Tag Archives: Cortisol

Cortisol, the “Evil” Stress Hormone

Cortisol and weight gain:

The other night I was having a conversation with a client who is struggling to lose weight and she stated that her cortisol levels are too high. This is a common problem for many of us.

As she and I were talking I realized that cortisol has its benefits

I got to thinking about why our cortisol rises, situations in which we might need what that hormone has to offer us. What is it about stress that would cause this need for a hormone that stores fat and keeps us awake at night? SURVIVAL!

I laughed and said to my client “Skinny people do not make it on Survivor” she laughed and agreed, yes that fat storage has its place in times of great physical stress such as famine, drought, and threat to our psychical survival.

Why does our body react to emotional stress the same way it would physical danger?

Our bodies cannot distinguish between a physical threat of harm and an emotional one, to the body it is all the same, your mind perceives ALL STRESS as if you are in danger and must prepare to survive, it really is that simple.

Lets take a look at the Pros and Cons of this “evil” hormone:

The following article has a lot of information on cortisol and its physical effects on the body http://www.fitness4her.com/the-pros-and-cons-of-cortisol-the-key-to-fighting-belly-fight/

Cortisol is a hormone in the body that is secreted by the adrenal glands and provides for the following functions:

  • Proper glucose metabolism

  • Regulation of blood pressure

  • Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance

  • Immune function

  • Inflammatory response

  • A quick burst of energy in times of fight or flight.

  • Heightened memory functions.

  • Boosts the immune system.

  • Lowers sensitivity to pain.

  • Helps to maintain homeostasis in the body.

Often referred to as the stress hormone because of the high levels of cortisol released in the bloodstream when the body is enduring a great amount of stress, too much cortisol can cause problems with your health such as:

  • Increased belly fat which is associated with a greater amount of health problems.

  • Impaired cognitive performance.

  • Suppressed thyroid function.

  • Blood sugar imbalances like hyperglycemia.

  • Decreased bone density.

  • Decreased muscle tissue.

  • High blood pressure.

  • A lowered immune system.

  • Higher levels of cholesterol.

In the first list you will see that it helps to maintain homeostasis, regulates blood sugar, improves immune response and other things that are beneficial to survival. The second list are the unfortunate side effects of cortisol when it is not needed for survival.

So how do we minimize cortisol resulting from stress?

The article goes on to describe several ways to help minimize the negative effects of cortisol:

The key to keeping cortisol production at a healthy level is relaxation.  As a matter of fact, proper rest is vital to the body’s well being. Getting 8 hours of sleep rather than 6 can mean a reduction in cortisol of up to 50%. Other ways of reducing cortisol are:

  1. Meditation and prayer can cut cortisol by as much as 20%.

  2. Listen to some of your favorite music to cut cortisol by nearly 65%. Fill your iPod with some new tunes and take a walk to lower stress and reduce belly fat.

  3. Sip black tea. As it turns out, enjoying an afternoon tea has many health benefits such as reducing cortisol by about 45%.

  4. Attend church or other religious service and reduce cortisol by 25%.

  5. Do something nice for someone to reduce cortisol levels by 20%.

  6. Go for a massage. Let a professional work out the kinks of built up stress and stiffening of the muscles. It can reduce cortisol levels by 30%.

  7. Hang out with a fun loving friend. Someone you can laugh with and enjoy your time with, you’ll reduce cortisol by up to 39%.

  8. Have a romp in the bed with your lover. Increased stress and cortisol can boost your sex drive, so why not take advantage and enjoy some love-making, you’ll reduce stress and cortisol levels, while burning about 70 calories in about 30 minutes.

  9. Exercise regularly. By maintaining your exercise program, you’ll regulate cortisol levels and reduce stress and help to lower blood pressure.

  10. Put stress in its place. Life’s challenges are sure to follow us but we can take charge of how we handle them and not let them control us. Enjoy life and preserve your health and happiness.

In Summary:

Cortisol is necessary for human survival, unfortunately stress can trick the body into believing it is under physical threat causing it to produce more cortisol than is needed. Meditation, massage, exercise, and learning to control your stress can help you to reduce cortisol naturally.

Yours in Health and Wellness,
Kristeen Smart AKA Kristeen Kish
CAMTC Certified Massage Therapist

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