The truth about chronically raised cortisol....
Do you feel like you're doing everything right, but your weight isn't shifting?
Sometimes you can be eating well, sleeping well, drinking enough water and exercising a good amount. But nothing is budging. Lots of people who are stressed or work stressful jobs, have chronically raised cortisol. Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone which is released to help us take action when we are under threat. Here's the rubbish part - we can experience these spikes in cortisol from simple day to day events. These can include things like running for a bus, a job interview, a stressful phone call or work meeting, social events or occasions. Of course, we are all individual, and we all have different triggers.
When we’re stressed, our bodies quickly release adrenalin with a dose of cortisol and corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH) all as part of our fight or flight response. The liver also quickly releases a good dose of glucose at the same time, as of course this is what we would need if we were about to run away from a dinosaur… Except we don’t run. And that quick burst of glucose is very quickly met by insulin, which scurries the glucose away into the closest cells (around your middle) to try and bring your blood sugar levels back to normal. After a while this extra glucose stored around your middle can be converted into visceral fat. Visceral fat is what sits around your organs and it’s what increases your risk of a whole host of diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Raised cortisol levels can also tempt you to eat high carbohydrate and high refined sugar foods. Increased high calorie food consumption will also in turn lead to weight gain (if it's over and above your nutritional requirements). If you're feeling stressed, these foods can also give you comfort; the next time you’re stressed, you repeat this behaviour as last time it 'worked'. This cycle is exactly how new habits are formed. We will cover habit change next month.
How to reduce stress:
1. Try to work out what makes you stressed. Is it a colleague? is it that your local supermarket never has what you want in stock? or is it that you've been waiting in all day for the plumber who never came?. If you can do something about it, then do it. Limiting small daily stresses is a great start to lowering that cortisol.
2. Participate in relaxing or mindful activities. Things like meditation, mindfulness exercises and yoga can allow you to slow down and unwind. All three have been linked to bringing stress levels down.
3. Stay organised, take control and manage your time. Falling behind at work, not paying bills on time or letting jobs build up can all cause us to feel overwhelmed with jobs and duties. Write a to-do list and get on with it. Have a do-it-now mentality.
4. Participate in exercise and try to get enough sleep. They are the foundations of good health, along with nutrition, hydration and mindset. These are the 5 elements that NutritionMe believe are at the centre of health. They are all part and parcel to your hormone control, weight and physical and mental health.
5. Caffeine, Alcohol and Nicotine aren't great for stress. So try to limit these....
6. Do more of what you enjoy. Do less of what you don't.