Cortisol…importance of balance
The human body has over 50 hormones or “chemical messengers” secreting and circulating throughout our bodies. Their job is to regulate your body’s activities and its chemistry. This job is vital and complex. Today I’m going to focus on just one of these hormones; cortisol. Why just this one? Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone and we all seem to have more stress in our lives than ever. Imbalances in cortisol can lead to excess fat, sugar cravings, depression and food addiction. So let’s take a look at what it is and ways we can balance the stress in our lives and keep cortisol levels where they need to be.
What is cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone your body produces in the adrenal glands. It is a member of the glucocorticoid family (glucose + cortex+ steroid). It is important for the immune system, regulating blood pressure, the cardiovascular system, metabolism, and more. You may have heard it referred to as the fight or flight hormone. Basically when your body is under stress or has an infection, cortisol raises our blood pressure and blood sugar. This is a good thing in the short term but not when it continues for extended periods of time. Think months, years.
High levels of cortisol
Feel tired but wired
Your body stores fat that it can get easily such as your waist
Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
Low levels of cortisol
Feel exhausted and drained (running on empty)
Faintness and dizziness
In her book, The Hormone Cure, Dr. Sara Gottfried reminds us that “…balancing cortisol is related to stress reduction”. Here are just a few of her suggestions to get back in balance.
Limit alcohol. Alcohol raises cortisol, and the effect persists for twenty-four hours in men - probably longer in women…
Wean from caffeine. Caffeine…directly induces the adrenocortical cells to produce more cortisol, as well as more epinephrine, norepinephrine, and insulin…
Yoga: “OM,” not “Ah”. Data suggests that the benefit of yoga arises from not just the physical poses but also from yoga as an integrated philosophical package. One recent study of college students doing yoga found that only the integrated-yoga students showed a decrease in cortisol…
Here are a few of my own suggestions:
Go for walk. If you follow my Facebook page, you’ve noticed I talk with frequently about the importance of recovery and just going for a walk. Preferably if you can walk in nature, away from cars, pollution and cement, you can really reap the benefits.
Hug a dog. Or a cat or something other animal. This fills us with oxytocin, endorphins, and other healing hormones that support the body’s self-healing mechanisms.
Meditate. There are countless studies that show the benefits meditation has on the human body. There are many tapes, pod casts, and apps for meditation. I use one called Headspace (meditated a little while ago in fact). It has had a very profound effect on me. Give it a try.
There you have it. I’m hopeful you are more mindful of cortisol and how much stress you have in your life.
Remember balance is the key to all things.
Strive for balance.
Live a full life.
To your health,