Ever eat an entire bag of salty chips when you only intended to have just a few? What about a whole box of cookies while cramming for a test? Yep, me too! These a just a couple of the many ways that stress eating shows itself.
Stress is a complex physiological and psychological part of life. Certain hormones are secreted by the adrenal glands under conditions that are “stressful” to a person. That stress can be physical, emotional, sleep deprivation or any combination of the three. (Yes, sleep deprivation is a serious problem and a serious stressor. Read Karen’s blog.) Those stress hormones effect many tissues throughout the body via receptor sites that provide a landing place for the stress hormone. Stress hormone signaling causes all sorts of physical effects, some that you might notice and many that you don’t.
Well, in a recently published study, researchers have identified stress hormone receptor sites located in the taste bud sections of our tongues. When these sites are under the stress hormone signaling effect, it appears that it becomes more difficult to detect the amount or concentration of sweet or savory tastes in food. To quote Dr. Parker, the main researcher – “Think of your taste buds as chemical surveillance machines – they tell us how sweet or salty or bitter something is, and then our brain makes the decision to eat it or not. If stress makes you less able to discriminate among foods, or worse, makes you less sensitive to detecting sweet, I would predict you would go for the sweeter food.” The same is true for the savory and salty foods that we often crave.
So, if you are a stress eater, and you are not packing on the pounds, great. You are managing the situation. If, however, you are a stress eater and you are becoming overweight or obese, you really ought to do something about it. Do some things to decrease stress. Make sure you are getting some exercise. Stay well hydrated. Find ways to limit your portion sizes (so you don’t eat the whole bag). You get the idea. Stress eating may just be part of your reality. Just do some things to keep you from making matters worse by overeating. And, with stress eating, we now know that there is a direct brain – tongue connection!! Well, at least that explains it a little …