Too much stress can destroy our health, plain and simple. The body is equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that can do things like fight infections and slow the aging process, but they only work when our nervous system is relaxed. Watch out if you have an excess of the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, because it can harm your health: anxiety, sadness, abdominal cramps, lack of sex drive, vulnerability to germs (catching too many colds), overweight, insomnia, backaches and headaches.
Stress can shut down appetite. The nervous system sends messages to the adrenal glands atop the kidneys to pump out the hormone epinephrine (also known as adrenaline). Epinephrine helps trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response, a revved-up physiological state that temporarily puts eating on hold.
However, when stress persists, the adrenal glands release another hormone called cortisol. It increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn’t disappear, cortisol levels may stay elevated.