Of all the hormones interacting within your body on a daily basis, cortisol may be the most familiar to you. It also may be the hidden element that is making you fat. Do you wake up every morning, already feeling like you are behind? Do you rush from your morning routine, to the car, to lunch and then stay up way too late on Facebook? You are certainly not alone. However, all of this activity (and lack of proper rest) throws your delicate hormonal system out of balance.
Cortisol is a crucial element in regulating energy, insulin, metabolism and other processes within the body. And its dysregulation can spell trouble for your waistline. Normally operating in a rhythm known as a diurnal variation, cortisol patterns can often be flipped, mistimed, or unbalanced. Cortisol is typically highest in the morning, and lowest in the evening. Any night owls reading this will certainly know what cortisol dysregulation is all about!
Cortisol is particularly annoying because it can mean fat gain in the abdominal area – not the hips. Not only is this unpleasant to look at, it is more dangerous than fat in other areas. While not all weight gain is caused by cortisol, it is often an overlooked factor when addressing weight management. The ability to handle and manage stress is a challenging one in today’s modern society – as we’re always expected to be “on” – all the time. This is simply not how hormones are supposed to operate.
How often do you feel stressed?
If you are a frequent caffeine drinker, the answer may be – all of the time. Since many of us are used to drinking lots and lots of caffeine, we simply do not know that we are constantly anxious, stressed and on edge. But just because our mind may not be conscious of this fact does not mean our body is unaware! The body is heavily affected by something as seemingly innocuous as caffeine, and even a little bit can get your body primed for action – even if you are simply sitting at your desk.
To make matters more confusing, some of us react differently to stress – and existing metabolism and eating issues further cloud things. Do you know any stress addicts who absolutely thrive under constant deadlines, pressure and like loud music? Exactly. But at the same time, we also have the super-careful grandmothers who get scared simply by driving on the highway. This is an anecdotal example of how everyone reacts to stress differently.
Food and sleep help to control cortisol
Food is certainly one way to help control cortisol, and the standard Paleo recommendation won’t be shocking here. As scientific literature has pointed out, other neuroendocrine pathways are also involved, including the central sympathetic nervous system, the gonadal and growth hormone axes, and the leptin system. Cortisol and weight gain is undoubtedly a tricky beast.
Researchers have also noted that a lot of cortisol issues are dependent on the status of the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland axis. This delicate axis can very easily be pushed off course, and disaster can often result. Of course, another issue is also a lack of sleep, which plays a part in basically every sort of metabolic dysfunction.
The trouble with sleep loss, is that it so often sneaks up on us, and is the cause of basically every issue which unhealthy people can develop. If not the sole cause, it accompanies the root problem, and it becomes just as difficult to get enough sleep, once sleep issues have set in. This — of course — worsens the problem. It’s sort of like fighting vigorously when you’re in quicksand – you just start to sink deeper and deeper.
Exercise can help!
All of this talk of cortisol dysregulation, weight gain, the HPA axis, sleep problems and other health issues may seem pretty depressing. But fear not, one of the best ways to fight cortisol issues is simply to exercise! However, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you are too stressed, not eating enough carbohydrates, not getting enough sleep, and drinking too much caffeine, stressful exercise may end up being the death of you! Walking, in this scenario, along with some light weight lifting, will be best.
It should also be noted that if you are severely worried about cortisol issues, you should work with either a physician or a trained practitioner so you can get tested for salivary cortisol levels, and rule out more serious issues. Cortisol is one of the many elements surrounding the human body and health which only works when it is kept in a tightly regulated amount. Too much – and there are problems. Not enough – also problems. The right amount at the wrong times – still problems.
So what are the biggest causes of cortisol issues?
Too much exercise is one cause (especially prevalent in CrossFit), poor diet is another (which can mean a diet too low in carbs, too high in sugar, one containing too few nutrients, etc.). Not enough sleep is another cause. Too much caffeine is yet another common cause, and not enough downtime is our last cause listed here (this one is typically seen across the board). Combine two or more of these, and you are now looking at a typical client profile. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly rare that someone will have just one of these issues, as they typically appear clustered. This is one of those paradoxical cases where your lazy friend who sleeps for 10 hours per night, doesn’t achieve much, and barely exercises, can sometimes be metabolically healthier than you.
One cause not mentioned is too much social media/screen time. Blue light from electronics is a disrupter of another hormone (melatonin) but it can wreak havoc on proper cortisol regulation as well. This is yet another point which our Paleolithic ancestors intrinsically got right. They had a pitch-black sleep environment (no electricity can do that for you) and likely slept much better than we currently do. They followed their natural circadian rhythms — to a certain extent, these are hardwired in — which is why shift workers so often struggle with sleep.
In fact, optimal sleeping conditions for great cortisol control are very similar to creating a cave environment. Your bedroom should be pitch-black (cover up digital clocks if you have to), a little cool, and spacious – not cramped. Try to remove your computer and other screens completely from the bedroom — if you have enough space — and let sex and sleep be the only two activities which transpire in this space.
Do supplements help?
While no supplements completely help with cortisol, some have been studied that may help blunt cortisol’s nasty effects. Holy basil is one such supplement. Studied in regards to stress as well as cortisol, holy basil can also help with sleep, at least in some subjects. It may even be helpful for general anxiety. But make no mistake – this supplement will do almost nothing unless your diet, lifestyle and sleep are in order. Don’t rely on just the supplement.
For most clients, the abdominal fat-gaining aspect of cortisol usually scares them into action – but what actions do they take? Besides consuming a moderate-carbohydrate Paleo diet, they get blackout shades for their room, avoid blue light for at least one hour before bedtime, and exercise wisely. They also cut back severely on their caffeine intake (this means 1-2 cups per day – ideally 1). If you can get your caffeine intake down to just green tea, that would be even better, as this drink contains many more beneficial compounds than coffee.
