular tension, speeding up heart rate, elevating blood pressure and all the other psychological and physiological conditions needed to support the stress response.
Just like any organism or mechanism, in order to be able to function, the human body needs fuel. The type of fuel that our body requires is known as glucose which derives from the sugar contained in the food we eat. Our body is very sensitive to the levels of sugar (glucose) in our body, preferring the supply of this energy source to be administered in moderate quantities and at a slow and steady rate.
If there is too much or too little sugar at any given time in our bloodstream, this could be harmful for us and even potentially fatal, so our body goes at great lengths to restore balance. This is accomplished by the release of another hormone by the name of insulin, which helps to stabilise our sugar level in our bloodstream. Unfortunately, sometimes our physiology’s protective mechanism tends to overreact.
For example, if we decide at breakfast to eat a sugary cereal and a croissant, our sugar level will surge drastically. Our body will release insulin to correct the situation, but rather than bringing the sugar level back to normal, this overreaction will make our sugar level plummet, leaving our body drained and exhausted. Once the biggest and more fuel-hungry organ in our body (our brain) notices that our sugar (fuel) level has tanked, it will order the release of adrenaline and cortisol to stress our mind-body system to prompt us to eat more to bring balance to our fuel reserves. All of this can happen in the span of 1 to 2 hours.
So, in order to prevent triggering the stress response, keep an eye on the GL or Glycemic Load levels in the food you eat. GL helps us to assess the amount of sugar contained in food and how fast it will be released in the bloodstream. Less than 40 GLs a day is advised.