Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cortisol - The Stress Hormone

Hey there!  It's me Erica again, and today I'm going to talk to you about CORTISOL.  Now some of you may be familiar with this and some of you may be thinking, "What the heck is that and why do I want to know about it?"  Well cortisol is one of the many hormones in your body that helps regulate your body's functions, and it can influence your weight.

Basically cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex, and it is released in times of stress.  You could say that it is released as a result of your body's "Fight or Flight" response.  The problem is that your body does not distinguish between physical stress and emotional or mental stress.  What does this mean?  The release of cortisol gives you a quick burst of energy, heightened memory, and lowers your sensitivity to pain.  This would be great if you were being attacked and had to make quick decision and get away.  And it might even be good if you are at work and your boss just assigned you a new project and told you to have it planned by the end of the day.  You would have the energy and brain power to get a lot done.

However, if you are stressed all the time because your house is messy, and your kids are whining at you, and you have to get to work, and you need to be home between 2-5 to let in the cable guy, and you...well I think you get the picture.  Your body responds the same way to any kind of stress.  So cortisol is being released more often and reaching a sustained level in your system.  Why is this bad?  Because high and sustained levels of cortisol cause suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalance which can lead to diabetes, lowered bone density, lowered muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, lowered immunity, can cause stomach ulcers and accelerated aging, and it can even lower serotonin levels.  But one of the problems you are probably most familiar with is that it causes an increase in abdominal fat.  And one of the biggest problems is that once you start in a cycle of stress, it can be hard to stop.  You get stressed, your blood sugar goes up with out having a physical outlet, then your blood sugar drops, and you start to feel hungry and crave what your body just lost - you got it, starchy and sugary foods.  And then the jump in sugary starchy foods stresses you body in a different way, causing the cycle to repeat itself.  And in the meantime, your body is storing all of those extra unneeded calories as fat in your belly.
 So what can you do to help reduce your stress and lower your cortisol levels.  You can cut down on some of the things that increase cortisol levels.  Caffeine, sleep deprivation, calorie restriction, overly intense or prolonged physical activity (otherwise known as "over training"), and alcohol can all increase cortisol in your system.  So cutting down on these can help.  But there are a lot of things you can actively do to help too.  Regular exercise, yoga, massage therapy, laughing more, listening to music, meditation, breathing exercises, SEX, and having a low glycemic diet can all help lower the amount of cortisol your body pumps out. 

My favorite way to lower mine is to snuggle with my kids and play with them.
What is your favorite way to relax?



  1. Thanks for this!! Alot of people don't realize what cortisol is and how it affects you.

  2. Happy to share what I've learned. And I agree, a lot of people don't realize how it affects their bodies.

  3. Worth it to know. Thanks !