Cortisol is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory hormone. In small doses, it relieves pain and swelling. In large doses (when you undergo long periods of stress), Cortisol is the culprit for rapid weight gain over the belly and hip areas. Cortisol induced weight gain is resistant to normal channels of weight loss. Stress can make you fat.
Most body cells have cortisol receptors and it affects many different functions in the body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory. It has a balancing effect on salt and water and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.
Stress and Fat: the link
When cortisol levels remain high for protracted periods of time the short term benefits of the steroid hormone become long term problems! At a stress signal, cortisol increases the heart rate, blood pressure levels, blood glucose, respiration and muscle tension. It temporarily shuts down non-essential processes in a 'crisis' such as digestion and reproduction. Take these miraculous survival mechanisms and put them on a 24/7/365 cycle and you have a population "needing" high blood pressure meds, insulin lowering formulations, digestive aids and fertility treatments!
Treat the Stress to put the Balance Right.
The key to unblock the cortisol lock is to de-stress. Only once the stress button is deactivated, can you start dealing with the symptoms of cortisol overload such as weight gain.
What is the SOURCE of your stress? Is your department over extended, do you need to approach H.R for additional resources? If your spouse 'doesn't understand you', would a workshop about marital communication help? If your life is spent running around after kids, perhaps the whole family would benefit by opting for more quality, less quantity of extra mural activities? Your children will probably live to be over a hundred - why fill a lifetime bucket list of activities within the first decade? Name it then Change it.
Nurture yourself as you would a sick child.
Your body is screaming to you for help. Would you seriously put a hospital patient on a Boot Camp Exercise regime and strict diet regime and 'punish' him for being ill? The cortisol stress patient needs gentleness. Calming, low intensity exercise such as Pilates, Yoga and long walks in the countryside. Full fat versions of foods to offer a degree of satisfying satiety. Rest. Recuperation.
Mega doses of essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Just as your car works better with a full tank of fuel, water, oil and air in the tyres, your body needs as much of the good stuff as it can get to repair itself. A drop of fuel will not take you far... a quantity of quality supplements will support your body in it's self healing, self regulating journey. These are our "Change-your-Life" essentials:
B Vitamins: Are vital for energy, stamina and good mood. Look for supplements with 25 - 50 mg each of the major B vitamins. Theanine calms anxiety and nervousness.
Omega 3 Oils: Helps hunger pains and offers a feeling of satiety. Excellent for brain function. Aim for at least 1000 mg daily.
Vitamin C: The ultimate immune boosting anti-oxidant. As cortisol is an inflammatory response, this potent anti-oxidant helps scavenge free radicals and will help the bowels move again after months of tensed constipation. 1000 to 3000 mg daily is ideal.
Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium: These minerals have a naturally calming effect and help sleep patterns. Take in the evening before bed, and look for quantities of Calcium - 1000 mg. Zinc - 30 mg. Magnesium - 400 mg.
GABA (Gamma aminobutryic acid) is an amino acid which supports the brain neurotransmitter GABA. Relieves anxiety and tensions and is a super sleep aid. 500 - 1000 mg daily for 3 weeks will change your life.
Avoid weight loss stimulants! Although you may be desperate to lose the tyre of fat around your middle, weight loss aids with 'metabolism boosters', 'fat blockers' and other 'secret' weight loss ingredients will compound your cortisol problem and cause more weight gain!
"Stress" is an integral part of life on this planet. From birth until death, we navigate opposing forces every second of every day. From gravitational pull to atmospheric conditions or down to the very essence of the cell: life itself is a delicately balanced stress event. Stress management is key to manage cortisol responses: although you may not be able to change a given situation, you are able to change your response, beliefs and thoughts ABOUT any situation.
Words by Rae Dengler, Health Specialist