Happy, Healthy Body – Cortisol
Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone. Cortisol is designed to assist our bodies with that extra boost of energy when we need it. However, when our bodies are constantly in a state of producing too much cortisol, it is not a good thing. I am no way an expert when it comes to explaining the amazing complexity of our hormones and their role in our health. I did learn from Dr. Sara Gottfried that ‘cortisol is the hormone that governs our digestion, hunger cravings, sleep/wake patterns, blood pressure, physical activity, in addition to our capacity to cope with stress. The continued elevation of cortisol can seriously tax our adrenal glands which can lead to and cause other serious imbalances that can affect our insulin and blood sugar levels as well.’ She also mentions that ‘high cortisol levels make you store fat—especially in your belly, deplete your happy brain chemicals like serotonin, and rob your sleep. High cortisol is also linked to depression, food addiction, and sugar cravings.’ That certainly got my attention.
The problem begins when we start to run around stressed all the time. Sounds familiar, right? Personally, I know elevated stress can wreak havoc in our bodies, as I experienced this after years in a highly demanding corporate job as a single mom. I also learned from Dr. Christiane Northrup that managing our stress levels should be a primary concern. So what do normal cortisol levels look and feel like? Well, when cortisol levels are in balance, you feel calm, cool and collected most of the time. It enables us to get a solid and refreshing night’s sleep. And, our blood pressure and fasting glucose (blood sugar) levels are normal. In other words, you are able to manage your stress without it overcoming you.
So how can we begin to manage stress? Good question. It seriously may look different for everyone as we are unique. Some lifestyle changes that may help are limiting your caffeine and sugar intake. Managing your natural circadian sleep cycle. Abstaining from or drinking alcohol in moderation. There are also mental changes too like controlling your thoughts. Try keeping your commitments to a minimum and set healthy boundaries. Slow down, relax and live in the moment. Enjoy nature and breathe deeply. Disconnect from all electronics. We realistically cannot avoid stress altogether but it IS possible to manage our lives and stress less for a happier, healthier body.