Have you ever been one of those ruts where you just can’t seem to lose weight? You are sacrificing those yummy cinnamon rolls in order to maintain a healthy diet, you exercise 5 times a week blending in strength exercises with plenty of cardio…but you seem to have just hit a plateau and can’t lose weight. The answer may be right under you nose….actually a little further down…right on the top of the kidneys where your adrenal cortex is found.
Adrenal cortex is responsible for the production of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for regulating blood sugar, inflammation, energy production and the regulation of the immune system.
Too little cortisol can lead to problems such as fatigue, exhaustion, and disease of the endocrine system called Addison’s disease. The problem in our society lies in conditions that arise from having TOO MUCH cortisol. Problems such as:
· Weight gain, especially around the abdomen area
· Depressed immune system
· Stomach ulcers
· Accelerated aging
Here is a fun fact for you….diets have a failure rate of about 93-97%. There are several reasons for this, a major one being that we live in a society where time is limited and bad foods are readily available, so we tend to connect the two…quite often actually…leading to a bad habit in diet. Another major factor which you may not know is cortisol….a hormone that is often released in our body in response to stress…..yup, stress…something we experience way too much of. A drastic change in eating habits causes anxiety and stress which releases cortisol.
Its important to know that the release of cortisol is essential to our survival, in fact it’s a defensive mechanism our body has. Our brain is hard wired with automatic responses to protect the body from harm and stress.
Stress=release of cortisol=too much cortisol= fat storage.
Stress can be physical (fatigue), environmental (pollution, drugs), chemical (nutritional deficiency, refined sugar comsuption) or physiological (fear, worry)
An interesting form of physical stress is the “Fight or Flight” response. Imagine your child getting caught in the bottom of the car during an accident. The stress caused on your body is enough for you to have an immediate nervous breakdown, but because of the release of hormones, your body is able to capture an amazing amount of strength to be able to move that car and save your child. During the stress period, the body's self healing mechanisms are held off (healing diverts energy and raw materials away from immediate survival) the immune system is suppressed, glycogen stores in the liver and muscle tissue are mobilized to raise the blood sugar level and digestion. The stomach lining becomes thin and ulcerated and the thymus gland and lymphatic tissue shrinks….Basically what this all means is that all of your body’s energy is put forth to address the stress at hand.
This “Fight or flight” worked well for our ancestors while chasing for their dinner, or running away from becoming dinner. Unfortunately, it does not work so well in today ‘s world of battling traffic, competing for parking spaces, meeting deadlines, watching depressing news. All those things produce the same physiological responses as running for your life. So if the stress does not go away, neither will cortisol.
If you don’t learn to eliminate stress from your life, it will slowly eliminate you! Take a look at the 4 stages that your body goes through while dealing with stress:
(1) REACTION…your body experiences the symptoms from the trauma, infection, cold, heat, chemical irritation, etc. The adrenal glands responds with the release of cortisol and other hormones to neutralize the caused trauma. The heart rate along with your blood pressure goes up, and pupils dilate.
(2) ADAPTATION… after the adrenal glands have enlarged and released large quantities of adrenal cortical hormones (ie cortisol), the symptoms disappear and the individual feels good, is able to regain energy, and is able to function in the presence of the stresses he/she is under. This is one of the most overlooked steps which most people don’t take care of…. which leads to the next state…… exhaustion.
(3) EXHAUSTION…. after an extended period in stage two, your body's reserves of nutritional elements is depleted. The symptoms return and there is now no relief. You may collapse physically, suffer a nervous breakdown, or experience an organ failure (heart attack or stroke.)
(4) DEATH. When the accumulated stress is bigger that the amount of hormones that the body is able to release, the body is no longer able to adapt, rest, or rejuvenate. The consequence is death.
OK--- HOW DO WE CONTROL CORTISOL?
(1) REST---the obvious one, but the very important one. Find the time to take relax, go for a walk outdoors, perform some breathing exercises (see last post) and get a good nights sleep.
(2) EAT---Maintain a low glycemic diet. Sugar handling stress increases cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol, in turn, aggravates the sugar handling situation contributing to the development of high insulin levels and ultimately diabetes.
(3) EXERCISE releases hormones, but within those hormones are happy hormones (endorphins) which neutralizes the cortisol. Exercise also teaches the body how to control hormones naturally. You can literally exercise your stress away.
(4) RELAX….just like number 1, but worth repeating.
(5) SUPPLEMENT YOUR BODY:
Some supplements to control cortisol levels are:
A multi Mineral Supplement once daily.
Mag-C. This is a source of buffered vitamin C and a source of absorbable magnesium.
Advanced Essential Minerals. Mineral absorption and assimilation can be impaired by stressed adrenal glands. Minerals are essential for energy metabolism.
Herbs such as Adaptogens assists the body in coping with stress by restoring hypothalamic cortisol receptor sensitivity. They are a natural combination of Siberian ginseng, Manchurian Thorn Tree extract, Hawthorn extract, Echinopanax elatum and Schisandra.
In summary….it all comes down to lifestyle in order to control that cortisol and get out of that rut. Don’t depend on set workouts, always add a variety of different exercises to every workout. Don’t settle for diets, just remember moderation. Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses…learn to relax, meditate, and breathe. You life depends on a healthy lifestyle…so going back to my motto….learn to “Invigorate Your Health, and Upgrade Your Lifestyle.”
By: Kendrick Alexandre Ribeiro (Coach K)
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