stress

Controlling Cortisol: 5 Essential Steps

What’s your stress trigger? Overwork? Heavy traffic? Screaming kids? Whatever the cause, stress in the modern world is unrelenting – and it’s taking a toll on our bodies. Not only is it making us feel not very good at all, it’s also making us look that way. That’s because stress is causing us to store more body fat. The hormone behind this nasty little side effect is called cortisol. When our bodies encounter a real or an imagined cause of stress, the adrenal gland releases a hormone called cortisol into the blood stream. This prepares the body for the fight or flight syndrome. In times past, that threat may well have been a lion that was intent on making us its next meal. Cortisol would have given us the extra speed to get out of there. So, cortisol increases our blood sugar in readiness for rapid action. In our modern world, stress is a constant companion to many. That means that their cortisol levels are constantly high. One effect of excess cortisol on the body is that it causes the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area. This is one of the most dangerous areas of the body to store fat, as it can be a contributor to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease. Cortisol has one more nasty effect on our bodies. It breaks down muscle tissue. The primary job of cortisol is to raise your blood sugar levels. It will do this by breaking down proteins in your muscle cells into amino acids, which it can then convert into blood sugar. As a result, people with high levels of cortisol can be in a catabolic state, where their body is actually eating away at their muscle tissue. Less muscle tissue lowers your metabolic rate, which means that you’ll be burning fewer calories at rest. This makes it even more likely that you will gain fat. Cortisol increases our cravings and appetite. Cortisol is brought on by stress, and you need glucose to get yourself out of that stressful situation. As a result, you’ll want to eat more high sugar type foods to satisfy your body’s need for glucose. Balancing your cortisol levels will not just help you to shed unsightly fat – it will prevent you from anxiety overload. Here’s how to do it.  
  • Eat a Balanced Diet
  Foods that are proven aids in helping to balance out your cortisol levels are green leafy vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, poultry, and the occasional serving of red meat. To lower your cortisol levels, eat less sugar, alcohol, sweets, soft drinks, cookies, cereals, fat free products, and foods that contain trans fats.  
  • Exercise
  When you’re exercising, your body perceives a threat taking place and temporarily increases its cortisol production. However, regular exercise will lower your non-exercising cortisol production. As a result you feel less stressed after working out. Studies indicate that high intensity, short duration aerobic exercise is best for lowering cortisol levels.  
  • Supplement
  Here are 5 key supplements that can help you get your cortisol under control:   Go more in depth on supplements with our best supplements for women feature.  
  • Sleep
  Sleep deprivation and the inability to relax the mind and body tend to keep cortisol production high, which can have long-term negative effects on the body. It is, therefore, vital to maintain a consistent, regular sleep pattern in order to balance out your cortisol levels. Another reason to get more quality sleep is that the opposing hormone to cortisol is growth hormone (GH). GH acts as a suppressant to cortisol. However, as we age, our GH levels decline dramatically. As a result of that, cortisol levels, which are unopposed, increase. So, we really want to boost our GH levels in order to control cortisol. Sleep just happens to be a great way to do that.  
  • Regular Sunlight
  Fifteen to twenty minutes of sun every day will make you feel much calmer, as well as provide you with plenty of vitamin D, both of which will help to lower your cortisol level. Vitamin D is not the only vitamin that can help to bring down your cortisol levels. Check out this eye opening clip that reveals how Vitamin C can play its part to control the stress inducer.

Conclusion

You now know not only what the effects of cortisol are on your body, but what you can do about it to minimize those effects. Apply the five steps outlined for a month, and your mood, not to mention your appearance, will have taken a turn for the better.

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