How to control cortisol
In conclusion, cortisol – while necessary – is also pretty evil, since it can silently become a problem. Most people aren’t aware of cortisol issues until they have some abdominal fat, and by then things are pretty far along. The idea of gaining fat around the midsection is a pretty powerful motivator to force people into action, and hopefully I’ve provided some motivation for you to sleep a little more, eat better and cut back on the coffee.
It is all too easy to get addicted to stress in today’s modern, hyper-digital world. But why is it so hard to relax? Are we a culture of distraction? Have we all lost our attention spans? The answers to the latter two questions are both a resounding “yes”. But you can fight back, and your abs will definitely thank you for it. So go to bed an hour early tonight, start meditating for at least 10 minutes per day, and lay off the extra cup of coffee. It may take some time, and it may take some adjustment, but you can get your hormones back in balance, and avoid the myriad of problems that come cortisol dysregulation.
Breakfast, blood sugar, & inflammation
Recent research has shown that Inflammation is responsible for 7 out of 10 Deaths in the United States. But it doesn’t have to be the same way for you.
In fact, in a fairly short amount of time, you could start to experience better sleep…less stomach issues…more energy and stamina…less muscle and joint pain…a drop in weight…lower stress levels…and much, much more!
Learn how to Prevent—Even Reverse—Most Major Diseases by “Turning Off” Inflammation!
Did you know that one of the best times to stretch is right before bed? However…
What stretches should you do? Here’s a 1-minute stretch routine you can do before bed...
Lisa, Yoga Coach
eatlocalgrown / wisemindhealthybody
...easy, 3-minute exercise that completely cured his horrendous snoring! We can both finally sleep!
Today is a good day. Tonight will be even better. Why?
Because you're about to learn easy throat exercises that cure (not just treated) your stubborn snoring – in 3 minutes – starting TONIGHT!
...even if straps, sprays and even torturing CPAP masks have failed you in the past.
Most people heal their snoring in just a few minutes per day using these powerful throat exercises. And they're so easy, you can do them, regardless of your age or physical shape.
Use them anytime, anywhere... even while stuck in traffic or watching TV.
Plus the results are permanent!
Did you know that your bodyfat can become "calorie-resistant"?
True. And it's completely unaffected by even the strictest diets... and most intense exercises.
However, there's good news- Calorie-resistant bodyfat can be now removed...
It's a little-known, calorie-burning hormone we all have... just waiting for the right spark to come alive. It's not thyroid, leptin, ghrelin, insulin, adiponectin, HGH or any other "fat loss" hormone you may know. Read more to find out precisely how to unleash its calorie-burning power:
To your health!
PS - Studies show that it can also reduce your risk of diabetes by 53.7%, a heart attack by 83.3% and stroke by 51.4%. Here's more of the scientific proof...
I bet you can’t guess which muscle in your body is the #1 muscle that eliminates joint and back pain, anxiety and looking fat. This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
If this “hidden” most powerful primal muscle is healthy, we are healthy.
d) Hip Flexors
Take the quiz above and see if you got the correct answer!
In April, 2009, researchers stunned the medical community when they reported chronic inflammation as the root cause of several major diseases.
See, every year 610,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease. Cancer claims another 584,000...stroke 130,000...Alzheimer's disease nearly 85,000 — and the list goes on.
Truth is, we now know... chronic inflammation is responsible for 7 out of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States! Hundreds of studies and scientific reviews prove it.
Fortunately, newer research shows you can prevent-even reverse-most major diseases by "turning off" inflammation. And in our new book, we show you how to do just that.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a debilitating condition-and you"re not sure what the culprit is-now's the time to find out...while you can still do something about it!
--> Grab your FREE copy of this groundbreaking soft cover book today (while supplies still last.)
Over the past year, my friend Dave over at PaleoHacks has been working on a super secret cookbook project with our good friend Peter Servold a Le Cordon Bleu trained Chef and owner of Pete's Paleo...
And today, this new incredible Paleo Cookbook is finally available to be shipped right to your door for FREE!
The cookbook is called Paleo Eats, and it's filled with over 80 chef created, insanely tasty Paleo recipes which means they are free from gluten, soy, dairy, and refined sugar.
Get your FREE copy of Paleo Eats Here. (Grab this today, because they only ordered a small batch of these cookbooks for this freebie promotion, and they will sell out FAST!)
Sponsored Health Resources
In the years that I've been working on this website project I've come across some amazing resources by some very special people. I'd like to share them with you here.
NOTE: I update these links often so please check back to see what's new!
1) Everyone knows green smoothies are healthy right? Have you heard of a “red” smoothie? If not, check out this story…
2) Forget what you've read about 10-day lemonade cleanses, 7-day detoxes with green juices and Gwyneth's gruel. All you need to do, and this is perfect for Saturday or or anytime really, is a simple 1-day cleanse.
3) This “hidden survival muscle” in your body will boost your energy levels, immune system, sexual function, strength and athletic performance when unlocked.
4) I thought it was virtually impossible for a website to be able to tell me anything even a little bit insightful after only submitting my name and date of birth... I was wrong!
5) Turmeric is amazing. The problem is - It's hard to absorb!
6) Wonder why your stomach still sticks out even though you're hammering the core exercises every day? It's a common myth that bulging belly is due to weak abdominal muscles.
7) Even if you're the most active of athletes, you may still suffer from tight hip flexors due to the amount of time you spend each day planted to a chair.
Enjoy! Let me know how these work out for you. And if you run across anything I've missed please let me know.