Cortisol and Stress

Many people have different reactions to things or events which are causing them stress. Stress can have a variety of negative effects on the body, depending on the mechanisms we each use to cope with that stress. One of these stress responses can include increased hunger and weight gain.Often times, stress will initially cause a decrease or loss of appetite depending on the cause of stress. Chronic stress, however, can be linked to an increase in appetite and weight gain if the stress continues. Hormones released by the body are to blame for this response. Adrenalin is a hormone released when we are in the “fight or flight” mode, which is the body’s natural survival mode. While adrenaline is designed to decrease appetite initially, the effects generally don’t last long.woman-foot-scale-400x400Also released during times of stress, is cortisol. Part of the job of cortisol is to bring the body back to normal after stress has passed during the “rest and digest” phase. In smaller doses, it can have a positive effect on things like memory, immunity, and pain sensitivity. During times of stress, cortisol is meant to increase blood sugar to be used by the brain and tissues. After a threat has passed, these increased hormone levels return to normal. However, in a constant heightened state of stress, the body is not allowed to return to normal and become balanced. Studies have shown that people who maintain a higher cortisol level tend to eat more food, especially those higher in carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain.Causes of stress in today’s world are quite different from our ancestors. We are no longer running or fighting for our lives, but instead worrying about work, school, and relationships. We are constantly bombarded with stressors that keep our bodies from relaxing and restoring the balance. Other negative side effects of high cortisol can include impaired cognition, blood sugar imbalances, decrease in bone density and muscle tissue, and elevated blood pressure.There are many stress management techniques which can be utilized to help restore balance to the body. Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are a few relaxing activities which aid the body in maintaining healthy levels of cortisol. Regular exercise and other lifestyle choices also help to lower stress and even reduce future stress. People are wired differently to react to things in life in different ways. For some, maintaining a low stress lifestyle is easy, and others are constantly on edge. At Optimal Chiropractic, we teach patients simple and effective stretches and breathing exercises to help reduce stress and improve posture. Give our office a call to see how we can help you manage your stress and live a more active and healthy lifestyle, (208) 777-4305.