Did you ever think that Cortisol, a steroid hormone, may be responsible for your excess and stubborn kilos?
Stress is a part of our everyday lives; it’s a natural body response that, in small amounts, is beneficial for the body, challenging and helping us adapt physically and emotionally. We are lucky because our bodies have a very functional and capable stress response system that helps us cope daily.
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced from cholesterol in the adrenal glands that are located on top of the kidneys. Cortisol is released in response to stress, like waking up in the morning or exercising and plays a key role in homeostasis. The release of this hormone is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
Prolonged or chronic stress makes our bodies produce excess cortisol. This is great in some situations, like if you were in danger or being chased by a tiger; however, it may be doing damage if cortisol levels are triggered daily from our jobs, relationships or traffic jams. The main problem is our bodies can not differentiate stressors, so when our body is in a state of stress, cortisol activates the body’s response to survive, and this chronic stimulation and activation of the stress response can lead to the disruption of normal body processes (like storing fat as a form of energy).
How does cortisol cause weight gain?
As mentioned, chronic stress can cause your cortisol levels to become imbalanced over time. The body makes cortisol in response to stress; this can be a huge battle regarding weight gain as most of us seem to be stressed 24/7.
The body releases cortisol in an effort to protect itself from danger, with the body holding onto fat as a form of energy. Cortisol is often responsible for excess fat storage around the waist, as it aims to cushion and protect organs. Cortisol is responsible for stimulating appetite (simple carbs and sugars) and increasing blood sugar levels causing insulin, the fat-storing hormone, to transport sugar from the blood to cells, where it’s then stored as fat.
The chronic activation of the stress response system can lead to a disruption of normal body processes. It can disrupt the normal cycles of cortisol release that can lead to weight gain, chronic inflammation, a compromised immune system, digestive disturbances, impaired cardiovascular function, changes in brain structure, anxiety, depression, insomnia and more!
How to test cortisol levels
An individual’s cortisol levels can be tested through a simple and non-invasive technique, a saliva sample.
A holistic approach to address a cortisol imbalance
In order to balance cortisol levels to achieve a healthy weight, the best place to start is to identify the patient’s drivers of excess cortisol. This may be done with a thorough investigation, case taking and tests.
From here, an individualised treatment plan will be created, which may include specific herbs or nutrients, stress management, dietary and lifestyle considerations to address excess weight and cortisol secretion to re-establish balance.
At the Hills Natural Health Centre, our experienced team of practitioners use a holistic approach paired with evidence-based medicine to help support you on your health journey.
Book your FREE consultation here today or phone the clinic on (08) 9298 8332