CORTISOL HORMONE AND WEIGHT LOSS

Cortisol Over secretion Linked With Obesity & Fat Production
The adrenal glands secrete the hormone cortisol as a reaction to stress, in conjunction with sleep-wake patterns. One of the functions of cortisol is to trigger a glucocorticoid effect – helping the body produce blood sugar from proteins. Excess glucose is then used for lipogenesis (fat production). Thus, numerous research has linked over secretion of cortisol with obesity and increased fat storage in the body.

Cortisol and Poor Eating Habits
Cortisol may also play a role in poor eating habits. Recently, researchers exploring eating disorders found that women who secreted higher levels of cortisol while under stress had a much greater tendency to snack on high–fat foods than did women who did not secrete as much cortisol in reaction to the same stressful event.

DHEA Adrenal Hormone – Anti–Obesity
In contrast, research shows that DHEA, another adrenal hormone, exhibits an anti-obesity effect by decreasing fat tissue, excess insulin, and food intake. Another study found that daily oral administration of DHEA to healthy men over a period of 4 weeks resulted in a 31 percent decrease in body fat and lowered cholesterol and low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL–C) levels, without affecting other lipid parameters or glucose levels.

In general, adrenal dysfunction can lead to hypothyroidism, lowered metabolic rate, and weight gain.

Experts agree that stress management is a critical part of weight loss regimens, particularly in those who have elevated cortisol levels. Exercise is the best and fastest method for weight loss in this case, since exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which have natural stress–fighting properties and can lower cortisol levels. Activities such as yoga and meditation can also help lower your stress hormone levels. To effectively reduce elevated cortisol due to stress, lifestyle changes are essential.

Cortisol in small amounts is needed by the body to control carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular function and inflammation. Too much cortisol is not good for our body, and in fact is known to promote weight gain, cause persistent fatigue; raise blood sugar levels and more. It is therefore, important that we take the necessary steps to control our cortisol levels so that we can lead healthier lives.

What Is The Cortisol Hormone?
Cortisol is a hormone released by your adrenal glands in response to either physical or emotional stress and thus, is referred to as the "stress" hormone. Whether it´s a lot of missed nights of sleep, an extremely low calorie diet or getting caught in a traffic jam, your body responds in much the same way. It secretes cortisol into your bloodstream, which then can cause even more problems.

This hormone is part of the "fight-or-Run" response that we have as human beings. Faced with stressful situations and danger, we are left to either run or fight. Your body secretes this hormone as a way of fighting off the stress and danger. One of its main functions is to increase the flow of glucose, protein and fat out of your tissues and into your circulation system. It is actually designed to immediately increase your energy levels in response to a physical threat.

It´s important to note that there really isn't anything wrong with a short-term rise in your cortisol levels so long as it returns to normal within a short amount of time. Unfortunately, many of us suffer from steady levels of stress within our lives. (Death, illnesses, losing a job, financial difficulties, etc.) All of which, contribute to a constant high level of cortisol. The dangers of having high levels of the hormone have been associated with storage of abdominal fat, diabetes, heart disease, weakened immune system, and chronic depression.

Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is a hormone from the adrenal cortex; it is the principal glucocorticoid. A synthetic preparation is used for its anti-inflammatory actions. Glucocorticoids are essential to life. They enable us to adapt to external changes and stress. They also maintain fairly consistent plasma glucose levels even when we go for long periods without ingesting food. Cortisol is the major corticosteroid. It is responsible for about 95% of all glucocorticoid activity in the body. Cortisol is known to: stimulate gluconeogenesis (creation of glucose) to ensure an adequate fuel supply; increase mobilization of free fatty acids, making them a more available energy source; decrease glucose utilization, sparing it for the brain; stimulate protein catabolism to release amino acids for use in repair, enzyme synthesis, and energy production; act as an anti-inflammatory agent; depress immune reactions; and increase the vasoconstriction caused by epinephrine.

As you can see, cortisol is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, without it we would not at all get along very well. Some elite level endurance athletes have even experimented with cortisol-like drugs to enhance performance. Understandably, blocking that debilitating achiness that comes on late in long endurance events would certainly provide an advantage. There really is nothing wrong with having elevated cortisol during exercise; however, if it stays elevated after exercise, then it may be a problem.

Lots of worries in life, a stressful job, and risk taking can all elevate cortisol and keep it up. This may prevent the endurance athlete from recovering adequately. Cortisol is a so-called catabolic (breakdown) hormone, the opposite of an anabolic hormone. Having cortisol elevated at other times other than exercise may prevent the athlete from recovering at an optimal rate.

One of the best ways to control elevated cortisol levels is to keep well hydrated. There is some recent science showing that dehydration causes cortisol levels to increase.

Consume plenty of carbohydrates and good quality protein to potentially deflect the ill effects of elevated cortisol.

There are also some fancy supplements available in health food stores that have been suggestion to reduce cortisol production. They are acetyl-L-carnitine and phosphatidylserine. They are expensive supplements, but if cost isn't a concern then they may be something to experiment with.

Sources: Miller-Keane, Encyclopaedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health (6th Edition). W.B. Saunders Co., 1997.
Wilmore-Costill, Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Human Kinetics, 1994.

Exercise and proper diet is the best and fastest method for weight loss. Since exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which have natural stress-fighting properties and can lower cortisol levels. Activities such as yoga and meditation can also help lower your stress hormone levels. To effectively reduce elevated cortisol due to stress, lifestyle changes are essential.

      

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