- What Is Cortisol?
- Health Effects of Excessive Cortisol
- Signs Of A Stress Belly
- 9 Effective Ways To Reduce Cortisol Belly Fat
- What Kind of Supplements Can Lower Cortisol Levels?
- Health Problems Of Chronic Stress
- Side Effects Of High Cortisol Levels
- Frequently Asked Questions
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It may help control blood sugar levels, manage sleep-wake cycles, and even reduce inflammation.
However, when cortisol levels remain increased for extended periods, it could disrupt sleep patterns, contributing to weight gain and high blood pressure, which may also lead to chronic stress.
High cortisol levels might also compromise the immune system, making you more prone to illnesses.
This article will provide some evidence-based measures to reduce cortisol levels while also discussing the link between elevated cortisol and belly fat accumulation.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol steroid hormone is produced by your two adrenal glands that are present at the top of both kidneys. This hormone may help manage your metabolism and support your overall bodily functions.
The cortisol hormone helps regulate stress, fight infections, and regulate blood sugar levels. It
may help in mediating the stress response and regulating metabolic function.
Cortisol levels vary throughout the day, staying high in the morning to help wake up and stay alert and gradually decreasing as bedtime approaches.
Health Effects of Excessive Cortisol
When cortisol levels remain consistently high due to stress or other factors, it might lead to health issues like disrupted sleep patterns, weight gain, increased blood pressure, and a weak immune system.
To further understand the adverse effects of excessive cortisol, let’s take a look at the potential consequences:
|Health Effects of Excessive Cortisol
|Effects on the Body
|Effects on Well-being
|Disrupted sleep patterns
|Elevated blood pressure
|Compromised immune system
|Reduced bone density
|Impaired cognitive function
|Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
Signs Of A Stress Belly
Stress can manifest in physical changes, including developing a stress belly characterized by an expanding waistline, bloating, and digestive issues.
Chronic stress might cause weight gain in the abdominal region. According to a study, stress may increase abdominal bloating due to increased anxiety and depression. Abdominal distension could be due to trapped gas or incomplete nutrition that lacks fiber and nutrients.
9 Effective Ways To Reduce Cortisol Belly Fat
Eating nutritious whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats may help regulate cortisol levels.
According to a study, a high-sugar diet might increase cortisol levels. It could also suppress optimal cortisol production in your body, which could be problematic during stressful situations.
Dark chocolate contains potent flavonoids, which may help address increasing cortisol levels. It may help in a slower release of cortisol levels in your adrenal glands.
Food Group Examples Benefits Whole Grains Quinoa, Brown Rice Provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals Fruits Berries, Citrus Fruits Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals Vegetables Spinach, Broccoli High in fiber, vitamins, and minerals Lean Proteins Chicken Breast, Tofu Essential for muscle growth and repair Healthy Fats Avocado, Olive Oil Provide satiety and support hormone production Omega-3 Sources Salmon, Chia Seeds Help balance cortisol levels and reduce inflammation Stress-Reducing Foods Dark Chocolate, Green Tea Promote relaxation and decrease cortisol release
Drinking water may help in the breakdown of fat. However, when the body becomes dehydrated, it may perceive it as stress and respond by increasing cortisol levels.
Thus, ensuring proper hydration may support a healthy metabolism, which is essential for weight management.
To stay adequately hydrated, drinking at least eight glasses of water daily or following the “8×8” rule, which suggests consuming eight 8-ounce glasses daily, is recommended.
Getting Adequate Sleep
Proper sleep may help maintain a healthy balance and prevent excessive cortisol levels, which can manage weight gain.
Elevated cortisol levels can increase appetite, cravings for unhealthy foods, and belly fat accumulation.
Establishing a consistent sleep routine, limiting electronic gadget usage close to bedtime, and exercising daily may help induce quality sleep.
Start Working Out
Exercise may support weight loss by burning calories, and it could also help in lowering cortisol levels. When you perform physical activity, your body secretes endorphin hormones, which act as natural mood boosters and help alleviate stress. Regular exercise may indirectly impact cortisol levels, aiding in the reduction of unwanted belly fat.
Stress management is essential for effectively addressing and reducing belly fat caused by the cortisol hormone, which might cause weight gain.
Activities such as yoga and acupuncture could help you relax and reduce cortisol levels. Deep breathing exercises may provide relaxation, helping to reduce stress levels and provide a sense of calm.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods contain trans fats, excessive sugar, and refined carbohydrates that may increase inflammation and contribute to weight gain.
