A lot of us experience stress responses and we don’t even know it.
Because we don’t know what that means.
If we’re not under immediate stress, why would we get a stress response right?
This article is to bring awareness to help you identify a stress response and how to stop it.
Symptoms of a stress response
- Cold hands and feet
- Sweating under your arms even though you’re feeling cold/normal
- Feeling clammy, especially your feet, even though you’re feeling cold/normal
- Experiencing neck tightness, twitchiness or slight tremor
- Want to clench your jaw to get rid of tension
- Have slight, moderate or severe anxiety
- Feeling tired but wired
- Heat waves/flushes
- Anger fits and being frustrated. Being easily triggered
- Eyes being light sensitivity
- Can’t look people in the eye (especially strangers)
- Voice fluctuations
These are some of the basic common, evident symptoms of a stress response.
Usually, when someone is not in a stressful environment or being physically confronted, they can be under stress due to low-calorie intake, low carb intake, low salt intake, or worrying over things.
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How to stop a stress response
This might seem weird, but oftentimes people don’t eat enough carbs/calories, so their body has to increase adrenaline and cortisol to mobilize fat from fat stores and turn protein into amino acids.
If someone has low thyroid hormones, their stress hormones will automatically be higher, which enhances the need for food. Noradrenaline and adrenaline promote glycogenolysis, which is the breakdown of liver glycogen. Once liver glycogen drops to below about 50%, then stress hormones rise higher and higher.
If someone has optimal thyroid hormones, then their stress hormones will be lower. In an optimal state, if someone is euthyroid and stress-resilient, he can be fine by undereating and stressing and get little to no stress response symptoms. But if this is done chronically, it leads to the point where any stressor might trigger stress response symptoms right away.
Total daily calories need to be optimized to minimize a stress response. It’s common to see people who deficit to have lower temperature and are less stress-resilient.
Eat enough of all macros.
Too much protein without enough carbs can make you feel heavy. Carbs, such as honey or fruit, improves the digestibility of meat and can prevent an increase in stress hormones.
Certain amino acids are high insulinogenic, so to prevent hypoglycemia, your body upregulates glucagon. Glucagon stimulates ACTH-induced cortisol release, which can worsen a stress response. Adding in some carbs can prevent this.
Carbs are the main stress buffer. As long as you have carbs/glycogen in your body, you’ll be able to buffer the stress much better.
But, too many carbs without enough protein or fat can also cause blood sugar rollercoasters for most. Combining carbs with fat and too little protein is also not very satiating. There isn’t a perfect mix for everyone, but starting with 25:45:30 protein, carbs and fat is a good starting place and you can then adjust from there based on how you feel and what you crave.
I don’t obsess over ratios. Instead, I just drink milk and juice during the day until I feel like I want something salty, and then I have something else. That works for me.
Salt your food properly. Salt has strong noradrenaline and adrenaline-lowering effects. It’s very common to experience warm blood flow into your hands and feet after eating salty starches. If your feet are really cold, it will feel like you dipped your feet in a hot bath.
I just recommend salting to taste, whereas other people deliberately have to add more salt and they experience benefits from doing so.
#2 Dont fast
Some people, because they stress, don’t have an appetite or find that they feel better when they don’t eat. So this puts them in a catch-22.
But then fasting worsens the stress.
So what you can do is to consume easy-to-digest food, such as milk, smoothies, fruit juice, whole fruit, biltong, etc.
It requires no prepping and you’ll barely notice that you have consumed anything. You will not be as stuffed as with a regular meal and it won’t make you feel tired or anything.
24 hour fasting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if it worsens stress in the long run when you’re not fasting, then it’s best not to do it either.
And as I mentioned, some people, when they fast, e.g. only 16 hours, won’t feel like they have a stress response. But, they might have cold hands and feet, feel generally cold, are sweaty despite feeling cold, are easily agitated, etc, which are all symptoms of a stress response.
#3 Avoid coffee first thing in the day
Coffee is great for enhancing cognition and increasing temps, but that boost is relatively short-lived when the stress response kicks in. Stress response as in increased hunger, feeling diabetic, nervous, jittery, increased need to urinate, etc.
Adding cream and sugar to the coffee helps to prevent the stress response to a degree, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate it.
