Cortisol, Stress & Weight Loss

 stress 3

How too much Cortisol can lead to decreased health and increased belly fat…

Some call it the “master” of all hormones. Others curse it for its ability to wreak havoc on our body’s fragile hormonal balance. In spite of mixed opinions, one thing is certain – cortisol is a powerful hormone necessary for life. But if its level is not optimal in your body, your health will suffer.

What is Cortisol?

The hormone cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and is primarily responsible for regulating blood sugar, helping to metabolise fats, protein and carbs and assisting in managing our stress response. Motherhood is definitely a time when there is a lot of stress in our lives so cortisol helps us to function during these times.

When your stress goes up, cortisol kicks in busy mumand delivers help. We get a quick burst of energy, our memory sharpens, our immunity increases, and our sensitivity to pain decreases. These are all important and natural functions of cortisol and ensure that we are able to weather the curve balls that family life throws at us.

However, if the stress doesn’t let up, neither does the cortisol. Unfortunately, what is healthy in small bursts becomes dangerous over the long term. If you have persistent stress in your life (which is pretty much the life of a busy mum), then you have cortisol levels that are out of balance: your body makes so much cortisol that it detrimentally affects your health. This leads to adrenal fatigue.

When you have prolonged, high levels of cortisol in your bloodstream:

belly fat*  you will crave foods that are high in carbs
(like cake and cookies)
*  you will gain weight in your abdominal area (which increases your risk of heart disease and diabetes), and
*  you will have trouble sleeping



  Cortisol and the Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies produce different chemicals during the day and night that control our sleep, energy and mood. The natural rhythm of this cycle is known as the Circadian Rhythm, and cortisol is a key player.

Under normal circumstances, your body produces cortisol in amounts largely determined by the clock. Levels tend to be higher in morning—triggered by the emerging daylight and your lovely demanding little bundles of joy–giving you a boost of energy to jumpstart your day.

As the day wears on, your cortisol levels should drop, helping to prepare you for a good night’s sleep. cortisol and melatoninLikewise, Melatonin (another hormone that affects your energy and sleep habits) levels should be lower in the morning but as the daylight fades, they should increase, helping you to begin relaxing and preparing for sleep.

However, if you are under constant stress or if your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, your cortisol level may not drop off during the day. Instead, it may actually rise and stay at a dangerously high level. By the time bedtime rolls around, you will not feel sleepy. You will feel “tired but wired,” and be unable to relax and fall asleep.

Reset Your Circadian Clock

If you suspect that your natural, circadian rhythm is disrupted, don’t worry. There are several things you can do to reset your clock so you can start sleeping better at night and waking up more refreshed in the morning.

Try the following tips:

Reduce stress. Easier said than done, I know. But many times our stress levels are correlated to our response to stressful situations. Motherhood comes with lots of stresses but it’s how you react to that stress that counts. Learning strategies that help you cope with stress more effectively may be all it takes to balance your cortisol.

Be consistent. Going to bed at the same time each day (easier said than done) will help to regulate your circadian rhythm. Practice this habit to slowly coax your body into a schedule. Try to avoid using your phone or internet before bed as this will stimulate your mind even more and make it difficult to wind down.

Use light wisely. Since your circadian rhythm is partially controlled by light, darken your room well when you go to bed (don’t watch TV in your bedroom), and flood your room with light when it is time to get up. (This works well with your little ones as well to get them into a good sleep pattern.)

Avoid naps. If your circadian clock is off, you may find that you get very sleepy in the afternoon. However, taking a nap may make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. Try to resist naps.

Eat most of your calories early. If you can eat the bulk of your daily calories earlier in the day as opposed to later in the day, you may find that you can recalibrate your circadian rhythms more easily.

Try these tips and let us know if it works for you! Visit us on Facebook and keep in the loop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.