Stress and Food In the Holidays

What’s Worse? Stress vs. Junk Food In the Holidays?

Which is harder on the human body? Junk food? Or stress and anxiety from the Holidays?

Researchers conducted a study to compare these two health hazards. While the study was performed on mice, the researchers believe that the impacts from stress and junk food are comparable to what happens in humans.

The researchers evaluated a large group of male and female mice over a period of 16 weeks. During the 16 weeks, half of the male mice and half of the female mice were fed a high-fat diet and stress. The results, the differences between the male and female mice after stress were quite staggering.

The male mice that were given the high-fat diet experienced significantly more anxiety and less activity in response to stress compared to the female mice that were given a high-fat diet. The female mice that were given a normal diet saw a dramatic shift in their gut microbes in response to the stress. Post-stress, the gut microbes in the female mice changed to different types of microbes as if they were eating a high-fat, junk food diet.

So what does this mean to you?
The researchers concluded that the results of this study may explain the gender discrepancy in which higher rates of anxiety and depression are found in woman compared to men. Stress seems to alter the gut microbiota in a negative way – more in women than in men.

For women, this study emphasizes the importance of stress mitigation. For men, it suggests the importance of taking a healthy, whole food, organic diet more seriously. The negative impact of stress on the digestive system has been described for thousands of years. In fact, the “seat of the nervous system” was understood to be in the large intestine. Now, we have overwhelming evidence suggesting that stress can indeed alter the gut microbiology and, in turn, have a negative impact on mood. Ponder this during this busy time of year and take it to heart, your body will thank you!

Eating organic, whole, non-processed, seasonal foods is a mainstay for a healthy body.  Practice stress-reduction techniques like yoga, breathing, and meditation. But most importantly, it’s on how you eat. Intentionally slowing down, relaxing, and enjoying your meals is key to a healthy lifestyle!

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