Today I want to take a minute to talk about how stress can play a negative part in your health journey. In order to do this, I’d like to explain what cortisol is.
Cortisol is a hormone in the body that increases sugars in the bloodstream, and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues and enhances the brain’s use of glucose.
When people feel anxiety, the hypothalamus sends signals to the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. However, when people feel a lot of day-to-day stress cortisol continues to release sugars into the bloodstream. Besides heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems, skin issues and memory problems, one of the side effects of high cortisol levels is weight gain.
When people feel stress and anxiety on an everyday basis, the body continuously releases adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream. Adrenaline dissipates when anxiety starts to wane; however, cortisol lingers in the body and increases the desire for people to eat more carbohydrates to compensate for the stress that the body thinks is physical stress or exertion. But because most people today do not physically burn off extra energy after being affected by stress, increased carbohydrate cravings and carbohydrate consumption from lingering cortisol levels usually cause weight gain.
The good news is that there are ways to lower cortisol levels naturally and control weight gain. Regular exercise helps to burn the extra blood sugar made available through elevated cortisol levels. Sufficient amounts of sleep help lower cortisol levels because the body’s nervous system stays in a state of alertness that requires cortisol. Getting enough sleep also increases serotonin and dopamine, which help control cravings. So if you are under stress, instead of skipping out on exercise, understand that it’s important for your health, along with getting a good nights sleep.