Overall, cortisol is one of those hormones that play an important role in our bodies. Secreted by the adrenal glands, cortisol is involved in a wide variety of bodily functions, including metabolizing glucose, regulating our blood pressure, blood sugar maintenance (specifically, the release of insulin), immune system function, and our body’s inflammatory responses.
When in balance, cortisol “plays nicely” with your body’s systems, but when it tends to rise, it’s usually due to stress. Stress and cortisol levels go hand in hand because cortisol is secreted in higher levels when our bodies experience that “fight or flight” response to stress. Cortisol can produce several changes in the body relating to stress, which usually range from heightened memory and a quick burst or energy or a burst of increased immunity and lower sensitivity to pain. Overall, it’s designed to protect homeostasis in the body and after a period of stress is over, it can also play a part in the relaxation process.
However, having cortisol at high levels consistently or for a prolonged period of time can cause challenges for our body and have negative effects. High cortisol levels have been connected to things like:
- Increased abdominal fat
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Impaired cognition
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity
The increased abdominal fat side effect of high cortisol is actually the one that causes the most difficulty. Having increased fat in this area of the body can correspond with higher risks for other health issues, such as heart attack, stroke, and high cholesterol.
The goal with cortisol is to keep levels under control and healthy. There are a variety of ways you can do this. First and foremost, you should try to limit your stress. Practice relaxation and make lifestyle changes that encourage a lower stress environment overall. Additionally, you may want to try taking a cortisol blocker if you’re experiencing the effects of high cortisol.
When taken in conjunction with a healthy diet, enough sleep, exercise, and lower stress, cortisol blockers can help manage high levels and can potentially help you lose the abdominal fat you’ve gained. Just remember that cortisol levels are unique from person to person and people are all wired differently to respond to stress. If you suspect you have high cortisol levels, talk to your doctor or feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to answer any of your questions.
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