Most of us experience some form of stress almost daily. In our busy and hectic world, we have many demands on our time and attention, leading to stress. Kept unchecked, stress can easily get out of hand and do a great deal of damage to our health, affecting nearly every aspect of our lives. Anything that causes strain is stress in one form or another and can include toxins and pollutants in our food and water, poor nutrition, relationship or job stress, financial stress, and over or under exercising. When we start to realize how abundant stress is in our modern lives, it becomes obvious reducing stress isn’t always as easy as it sounds!
Stress affects a number of our bodily systems and organs, but our adrenal glands, located on top of our kidneys, are particularly affected during times of stress. When we experience a form of stress, the body goes into fight or flight instinct and the adrenal glands must respond by secreting the hormone cortisol into the blood.
If you are being chased by a bear, for example, that acute stress situation causes the body to release cortisol, which acts to boost our energy, alertness, and strength, and sharpens our vital senses. It was designed to be a defense mechanism in the body, to help us survive stressful, or dangerous, situations. The more extreme the body perceives the stress to be, the greater the amount of cortisol it releases.
The problem with this in today’s world is that we are inundated with stress. The body cannot differentiate between all of the non-life-threatening stress and truly threatening stress—it sees it all as stress. Thus it responds the same by releasing cortisol into our blood. Eventually, this relatively constant cortisol will fatigue or burnout the adrenal glands, cause fatigue, break down muscle tissue, and cause fat accumulation.
When cortisol is frequently raised in our blood, our body’s normal functioning is hindered and we start to see many problems arise, such as digestive problems, depression, lack of mental clarity, and obesity. With higher cortisol levels, the body switches from burning fat as fuel and instead burns carbohydrates (in the form of sugar) and the body therefore will start to store the fat instead of using it for energy. Furthermore, our hormones become imbalanced, which further promotes fat storage.
When we understand the functions cortisol is involved in—such as glucose metabolism, insulin release for blood sugar balance, inflammatory response, and immune function—it is easy to see how having fat storage is affected, as these same functions are intimately connected with our weight.
To make matters worse, when stressed, most people tend to turn to sweet, processed junk foods. This emotional eating, and usually overeating, only worsens the problem by causing nutritional stress, causing more inflammation, and by giving the body too many calories. Also, when people are stressed they tend to be busy, which means it is more practical or convenient and easy to turn to fast, cheap, poor foods that further stress the body and lead to imbalances and weight gain.
So if we wish to maintain or reach an ideal body weight, it is essential to be aware of stress and to take the necessary steps to decrease all forms of stress. Taking the time to de-stress and relax will allow the body to balance back to a normal functioning state without the secretion of cortisol.
There are a number of ways to relax and to keep the levels of cortisol under control. What works best for one person won’t necessarily work as effectively for the next. Take the time to figure out the stress-reducing methods that work best for you and your body. Some of the most popular and common forms of stress reduction and relaxation include:
- Guided Imagery
- Deep Breathing
To summarize, stress indeed can make us fat, in more ways than one! Not only does the hormone cortisol cause the body to store more fat, but habits such as eating more fast or junk foods due to time, emotional eating, and other actions cause the body to accumulate and store fat instead of burn it. While appropriate exercise is important to weight control, too much exercise can actually increase our stress, making weight loss efforts difficult. The remedy? Make sure to take at least fifteen minutes a day to de-stress and relax the body to allow the cortisol levels to be decreased.The Anti-Stress Juice!Ingredients:rn
- 1 beetroot (medium)
- 2 radish
- 3 broccoli heads and stalks
- 1 carrot