Getting the hormone cortisol under control

The relationship between stress, obesity and metabolic disease begins with the hormone cortisol

Hello everyone! Hope you are having a great day.

The relationship between stress, obesity and metabolic disease begins with the hormone cortisol, which is released by your adrenal glands.

Cortisol has gotten a bad rap because it’s the hormone that makes you store belly fat.

However, in actuality, cortisol is one of the most important hormones in your body. In fact, if you have too little cortisol you will die – without it, you wouldn’t be able to handle any form of physical stress.

The acute rise of cortisol keeps you from going into shock when you’re dehydrated, improves memory and immune function, reduces inflammation, and increases vigilance.

Normally cortisol will peak in a stressful situation such as when you are being chased by an animal or your boss is yelling at you. Cortisol is necessary in small doses and in short bursts.

On the flip side, long-term exposure to large doses of cortisol will also kill you – it will just take longer. If pressures (social, familial, cultural, etc.) are relentless, the stress response remains activated for months or even years.

When cortisol floods the bloodstream, it raises blood pressure, increases the blood glucose level (which can precipitate diabetes), and increases the heart rate.

Human research shows that cortisol specifically increases caloric intake of ‘comfort foods’ (cakes, cookies, etc.). And cortisol doesn’t cause just any old weight gain.

It specifically increases the visceral fat, which is the fat deposit associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

Identifying how you will manage the stress in your life is critical to achieving your health and fitness goals.

Otherwise, stress and cortisol could be the metabolic blocking factor that keeps you tired, sick and overweight.

Here are the best ways to manage cortisol:

1. Work out – yes, adding physical activity and physical ‘stress’ to the body to is a good way to deal with it since it’s not bad stress – it’s adaptive stress. This means that your body goes into corrective mode and helps balance hormones, repair cells and encourages better sleep and mood. Win, win, win.

You have to listen to your body on this one. Too much of a good thing here (working out) will have counter acting measures. If you do not allow for proper rest and recovery your body will soon break down faster than it can rebuild.

2. Eat lots of fruit and veggies

Yeah, another reason to eat well. Shocking. Vitamins and nutrients in good veggies and fruit will help you eliminate free radicals and will help you regulate cortisol levels much better.

Shoot for one to two servings of fruit a day and three to five servings of veggies. Make sure to get colored veggies and green veggies in there.

3. Rejuvenate – do things that relax you. Hit the sauna, read a book, go to bed early, have a massage, visit the spa. You get the picture here.

4. Eliminate stress from your life. We know, easier said than done but you really have to try. Have a friendship or relationship that is toxic? Move on.

Have a job that brings more stress than it’s worth? Explore other options.

You really need to get stress under control to make cortisol your friend and not your enemy.

There you have it, all about cortisol. We hope that this clears things up on this amazing hormone and that you have a better understanding of what it is, what it does and how you can manage it.

Have a question, shoot us a message!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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