Today you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t stressed out. It’s the nature of the crazy, rushed, chaotic world we live in. It seems like the daily to-do list never ends, right? Well, that stress affects your body. Adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormones put out by your adrenal glands, were originally designed to give you the extra oomph you needed to evade death by saber-toothed tiger; in modern life, the stress caused by outrunning big, toothy animals has been replaced with the constant daily hassles you face — like sitting in traffic! However, whether it’s a tiger or traffic, your body still responds with a fight-or-flight response, which spikes your hormones and keeps them spiked.
Our modern, deadline-a-day lifestyle overtaxes our adrenal glands, which ends up overproducing cortisol. Perhaps you’ve heard me describe your hormones as a teeter-totter: When cortisol is constantly pumped out, it can blunt estrogen and progesterone production and bring on those menopause symptoms. Raised cortisol has huge effects on our overall health — cortisol will rev you up and make it nearly impossible to sleep, and it can put you at risk for a heart attack. An overabundance of cortisol also boosts your insulin levels, which can cause you to pack on the pounds, especially around the midsection.
If you have insomnia and weight gain (particularly belly fat), odds are cortisol may be to blame. Here are some potential fixes for your problem.
- Find out about your cortisol levels.
A simple blood test is all you need to see if your levels are within normal ranges.
- Load up on DHEA.
This supplement helps transform cortisol back to cortisone, helping to reduce the amount of cortisol in your system.
- Balance your sex hormone
Back to the teeter-totter — perhaps an age-related decline of estrogen and progesterone are responsible for your heighten cortisol. If your blood tests show that either of these hormones is low, consider supplementing those hormones to bring your cortisol into balance.
- Book yourself plenty of R&R.
Start going to bed at a set time every night. Your body needs eight hours of sleep to fully regenerate; by getting the right amount of sleep, your cortisol levels will start to drop. Also, sleep in total darkness! Research has shown that even a little bit of light is enough to cause an increase in your stress hormones. Additionally, try to lower your cortisol levels organically by reducing the stress levels in your life through relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and exercise.
I know, I know. In today’s cut-throat world, it’s really tough to just chill out. But high cortisol levels, as you’ve seen, are a vicious cycle: high stress = high cortisol = less sleep = higher stress = higher cortisol = no sleep.… Get the picture? Not to mention, it’s not just your mental well-being that’s suffering — high cortisol ultimately leads to weight gain. Take the steps necessary to address your stress now! You’ll look and feel way better for it.