Friday, October 3, 2014

Troubleshooting CORTISOL.

NAME: CORTISOL, The Get The Eff Out Of Here, NOW Hormone 
ACCOMPLICES:  Norepinephrine and Epinephrine


Cortisol (one of the stress hormones involved in the "Flight or Fight" response) raging through your body means you are angry, irritated and storing fat around your midsection. That's reason enough to take deep breaths and chill out during traffic. Through my research, I have been learning a TON about the dangers of excess cortisol running through your body. The biggest eye opener is that excess Cortisol causes you to have high blood sugar. And high blood sugar causes weight gain, especially around your belly. This is BAD news! Cortisol, which tries to be so helpful (I say this with a roll of my eyes) in saving your life, ends up causing you to hold onto excess weight because it assumes you might need the fat storage soon.

1. Increase blood sugar which makes you store fat (gasp! the nerve)
"Another connection is cortisol’s effect on appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Studies have demonstrated a direct association between cortisol levels and calorie intake in populations of women.3 Cortisol may directly influence appetite and cravings by binding to hypothalamus receptors in the brain. Cortisol also indirectly influences appetite by modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors known to stimulate appetite."

Side note: When I was in 1st grade - or was it 3rd...hmmm. I used to be afraid of getting up to go ask the teacher to use the bathroom. So one day I decided to hold it in. Instead, I ended up peeing in my school desk and my helpful friend Elizabeth announced to the teacher and entire class that there was some sort of liquid under my chair. Yes, it was my urine. So, my point is cortisol is like that good friend who means to help but can really end up just making situations worse for you. Cortisol is your Elizabeth when you have too much stress.

2. Reduces absorption of thyroid hormones into body. Like I said before, an orchestra. Having excess cortisol means your thyroid function is messed up where T4 doesn't convert to T3. Then you also become thyroid hormone resistant, where your body is producing thyroid but not responding to it. If you don't have proper thyroid hormone absorption, you're moving towards Hashimotos/hypothyroid symptoms which means you have dry hair, hair loss, you're moody, depressed and you're gaining weight. Hypothyroid (that's me) does not make for the "life of the party" people; unless you're into hairless, dry-skinned, grouchy people.

"Other areas to address are high cortisol to progesterone or estrogen ratios. Excess cortisol is characterized by a round face and stomach along with a puffy appearance on the body (Cushings syndrome patients, who have very high cortisol levels, illustrate this point). As cortisol rises and progesterone falls, women can begin to develop fat storage at the belly. Working to lower stress by engaging in cortisol lowering exercise like yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation could be helpful, as would high intensity shorter duration cardio and weight training."
- excerpt from website here


The most effective way to reduce cortisol? EASY! Get some sleep. Your best sleep will be in complete darkness, I promise. Getting plenty of Z's (including naps) means you are keeping your body in a fat-burning zone instead of a muffin-top zone since Cortisol equates more sleep= low stress = skinny. And there's nothing bad about more sleeping, less stress and being skinny.
Want more info? Read More here.

Lighten Your Cortisol Influence Naturally:

  1. Move at a snails pace for a long time. Go for an hour long stroll or hike, do a low-intensity yoga class, whatever you can to let your body "chill." All exercise increases cortisol, and intense exercise will increase it more; it's all about the recovery time and how you spend it that will determine the rest of your 24 hour cortisol release. While slow walks go against all the hard-core training I emphasize, low-intensity is necessary to balance out your cortisol levels. A one hour stroll is great for bringing peace into your body, as is being outside.  Don't mistake me here, an intense one-hour workout is good too, and some people (guilty!) need this more than others. I tend to worry a lot, high intensity workouts tend to make that worrisome ideas much less compelling. But too much high intensity can reverse the whole game and make my worrisome mind go into over drive. Easy does it partner.
  2. Eat your B's. B vitamins are good for stress reduction. Salmon, eggs, asparagus, and parsley step up to the plate.  B vitamins supplements are always an option and give you extra energy which I rarely say no to. Plus, extra B vitamins turns your pee bright yellow which fills me with pride when I flush.
  3. Load up on Vitamin C: Bell peppers, lemons, kiwi, potatoes. Cortisol depletes your body of Vitamin C, thus reducing your immune system. Vitamin C helps to reduce the amount of stress hormones in your blood, a great study here. 
  4. Easy does it on the caffeine. Caffeine lasts for 6 hours in your system. All the while, your body thinks a war is going on, kinda rude. Read my liver blog post for more of an argument. Keep caffeine to 200 mg if you gotta do the Jo.
  5. Take an epsom salt soak. Epsom salt is full of much needed magnesium. Magnesium helps you to detox excess cortisol. Oh dear lord. Just take a bath in epsom salt and I promise magic will happen. Epsom salt is CHEAP (you can find it in the bath area of your grocery store) and by adding magnesium back into your body, ridding yourself of muscle soreness and relaxing at the same time you are creating pure sweet rainbows and clouds for your body. Don't ask questions, just get in the bath
  6. Meditate or at least just lay down for 5 minutes (even when you can think of 50 things that are pressing). Give yourself 5 min of nothing time to take deep breaths and reassure yourself that "all is well" If nothing else, do it just to remember that it will help your jeans fit better.
    Savasana. Feels soooo good AND calms the brain, relieves stress, insomnia and lowers blood pressure
    Where Cortisol invokes the "flight or fight" response, this Savasana pose counters it  the with the parasympathetic nervous system which invokes the "rest and digest" response. Just one minute of this will take an immediate effect on your nerves. Take that cortisol.

  7. Laugh! No, I mean laugh HARD. Don't be the lame person who doesn't laugh, instead watch a comedy show: This guy makes me cry from laughing so hard. In a weekly yoga class I do, we take 30 seconds to laugh together. I feel silly when I do it, which makes me laugh even more. Let loose, life is funny, why else do you think we have armpit farts and this talking dog:

  8. Yoga poses for Hormone balancing. Always funny to talk to guys about yoga. They think it's all about stretching, until you force them into a yoga class. They see the yoga pants and they suddenly don't judge it harshly anymore. Weird.Yoga has a deeper purpose and is more than stretching, I promise.

Still Not Sure If You Have Too Much Cortisol? 
10 Signs from Lisa Rankin MD
1. Not sleeping well
2. Still tired after you sleep well
3. Gaining weight around abdomen even with exercise and a healthy diet
4. Catch colds
5. Crave unhealthy foods
6. Backaches/Muscle aches
7. No sex drive
8. Gut acts up
9. Anxious
10. Feeling blue

I might add that I dove into this cortisol issue pretty deep because I am struggling with it myself. My workouts, plus raising 2 young kiddos and not handling stress well has left me feeling like a wreck lately and experiencing pretty much all of the symptoms I listed. So, I wanted to know how to fix it, immediately. So my research was not just for you, but for myself. I hope it helps us both! Best of luck to you, stay tuned for help with your other hormones, I'm working on posting the rest very soon!

Making Your Meat Suit Habitable part 1  - Setting the Wheels in MotionMaking Your Meat Suit Habitable part 2 - Your Liver
Making Your Meat Suit Habitable part 3 - Body Fat Map
Making Your Meat Suit Habitable part 4 - Exercise
Making Your Meat Suit Habitable part 5 - Human Growth Hormone

My references if you want more detailed info: