Understanding How Cortisol Can Put Your Health at Risk
Cortisol is one of our main stress hormones, produced in our adrenal glands. Its activity is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland. Cortisol affects many different functions in the body besides regulating the stress response. Cortisol plays a role in blood sugar levels, regulating metabolism, assisting with memory function and reducing inflammation. It even affects the salt-water balance, which controls blood pressure. Serious health problems may arise
with too much cortisol, such as Cushing’s syndrome. Cushing Syndrome results in weight gain around the core of the body, flushed face, high blood pressure, changes in skin, osteoporosis and mood swings. When there is too little cortisol, it results in adrenal insufficiency (Addison Disease). Addison Disease results in long-term damage of the adrenal glands. Look for early warning signs such as fatigue, muscle loss, mood swings and weight loss. The two diseases mentioned above are the extreme cases of a cortisol imbalance, but even a small imbalance plays havoc with your health.

Cortisol is released as your body requires it, however when your body feels it is under attack, cortisol production increases to provide enough energy to get away from the invading stress. Something as simple as jumping out of the way of a passing car or the startling sound of thunder will trigger Cortisol to put your systems on high alert. But, to do this, it needs to shut down or alter other functions that may be taking up energy. It may shut down or slow down your digestive system, which can cause several symptoms. Have you ever felt nauseous after or before an event or butterflies in your stomach? This is a direct result of increased cortisol altering the normal function of digestion. If cortisol is high at night (it should be lowest at this point), it can affect your sleep. The cortisol stress response can increase your heart rate, elevate your blood pressure, alter your moods and interfere with your body’s ability to heal and repair. Short term, these responses are normal and required. Long term, repeated attacks on the system negatively impact your health and well being.
Stress Can Cause Fat Storage
When your body is under constant unmanaged day-to-day stress, cortisol production and release continues. The responses may not be severe, but they produce a negative effect on the body such as insomnia, anxiety, digestive disturbances, inflammation, low immunity and increased fat storage. Cortisol affects fat storage because when the body is in a state of stress or perceived threat, glucose production increases. This excess glucose provides the required energy to produce the body’s expected response. However, if your body is not using the glucose to solve the problem, then it ends up storing that glucose as fat. Stress-induced cortisol weight gain is usually gained around the waistline because fat cells contain
more stress hormone receptors. These fat cells are particularly sensitive to high insulin and are very effective at storing energy (not burned).

Regulating cortisol is not a quick fix and requires regular use of supplements known as adaptogens, which are a unique group of healing herbs that help to balance, restore and protect the body from the stressors. It also requires lifestyle changes to help you better manage your stress response. Start with an adrenal supportive supplement such as AdrenaSense or Ultimate Anti-Stress. The supplement – Ultimate Anti-Stress – contains natural adaptogens such as rhodiola, ashwagandha, lemon balm and valerian root. These adaptogens help keep stress under control by normalizing the body’s response to stress and balancing cortisol levels. AdrenaSense contains ingredients that support the adrenals such as sumac, siberian ginseng, schizandra, roseroot (Rhodiola) and ashwagandha. If your stress is causing you physical fatigue, consider adding an extra Rhodiola, such as Preferred Nutrition Rhodiola, to your regime. Rhodiola provides a buffer to stress-related mental and physical fatigue, suppresses the production of cortisol and increases levels of stress-resistant proteins. It also restores normal patterns of eating and sleeping after stress. If you are not taking a B Vitamin Complex (all your B vitamins), start. B vitamins help to maintain a healthy nervous system and regulate your response reactions. People that are under stress tend to have insufficient levels of B vitamins. Stress and Adrenal supplements cannot be taken if you are taking medications for stress, anxiety or depression. Consult your healthcare provider if pregnant or lactating and other concerns on interactions.
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