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Combatting Stressed Belly

Uncover insights into the challenges of a “stressed belly” and explore effective strategies for reduction. Discover supplements with adaptogens to support stress management and enhance overall well-being.

Key Takeaways

  • Stressed belly is a term used to describe the accumulation of visceral fat around the abdomen, which is caused by chronic stress.
  • When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol, a hormone that tells your body to store fat. This fat is then stored around your abdomen, leading to a pot belly.
  • There are a number of things you can do to reduce stress and prevent or reduce a stressed belly, including exercise, relaxation techniques, and getting enough sleep.


When we think about losing weight we often focus exclusively on what we’re eating and how much we’re eating. But did you know that how stressed you are on a daily basis affects how likely you are to carry excess belly fat?

Here we will explore the relationship between stress and belly fat. We’ll also share some top tips for how to reduce your cortisol levels and manage your weight.

Understanding Stressed Belly

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If you are carrying excess weight around your belly the chances are that this is in part due to chronic stress. There is a complex relationship between chronic stress, elevated cortisol levels, and your risk of being overweight. In particular, your risk of carrying additional weight around your abdominal region – otherwise known as a “cortisol belly”. (Source)

When you are stressed you have higher levels of a hormone called cortisol. On an acute basis, occasional stress is not particularly concerning as this is a natural evolutionary process designed to protect us from short periods of threat. However, when stress becomes chronic we can find that our levels of cortisol remain elevated for a longer period of time and this puts a strain on many systems of our body.

In particular, excess cortisol leads to increased inflammation which is associated with the unwated belly fat we can gain. (Source)

Additionally being chronically stressed can disrupt our gut microbiome which can have downstream impacts on our weight management. Being stressed can affect our insulin sensitivity and our blood glucose control which can lead us to develop metabolic conditions and increase our risk of obesity or overweight.

So, managing our cortisol levels is likely to be essential in maintaining a healthy body shape and reducing the risk of stressed belly-related weight gain.

The Science Behind Stressed Belly

It’s normal to feel stressed now and again, for example, if you have an important meeting a job interview, or a presentation to give you may find you experience temporary symptoms of stress and anxiety.

These can include an increased heart rate, breathing rate, or body temperature, and you may notice an increase in physical tension. These symptoms can actually help you to prepare for a stressful event and can keep you alert and focused on the task at hand.

When this occasional normal type of stress becomes repeated or constant you’ll experience something called Chronic stress. This is where you spend too much of your time in a fight or flight state rather than the more desirable and healthy rest and digest mode. Chronic stress occurs when your capacity to deal with the demands put upon you is depleted and you can no longer cope with the constant range of daily stressors you are exposed to.

This type of prolonged stress raises your levels of cortisol. As mentioned earlier, elevated cortisol levels on a chronic basis can increase your risk of weight gain and abdominal fat in a number of ways.

Furthermore, chronic stress is not good for your general health, as your adrenal glands are under strain to deal with this elevation in cortisol. This puts further strain on your body. Below are some of the main ways elevated cortisol can promote abdominal weight gain.

Elevated Cortisol Levels

Elevated cortisol levels can promote the storage of fat in your belly through high blood sugar levels. As well as eating too many high-sugar, high-GI foods, cortisol is also responsible for elevated blood glucose levels. When you have elevated blood glucose levels, insulin is produced to direct this excess glucose into cells for storage. (Source)

This means you can end up storing the excess blood glucose as fat within your abdominal area. Excess glucose is generally stored as fat if you are not using it up as required. In episodes of acute stress, your blood glucose levels increase so that you have the energy required to fight or flight.

However when you are chronically stressed and sitting at your computer dealing with emails this excess glucose isn’t required and isn’t used up in the body  – leading to the potential for excess fat storage.

Appetite Changes

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When your body is under stress your appetite can increase. This is because your body perceives it will need extra energy to deal with the stress at hand. (Source)

However, if you are dealing with workplace stress then you are unlikely to use up the extra calories you may be consuming due to your increased appetite.

If your elevated cortisol levels are negatively affecting your sleep, you will also be more likely to consume highly palatable high-calorie foods such as biscuits crisps, and chocolates.  In time these can also contribute to excess weight gain around the belly. (Source)


Inflammation is another key way in which chronic stress can promote abdominal weight gain. When you are inflamed you tend to produce higher amounts of inflammatory cytokines which lead to the accumulation of visceral fats around the belly area.

Similarly, inflammation can interfere with your appetite regulation leading to overeating and weight gain. Chronic inflammation can make you feel fatigued, excessively tired, and unable to complete regular physical activity, which further contributes to weight gain around the abdominal area. (Source)

Identifying A Stressed Belly

Signs that you have a stressed belly include:

  • Visceral abdominal weight gain around the belly area
  • Frequent symptoms of stress and anxiety such as indigestion
  • IBS-type symptoms
  • Poor sleep
  • A racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Physical tension
  • Frequent colds, and flu
  • Generally feeling run down and fatigued

If you are trying to lose weight and are reducing the amount that you are consuming but you still find it hard to lose abdominal weight this indicates that part of the issue might be prolonged chronic elevated cortisol levels. It might be that in order to manage your weight you first need to address your stress levels before further adjusting your calorie intake or increasing your exercise.

Unfortunately, abdominal obesity is one of the most risky kinds of obesity when considering potential health ramifications. Increased visceral fat around the abdominal area puts you at higher risk of heart disease and stroke, metabolic conditions, and other long-term chronic health issues. (Source)

Excess fat around your abdominal area may put you at risk of fatty liver disease and other diseases affecting your internal organs due to the excess layers of fat. This is why if you find signs of a stressed belly, ensuring that you treat it promptly can help to prevent future health risks linked to abdominal obesity.

