So how "does" stress make you gain weight?

Did you know? Chronic elevated Cortisol can actually increase your risk of Insulin resistance, leading to weight gain and higher risk of Type II Diabetes. 

Cortisol is your "stress" hormone. It's actually a "good" hormone. It preps your body to deal with emergencies, it manages response to inflammation, etc.

But as your "fight or flight" hormone, Cortisol's job is to also make sure you have glucose ready to be used for an emergency. It does that by doing 2 things:

1. It makes your cells more "Insulin resistant", so they ignore Insulin and don't remove & store glucose from your blood

2. It activates gluconeogenesis: making glucose from amino acids (through breakdown of muscle tissue)

But here's the thing. If your Cortisol levels are "continuously" elevated by stress (physical or mental / emotional), the 2 points I mention above are happening ALL THE TIME: you're becoming more and more Insulin resistant, AND you're breaking down your own muscles to produce more glucose, both leading to Type II Diabetes.

There's an additional element here: when there is glucose in your blood, your body's won't tap into your fat resources for fuel. Cortisol maintains glucose in your blood all the time (as an emergency measure, I describe above), so your fat burning ability is severely compromised when you're chronically stressed...

Sounds familiar?

Work, traffic, relationship problems, time-crunched, money... so what can I do about it??

Of course the absolute best way to reduce Cortisol is to step away from "stressors", or things which cause stress. But let's face it: that's pretty much impossible for most of us.

So the next best thing is to try to counter-act those stressors and do things which control and lower Cortisol. Here are some of my favorites:

Cortisol / Stress Modulators

  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises
  • Having a "to do" list and completing small "baby steps". The completion of those steps will release other "feel good" hormones and reduce Cortisol secretion
  • "talking about it" has also been shown to reduce stress and Cortisol secretion
  • Omega 3 fatty acids 
  • Music therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Moderate levels of exercise
  • Black tea
  • Laughing 
  • Magnesium
  • Generally, "taking control" and not letting "life just go on"

Other issues with elevated Coritsol

Cortisol suppresses your immune system, reduces bone formation, slows down wound healing, increases water retention, increase sodium retention, increases blood pressure,