Fishes like salmon and mackerel, contain omega-3 fatty acids, shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. They may also help lower inflammation and triglyceride levels.
You could also include these foods in your daily diet, which may help lower inflammation and address unwanted weight gain.
Including relaxation techniques in your daily routine might counteract the effects of cortisol. Deep breathing could help calm the nervous system and reduce cortisol levels.
Yoga or tai chi practices could also help reduce stress, lower cortisol levels, and improve flexibility and strength.
Caffeine might disrupt the natural sleep-wake cycle and lead to poor-quality sleep. Foods and beverages containing caffeine should be consumed in moderation and not close to bedtime.
It is essential to be mindful of the caffeine content and consume caffeine-based foods or drinks earlier in the day to avoid any negative impact on sleep.
Here is a table showcasing the approximate caffeine content in typical food and beverages:
Food/Beverage Caffeine Content (mg) Coffee (8 oz) 95-165 Black Tea (8 oz) 25-48 Green Tea (8 oz) 25-29 Dark Chocolate (1 oz) 12-30 Soda (12 oz) 30-70
Smoking may cause excessively higher cortisol levels. High nicotine exposure can disrupt the natural cortisol rhythm and negatively affect sleep patterns. Quitting smoking is crucial for reducing cortisol levels and managing weight.
What Kind of Supplements Can Lower Cortisol Levels?
Adaptogens like Ashwagandha have been found to lower cortisol levels, particularly morning cortisol levels. Ashwagandha may also impact serotonin and GABA levels, similar to antidepressant medications.
Rhodiola rosea has been found to lower cortisol levels and also help with burnout. However, Rhodiola rosea may interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants and blood thinners. Cortisync by PrimeGenix might also help reduce cortisol levels and improve sleep quality.
However, consultation with a doctor is necessary before starting any supplementation is advised. While these natural ways might help, trying them under expert guidance could ensure what works best for your body and overall health.
Health Problems Of Chronic Stress
Stress-related gastrointestinal problems are closely linked to the gut-brain axis. Chronic stress may cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Symptoms of IBS, such as pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation, could be triggered by anxiety.
Another digestive disorder impacted by stress is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stress can worsen GERD symptoms, characterized by acid reflux and heartburn.
Cardiovascular Related Issues
Chronic stress triggers cortisol hormone release, which could elevate blood pressure levels. Increased blood pressure poses a risk for heart disease and stroke, which can impact cardiovascular health.
High cortisol levels could harm heart function, leading to an enlarged heart, reduced heart rate variability, and increased inflammation. Such effects may increase the risk of heart problems.
Disruption Of The Endocrine System
When the body is under chronic stress, the normal functioning of the endocrine system can be disturbed, resulting in hormonal imbalance.
Elevated cortisol levels might lead to insulin resistance conditions in which the body’s cells become less responsive to the hormone insulin, resulting in impaired blood sugar levels and an increased type 2 diabetes risk.
Side Effects Of High Cortisol Levels
Excessive cortisol levels could adversely affect the body, impacting sleep patterns, mood stability, and weight distribution.
High cortisol levels can interfere with your ability to fall asleep, leading to insomnia or poor sleep quality.
It might make you exhausted, irritable, and unable to function optimally during the day. It could also cause mood instability, irritability, anxiety, and even depression.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can Having a Pet Help Lower Cortisol Levels?
Interacting with pets promotes relaxation and reduces stress-related cortisol production. They may provide emotional support and contribute to decreased cortisol release.
- What Are the Potential Risks Associated With Taking Ashwagandha Supplements?
Potential risks and precautions associated with taking ashwagandha supplements include interactions with certain medical conditions and medications, possible withdrawal symptoms, and contraindications for pregnant individuals.
- How Does Smoking Impact Cortisol Levels?
Smoking has been found to increase cortisol levels, contributing to stress and potential health risks.
- What Are Some Commonly Experienced Health Problems Associated With Chronic Stress?Chronic stress might cause cardiovascular issues, endocrine disruptions, and gastrointestinal problems.
Managing cortisol weight gain requires a multifaceted approach. You may take proactive steps towards reducing cortisol levels and preventing weight gain by implementing lifestyle modifications.
These changes may include stress management, adopting a balanced diet, incorporating regular exercise, and ensuring adequate sleep.
Certain products like Cortisync may also help lower cortisol levels. However, seeking guidance from a doctor before making significant changes or adding supplements to your routine is essential.
Rachel has been a freelance medical writer for more than 18 years. She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2005 and is currently practicing as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at a Level I trauma center.