Factors Contributing to Stressed Belly

We’ve talked about the role of chronic stress and its contribution to belly fats, so now it’s important to understand why are we in the state of chronic stress in the first place.

Chronic stress is often due to a combination of physical, psychological, and lifestyle factors. It may be that we have lots of external pressures through financial difficulties, family or relationship troubles, or money worries.

But it’s also possible that our approach to these challenges is adding to our stress levels. Additionally, if we are not taking good care of ourselves we can further stress our body and mind through insufficient nutrition poor lack of exercise, and other crucial lifestyle factors.

We want to aim to reduce the amount of time we spend in a fight-and-flight state and instead switch on our parasympathetic rest and digest system more frequently. This will give our adrenal glands a break, help to regulate our blood glucose levels, but also reduce inflammation, and allow our bodies to process our nutrition better.

Taking control of lifestyle factors is often one of the easiest things we can do when under stress. You may not be able to control your busy work schedules or your family’s difficulties but if we can control how often we exercise, rest, and the type of foods we eat it can help to increase our resilience against these types of stress.

We can think about eating a nutrient-dense diet that supports our gut microbiome and gives us everything we need to feel full and satisfied. Getting enough nutrients such as magnesium and B vitamins can help us to manage stress better. (Source)

Similarly, promoting daily regular movement even if it’s just a 20-minute walk can help us to reduce our cortisol levels and sleep better at night.

We can also benefit from including a type of Mind-Body intervention such as yoga. tai chi or meditation in our daily life as a form of protection from the various stresses we are exposed to on a regular basis. (Source)

Strategies To Reduce Stressed Belly

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Sometimes just improving our diet and exercising more is not enough to address our stress and therefore reduce our risk of stress belly syndrome. Instead, we can further support our body by introducing effective supplements to target elevated cortisol and reduce our belly fat.

An example of this would be the Human Tonic’s Super Green Tonik and Red Tonik combination.  These blends include adaptogens such as ashwagandha and rhodiola which are proven to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and reduce inflammation. (Source)

These adaptogens help to bring your body back into a stay in homeostasis and create resilience against stress. These will work most effectively when combined with core nutrients such as magnesium and b vitamins which are also included in the human tonik blends.

As with most conditions, however, it’s often a combination of holistic treatment protocols that will provide the best outcomes. So combining these adaptogenic aids in addition to moderate intensity exercise, a healthy balanced diet, and stress management techniques are likely to give you the best results.

Remember that when you start to increase your exercise levels, it’s important not to overdo things as exercise is a form of stress and if you go overboard you will likely further increase your cortisol levels.

So aim for a balanced exercise routine and incorporate some cardio, some strength training, and some mind-body practices or stretching to help calm your nervous system. It’s also important to remember to take rest days to let your body recover between exercise sessions too.

If you’re wondering what best to eat to manage your stress belly then start with the basics.  Aim for a balanced diet rich in whole grains – complex carbohydrates, healthy fats such as oily fish and olive oil. Consuming plenty of fatty acids will reduce inflammation and lots of polyphenols and antioxidants will help to prevent oxidative stress and reduce damage to yourselves.

If you’re worried about finding the time to rest and relax remember that just ten minutes of mindfulness or meditation can make a big difference. Studies have shown that regular relaxation can reduce your cortisol levels and even alter the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety so that you are less likely to experience such extreme reactions to stress in the future.

Preventing A Stressed Belly

As with most things relating to your health, prevention is usually better than a cure. So aim to build a healthy lifestyle that will combat stress and help you maintain a healthy weight before your belly fat accumulates.

This involves prioritizing a regular and effective sleep schedule where you wake and sleep at the same time throughout the week to regulate your body clock.

Developing healthy coping stress strategies for stress is also important – this may involve speaking to friends or family, seeing a trained Healthcare practitioner, or taking a course of cognitive behavior therapy.

Finally, consuming a nutrient-dense diet with supportive adaptogens is a great way to prevent a stressed belly and associated belly fat. So why not try Super Green Tonik today?

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FAQ Section

What Is A Stressed Belly?

A stressed belly is when you experience an increase in visceral abdominal fat due to chronic stress. You may also have other symptoms relating to stress such as high blood pressure, insomnia, and fatigue.

Over time, having a stressed belly may put you at increased risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers.

How Does Cortisol Contribute To Belly Fat?

Chronically elevated cortisol increases your risk of belly fat and weight gain because it adversely affects blood glucose management, increases inflammation makes your appetite higher, and promotes abdominal weight gain.

Can Stress Management Techniques Help Reduce Stressed Belly?

Stress management techniques can help to lower elevated cortisol as they put your body into rest and digest mode. Such techniques include yoga, meditation, and mindfulness as well as regular exercise and quality sleep.

What Role Do Adaptogens Play In Managing Stressed Belly?

Adaptogens such as those found in Human Tonik blends, including ashwagandha and rhodiola help to increase your resilience to stress by helping your body to maintain a state of homeostasis when under pressure.

Studies have shown that when these adaptogens are combined with other core nutrients such as B vitamins they can reduce levels of stress and anxiety. This can in turn reduce your risk of belly fat.

Are There Specific Dietary Changes That Can Help With A Stressed Belly?

Nutrient-dense supplements such as Human Tonik’s Magnesium and Super Green products can help support the nervous system and may reduce symptoms of stress in some people.

Promoting a healthy gut microbiome by using good-quality probiotics can improve gut-brain activity, which may reduce cortisol too.

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Are There Specific Dietary Changes That Can Help With A Stressed Belly?

Nutrient-dense supplements such as Human Tonik’s Super Green Tonik can help support the nervous system and may reduce symptoms of stress in some people. Promoting a healthy gut microbiome by using good-quality probiotics can improve gut-brain activity, which may reduce cortisol too.

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