By: Donna Byrne
For several weeks now I have talked about stress and the need to decrease our stress levels. We need to learn to relax!!! There are many reasons for this need….there is a relationship between stress and disease. When we are stressed our cortisol levels remain high.
Cortisol is a hormone in the body that increases sugars in the bloodstream, 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, the fight-or-flight reaction of the body to stress stays active, and 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.
Many of us struggle with those extra pounds and feel particularly frustrated with the thickening around the middle. Sound familiar? Weight gain from increased cortisol levels tends to collect around the stomach area. Fat cells in the stomach are more sensitive to cortisol, and they are very effective at storing energy. Unfortunately, weight gain in the stomach area is one of the most dangerous places for the body to store fat. Stomach fat is not only unattractive, it can also lead to many serious health conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease. As I have mentioned in the past….no one talks about your stress level and not many doctors test for cortisol levels. Why not? A simple blood, urine and or saliva test will let you know how you are doing with stress.
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 decrease however; cortisol lingers in the body and increases the desire for people to eat more carbohydrates to compensate for physical exertion. The body is programmed to fight off stress and danger like our ancestors did with physical activity. Because 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.
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. Stress and certain health conditions can raise cortisol levels and cause weight gain, especially around the stomach area. Keep cortisol levels down by exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and taking supplements and vitamins that support healthy cortisol levels. Mayo Clinic “Win control over the Stress in you Life” Pantothenic Acid (b5) is often called the anti-stress vitamin, as it is closely involved in adrenal cortex function. Adding this to your supplement regime can help the body repair from adrenal fatigue. A diet rich in lean protein, fish, monounsaturated fats and complex carbohydrates like the Mediterranean diet helps lower cortisol and reduces stomach fat. Herbs like basil and ginseng and vitamin C also help reduce cortisol and blood sugar levels.
The other thing we can do is learn to recognize stress and to manage it. There is no need to be in a constant state of stress and anxiety. We all have to be aware of what stresses us and what we can do about it. Breathing, yoga and muscle relaxation exercises are a few of the methods I have talked about. The huge bonus of the Magnesphere Therapy is the relaxation effect it has on people who use it even if the session is for something else such as rotator cuff pain. I know I am harping on the topic but the old nurse in me knows how important it is to learn about this silent enemy “stress”.
What motivates you to examine your own stress levels? The fear of disease because of high stress and the relationships between stress and disease? If this is too long term and uncertain then what about weight gain around your middle? or headaches and immediate effects of too much stress? poor relationships and tension in the home because family members are anxious and stressed? Think about it and more importantly, Do something about it.
Comments, suggestions are welcome.
Contact me at Health Access Home and Nursing care.