Stress is the body’s reaction to being under pressure.

Research suggests that a moderate amount of pressure can be positive, making us more alert and motivated. However, too much or prolonged pressure can lead to stress, which can cause physical and emotional problems as well as illness.

When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more of the ‘fight or flight’ chemicals, which prepare us for an emergency. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are released to raise blood pressure and increase heart rate. Blood is redirected to the vital organs and muscles, meaning reduced blood flow to the skin and digestive system. Another stress chemical, cortisol, releases fat and sugar into your bloodstream for energy. All these changes make it easier for us to fight or run away, which was extremely useful in times gone by.

These changes are less helpful when we’re stuck in a busy office or on an overcrowded train! Because we cannot fight or run away, the chemicals our own bodies produce to protect us become detrimental to our wellbeing.

When our bodies are in ‘fight or flight’, resources are not focused on other functions – such as digestion and repair – so being in this state longterm can damage our physical and mental health.


  • Decreased mental and physical energy
  • Difficulty getting up in the morning
  • Drowsiness during the day
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Low or fluctuating mood
  • Anger or irritability
  • Emotional instability
  • Food cravings
  • Hungry all the time
  • Difficulties in maintaining weight
  • Digestive difficulties
  • Alcohol and food intolerances
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headaches
  • Poor memory/concentration
  • Frequent colds/infections
  • Menstrual difficulties/irregularities
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Skin problems

How stressed are you?

People cope with stress in different ways, and each person will have a level of stress that is tolerable and a tipping point beyond which they become overwhelmed.

When we’re stressed, we can appear to be coping quite well even though our bodies are struggling to keep up. This hidden quality of stress is stressful in itself!

An Adrenal Stress Test uses saliva samples to measure levels of different stress hormones throughout the day. This can help to pinpoint any imbalances and identify stress before it becomes a problem.

Smart Nutrition can also use the results to write you a specific diet, supplement and lifestyle protocol to support you through times of high pressure. This will help reduce your symptoms and decrease the chances of stress causing a more serious problem. 

Contributory factors

Imbalances in blood sugar: one of the functions of the stress hormone cortisol is to increase the amount of sugar in the bloodstream. This is a prehistoric mechanism designed to ensure that there is plenty of fuel available for the muscles so we can run away from danger or fight.

However, because in our modern lives stress very rarely actually involves these responses, the sugar is not used up. This causes blood sugar levels to rise, and the body reacts in the same way as it does when we eat a sugary snack. A big surge of insulin is released to take the sugar into the cells and the blood sugar then drops too low. These peaks and troughs in blood sugar can lead to uncontrollable mood swings, cravings and weight gain.

If you experience these symptoms as part of your stress picture, Smart Nutrition can test your blood sugar levels with an Insulin Resistance Test, can give you expert advice on practical diet changes to balance out your blood sugar levels as well as dealing with the underlying stress. 

Nutrient deficiencies: being in a stressed state uses up a lot of nutrients very quickly – and when we’re stressed, we often don’t eat properly or look after ourselves. This means we can easily become deficient in key vitamins and minerals, predisposing us to illness and making it even more difficult for our bodies to function under pressure.

If longterm stress is a feature of your life, a Health MOT Test can tell you whether you’re lacking in any essential nutrients. If you find out that you do have a deficiency, Smart Nutrition can advise you on dietary changes and supplements to help get you back on the road to health. 

Digestive problems: stress causes the digestion to shut down, so you may find that digestive problems such as wind and bloating accompany your stress levels.

Eating slowly, chewing your food well and eating away from your desk will all help your digestion – if the problem persists, Smart Nutrition’s GI Effects Test can give you vital information about your digestive processes. 

We also recommend a consultation to investigate other possible causes of the problem. Please use the button at the bottom of the page to find out more.

Useful Links

Please do not return samples to the laboratories that may arrive after Wednesday 27th March and up to and including Monday 2nd April.

The laboratories are closed from the 28th March – 2nd April for the Easter Holiday.