I usually mention cortisol in many of my articles because it is a hormone that exerts a great influence not only on our weight but on our health in general.
Therefore, today I wanted to write this article to explain better what this hormone is, how it is produced and how it influences our body.
In Todays Dietitian they define cortisol as a glucocorticoid (steroid hormone) that is produced from cholesterol in the two adrenal glands, located in the upper part of each kidney.
It is usually released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress.
Cortisol fulfills important functions in the body’s effort to carry out its processes and maintain balance.
This hormone also plays an important role in our nutrition, regulating energy by selecting the right type of substance (carbohydrate, fat or protein) and the amount the body needs to meet their needs.
However, when it is chronically elevated, cortisol can have serious effects on weight, immune function and the risk of chronic disease.
Cortisol (along with its partner epinephrine) is best known for its participation in the “fight or flight” response and the temporary increase in energy production, at the expense of processes that are not necessary for immediate survival.
How exactly does that answer work? Let me explain you:
1.Suppose you face a stressful situation, such as being fired from your job.
2.As a result, a complex hormonal cascade occurs in your body, and your adrenal glands secrete cortisol.
3.Cortisol prepares your body for a “fight or flight” response, in other words, to cope with the situation or to flee from it as quickly as possible.
This preparation consists of flooding the body with glucose, thus providing an immediate source of energy for the large muscles.
4.Cortisol inhibits the production of insulin in an attempt to prevent the accumulation of glucose, favoring its immediate use.
5.Cortisol narrows your arteries while epinephrine increases the heart rate, this forces the blood to pump more and faster.
6.It turns out that within a few days you find a new and better job, solving your problem and eliminating stress.
7.Then, the hormonal levels return to normal and you continue your happy life.
Ideally, this process should work like this every time we are exposed to stress situations, the problem is that the hectic and highly stressful lifestyle of the average contemporary human causes our bodies to be pumping cortisol almost constantly, which can wreak havoc on our health.
Cortisol binds to many other factors that, mediated by hormones and the immune system, can generate conditions such as:
-Imbalance of blood sugar and diabetes
Under a lot of stress , cortisol supplies the body with glucose. This energy can help you “fight or flee” from stress, however, long-term elevated cortisol consistently produces glucose, which leads to an increase in blood sugar levels.
This in turn is thought to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, if added to the fact that cortisol should nullify the effect of insulin when we are under stress to, as I have already told you, prevent it from storing glucose that we need to use as energy to “fight or flee”. This over time can cause insulin resistance.
-Weight gain and obesity
The constant elevation of cortisol can lead to weight gain. One way is through the storage of visceral fat.
Cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from where they are located and relocate them into visceral fat cells, this means that stress considerably increases the increase of the so-called belly, which is not only difficult enough to eliminate, but increases your risk of disease cardiovascular.
A second way in which cortisol may be involved in weight gain is due to the blood sugar-insulin problem that I mentioned earlier.
High blood glucose levels along with the suppression of insulin cause your cells to not get the glucose they need to develop and function, so your body must compensate for this insufficiency by sending hunger signals to your brain.
This can lead to overeating, and, of course, unused glucose is eventually stored as body fat.
But cortisol not only increases our appetite, it also creates cravings for high-calorie foods.
-Suppression of the immune system
Cortisol helps reduce inflammation in the body, which is good, but over time, these efforts to reduce inflammation also suppress the immune system.
Chronic inflammation, caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress, promotes high levels of cortisol, wreaking havoc on the immune system.
This can lead to: increased susceptibility to colds and other diseases, an increased risk of cancer, the tendency to develop food allergies, an increased risk of a variety of gastrointestinal problems (because a healthy intestine depends on a healthy immune system) and possibly an increased risk of autoimmune disease.
In a body flooded with cortisol, that is to say too stressed, digestion and absorption of food are impaired.
The consequences of this can be: indigestion, irritation and inflammation in the mucous lining of the stomach, irritable bowel, colitis, gastritis and even ulcers.
As we have seen, cortisol contracts blood vessels and increases blood pressure to improve the supply of oxygenated blood. This is advantageous for situations of “fight or flight”, but not perpetually.
Over time, arterial constriction and high blood pressure can lead to vessel damage and plaque buildup, the perfect setting for a heart attack.
Elevated cortisol due to prolonged stress situations can cause erectile dysfunction or interruption of ovulation and normal menstrual cycles.
In addition, androgenic sex hormones are produced in the same glands as cortisol and epinephrine, so excess production of cortisol can hinder the optimal production of these sex hormones.
Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be related to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia and depression, among other conditions.
I hope that the conclusion you can get from this article is that it is definitely not worth losing your health for walking around worrying!
Remember that every problem has a solution and even if you do not have it, the stress that can cause you can be handled effectively.
A balanced and nutritious diet, good hydration, good sleep habits , exercise, quality time with family and friends, meditation, therapy … There are hundreds of solutions!
You just have to decide to take steps to not let the negative aspects prevent you from seeing all the good things in your life.