Caffeine enhances catecholamine release, such as noradrenaline and adrenaline, which promotes lipolysis (release of fat into the bloodstream from the adipose tissue) and glycogenolysis (breakdown of glycogen) and speeds up the oxidation of fat and glucose.
But the trick is to eat first, wait 1-4 hours and then have your coffee, depending on how sensitive you are. I usually have 500ml of milk first thing in the morning while getting sunlight. Then my wife makes creamed coffee for us which tastes better than any Seattle or Starbucks coffee you’ll get.
After that, I continue to drink milk until I’m hungry for an actual meal.
In the past (when I was more hypometabolic) I used to get feel weird after coffee (more so when it didn’t have cream), but now, after fixing my metabolism, I can drink multiple cups of coffee and even undereat and I’m fine.
#4 Use adaptogens
Adaptogens are things that help you adapt to stress and prevent an excess release of stress hormones.
Some of my favorites include niacinamide, magnesium, aspirin, Ashwagandha (full spectrum extract), vitamin B1 (R) and emodin (found in the product Lapodin).
During stress, vitamin B1 and magnesium are rapidly lowered/depleted, and both or essential for proper glucose oxidation. When they drop too low, this shifts the serotonin to dopamine ratio unfavorable, which leads to bad outcomes. Check out the high serotonin personality. And combining B1 and magnesium is the foundation of my favorite anti-serotonin stack.
Stress also negatively affects the gut, which can lead to dysbiosis and leaky gut, which allow the absorption of endotoxins (cell wall structures from gram-negative bacteria) and other toxins into the body. This leads to inflammation, impaired autophagy and even more cortisol. Emodin lowers cortisol, prevents leaky gut and dysbiosis and inhibits the endotoxin receptor (TLR4). An absolute all-around great compound.
Other good adaptogens include Rhodiola, Lemon balm, magnolia, Kratom (only for occasional use), Relora, ginseng, Schisandra, cordyceps, etc.
- How to lower cortisol
- How to analyze your cortisol test results
- How to lower your intracellular cortisol
- Get relaxed and happy with these adapto-phorians
#5 Balance blood sugar
Blood sugar rollercoasters cause the release of stress hormones. What usually happens is someone eats something that spikes insulin. After a while, insulin hasn’t been cleared fast enough and then it causes slight hypoglycemia. Adrenaline and cortisol are then released to prevent further hypoglycemia.
A few symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
- Hot flushes
- Irritated and angry (Hangry)
- Brain fog
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling cold
- Feeling lightheaded, dizzy and shaky
It’s this hypoglycemia-induced release of cortisol that causes insulin resistance, fat storage, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.
So making sure you balance your blood sugar to keep the stress response is key.
A few tips here are:
- Eat enough protein
- Eat some fat but not too much
- Eat carbs that you tolerate best
Eat enough protein
Protein takes longer to digest, so it slows digestion and transit time, which slows the absorption of foods, which prevents a spike in insulin. A fast-digesting protein, like whey, is not the same as a slow-digesting source like egg, bacon, sausage, patty, etc.
Protein will help to balance blood sugar as long as it’s balanced with the right amount and right kind of carb as I mentioned above.
Eat some fat but not too much
Fat is also great for satiety, but fat inhibits liver breakdown and clearance of insulin. So too much fat can cause insulin to remain too high for too long, which causes the release of stress hormones.
Too little fat and most people burn through their carbs too fast, making them hungry sooner. A good example is skim vs full-fat milk.
Saturated fat specifically is also great against any stress response.
Eat carbs that you tolerate best
Refined insulinogenic carbs (e.g. wheat) are the worse when it comes to balancing blood sugar. Most regular Joes out there have/had only insulinogenic carbs for breakfast, e.g. frootloops, wheat bix, bagel, etc.
A lot of scientists out there blame carbs in general because it’s insulinogenic. But just because it releases insulin doesn’t mean it’s bad. Potatoes are pretty insulinogenic, but it has the highest satiety score out there of all foods. Try overeating on potatoes (without butter) and you’ll see it’s pretty damn hard.
Fruit is also great for balancing blood sugar and pairs well with protein. I like fruit smoothies with milk. With such smoothies, I consume protein, fat and carbs all in one. That’s pretty good for satiety and it keeps my blood sugar stable.
This might all seem like too broad guidelines, but everyone is different so I can’t give specific guidelines. Oats make me hypoglycemic, whereas oat is great for balancing blood sugar for someone else.