If you have experienced weight gain and can’t figure out why, chronic stress leading to high cortisol levels may be the problem.
The body is uniquely designed to cope with all sorts of different stressors. Be it the sort term stress of almost getting hit in a car accident or the more long term stress of relationships, work or a chronic illness, your body has different ways of adapting.
Short-term stressors are handled quickly by the nervous system. But long-term stressors create a domino effect within your endocrine system, the system that regulates your hormonal balance. Persistent unresolved stress causes you to produce excessive amounts of cortisol which results in unwanted weight gain.
Ordinarily, cortisol has specific functions, along with adrenalin, to allow the body to adjust to stressors. The body was not designed to be under stress all the time so when stress becomes chronic, cortisol levels become elevated. High cortisol wrecks havoc on your metabolism and body composition in several different ways:
Abdominal Fat & Weight Gain: Excess stress promotes the depositing of fat in the abdomen. The body prepares itself for future stressors by depositing fat close to vital organs for easy access when required.
Lowers Thyroid Hormone: Elevated cortisol levels can reduce your thyroid hormone production. Your thyroid hormones play a critical role in keeping your metabolism elevated so reduced levels results in weight gain.
Reduces Muscle Mass: Cortisol causes the body to break down muscle into sugar to use for energy. Losing muscle mass reduces your metabolism resulting in weight gain.
Disrupts Sleep: Regular deep sleep is essential for healing and repairing tissue in the body. Insufficient sleep also affects weight gain.
Increases Your Appetite: Cortisol causes you have more appetite enhancing hormones and less appetite suppressing hormones. The hungrier you are, the more you eat and the more weight you gain.
Imbalances blood sugar: Long-term cortisol can leave you vulnerable to low blood sugar levels that leave you reaching for carbohydrates as quick and easy sources of energy.
Lowers serotonin: Cortisol depletes serotonin levels which leaves you craving more carbohydrates to help fuel more serotonin production.
Life does not always allow us to determine what happens around us but we do have the ability to recognize the need to treat the body better in order to prevent some of the physical effects of stress.
If you think that your cortisol levels are elevated, a saliva test is the gold standard test to assess what’s happening in your body. Our team of experienced Naturopathic Doctors can help assess your hormone balance and get you lose weight and manage stress. Book an appointment online or speak to one of our staff to get started on a path to hormone balance.