Hormones play a big part in our ability to manage weight, and this is a huge topic! This post focuses on cortisol, a stress hormone with significant nutritional impact.
Hormones fluctuate and change throughout our lives but one that we have an element of control over is cortisol. This hormone is always present, but more is released in response to stress. It’s an adrenaline hormone that prepares and primes us for immediate reaction to threat. When elevated cortisol is present It’s effects include quickening heart rate, elevated blood sugar levels, contracting of muscles, it slows our metabolism, digestive system and lowers immune system function too. Basically, it diverts energy away from processes that aren’t necessary for our immediate survival.
So what causes stress? Stress starts in our mind as a response to a real situation or thoughts, prompting a rise in cortisol. Cortisol is also released in response to nutritional stressors such as consuming fast releasing sugars and stimulants.Our systems cannot distinguish between emotional or nutritional stress and the body will react in the same way.
So you can see many of us are living with systems in a moderate state of permanent stress due to nutrition and lifestyle factors, work, commitments, tiredness, and diet high in sugars and caffeine and therefore a permanently elevated level of the hormone cortisol.
The link between this and weight management is two-fold. Relying on sugars and stimulants regularly will be raising your cortisol levels leading to an ‘edgy’ feeling and cravings for foods that provide more quick blood sugar rises. Plus on the other hand the elevated cortisol will be raising your blood glucose causing craving and energy dips, slowing your metabolism right down as the system conserves and preserves, leading to slower calorie burn and potential difficulty with weight management.
The answer! Firstly avoid the sugars, stimulants, eat to keep your blood sugars steady then take measures to address your stress. From distractions to relaxation or learn techniques in mediation and mindfulness. All of these will help get your cortisol hormone back in line. It’s only supposed to be elevated, when you are in danger!