Studies have shown a link between the hormones secreted by your body in times of stress and the body’s ability to shed weight. The same bodily responses to stress that would have helped our ancestors survive in days when food was sometimes scarce may now be keeping you from reaching your weight-loss goals.
The star of the stress vs. weight loss drama is the anti-stress hormone secreted by our adrenal glands called cortisol. Cortisol is a necessary hormone to help regulate our bodily functions in time of stress. But, if we have too much in our bloodstream it increases our appetites by exciting the nucleus of the brain’s amygdala, a center for controlling our emotions. Our brains reaction to pleasurable and compulsive acts like eating sugary foods become magnified when this happens—and, like a drug, make it more difficult to resist. Too much cortisol can also lead to poor blood sugar levels and excessive fat storage. When our cortisol levels trigger our body to think it is in survival mode, our bodies are reluctant to let go of its fat reserves. There have been studies that show a definite correlation between heightened levels of cortisol and increased abdominal (belly) fat.
Armed with these ideas that your adrenal health could be a culprit in your quest for your ideal weight, you should speak with a doctor who is open to a holistic approach to weight loss to explore this more for yourself. Your doctor will be able to help you get your cortisol levels tested. Though, some suggest that testing your cortisol levels might only be necessary for more serious athletes. The average person would benefit just as well from implementing common sense strategies to work toward healthy cortisol levels.
The first step is reducing stress in your life. Our bodies will react less defensively as we protect it from stress. One of the best ways to combat stress… is to proactively cultivate calming activities in your life. Take a walk, unplug from electronics, get a massage, meditate or read a book.
The next step is better managing our eating habits. Do this keeping in mind that heightened cortisol levels may be making it harder to resist the wrong kinds and quantities of foods. Reducing caffeine could also help with lowering cortisol levels. One study has shown that 200 mg of caffeine can elevate your cortisol levels by 30 percent in one hour.
If you are not getting enough sleep, your body will react by increasing the stress hormone, cortisol in your bloodstream. Try getting at least 8-9 hours of sleep at night.
You may also benefit from trying phytotherapeutic herbs. Some of the herbs that may help with adrenal health include: magnolia officinalis bark—an aromatic bark brewed into a tea that may reduce-anxiety and also may reduce allergic and asthmatic symptoms; maca—thought to increase energy levels and stamina; reishi mushroom—a calming herb known to lower cortisol and stress levels (don’t use if you have allergic reactions to mushrooms); rhodiola—an herb that may also help with improving attention span, mood and mental clarity; and ginseng—helps us overcome the exhaustion that comes from physical and mental stress and can provide an alternative to the false boost we can get from caffeine.
Rhodiola is also a fantastic herb that keeps your energy at a constant level. I have been using this for at least seven years. It has such a gradual and even entrance into the bloodstream that you are not even aware that it has reached its peak. No one that I know, who has used this herb, has had any negative affects, including not feeling any gitters or energy surges. For my husband and I, a whole tablet’s active lifetime in our body is approximately 8-9 hours. I use this, particularly, if I have to drive on limited sleep. I typically only need to use a half a tablet (5-6 hours for me) for my body’s response to it.
Be careful about buying too quickly into the many cortisol-controlling products that you will find on the market which promise to be a “one-stop shop” solution to balancing your cortisol. Your doctor will be the best ally in determining if herbal supplements are right for you… and which ones.