What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a vital hormone involved in controlling stress, blood sugar levels and metabolism and can affect many other functions in the body.
Cortisol is excreted from the adrenal cortex, located just above the kidneys, and production is controlled by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain.
What Does Cortisol Do?
When stressed, Cortisol is produced in large amounts, flooding the bloodstream. This process prepares the body with the energy required to deal with stress. It is involved in a process known as the ‘fight or flight response’. It is essential to allow us to take action fast in times of danger. When body systems are working properly, the brain signals Cortisol to reduce once the danger has passed.
In times of chronic stress, this may not be the case. As your body is constantly preparing itself for ‘danger’, Cortisol is constantly being pumped out at high levels, leaving your adrenal glands exhausted and wreaking havoc on other body systems, including the regulation of blood sugar and metabolism.
Because increased Cortisol can help increase insulin levels, blood sugar then drops and cravings for sugary, high carbohydrate and fatty foods sets in.
Some nasty effects Cortisol can have on your body include:
- Encourages your body to store fat, especially visceral fat (fat which surrounds the organs and contributes to belly fat)
- Can raise cholesterol levels
- Can raise insulin levels
Obviously cutting all stress out of your life isn’t realistic, but taking steps to reduce and beat stress can get your Cortisol levels under control, and therefore improve both weight and overall health.
Some Key Things to Consider
Moving your body is an excellent stress reliever.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Getting adequate sleep is vital in regulating Cortisol levels. Your body perceives lack of sleep as a major stressor, so try to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to keep stress levels in check. Lack of sleep can also increase ghrelin, a hormone responsible for triggering hunger.
Certain medicinal herbs have a regulating effect on adrenals and Cortisol levels. These are called Adaptogenic Herbs. Some adaptogenic herbs include licorice, rehmannia, withania, rhodiola, and the ginseng spp. to name a few.
If you're even slightly dehydrated, your Cortisol levels will rise and your metabolic rate will drop. Environmental conditions and exercise levels impact on hydration needs, but the basic rule of drinking eight glasses of water a day is a good one. This rule is based upon a chemical estimate of how much water is needed to metabolize 1,500–2,000 calories from a mixed diet.
When we are relaxed, the parasympathetic nervous system is in control, allowing us to do things such as rest and digest. In times of stress, the sympathetic nervous system takes over. This means your body is primed for fighting stress, not digesting food. Eating slowly and mindfully can help us relax, so the parasympathetic nervous system can do its job.
As you can see, reducing stress and Cortisol levels have far reaching health benefits, including maintaining weight levels. Implement these strategies into your daily routine and notice your stress levels and weight reduce, and enjoy an increase in energy and vitality.
If you are having problems with your stress levels, it may be worth considering taking one of the products below:
- Fusion Health Stress & Anxiety
- NutriVital Stress & Anxiety
- Herbs of Gold Stress Ease Adrenal Support
- Fusion Health Stress B Multi Advanced
- Thompson's Stress Manager
- Blackmores Executive B Stress Formula
If you are unsure about whether or not you should be taking a supplement for stress, do not hesitate to contact us on (03) 9670 1346 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Our team of qualified staff are here to help you.
Written by Tanya Lim
Medicinal Herbalist & Nutritionist at Evelyn Faye Nutrition
360 Bourke Street, Melbourne, 3000