Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
When stressed our bodies release cortisol and it enhances deposition of abdominal fat and is linked to weight gain, depression, osteoporosis and hypertension. Under stressful conditions, cortisol can move fat from storage depots in the hips and thighs and relocate it to viceral fat cells in the abdomen. Excess belly fat has been linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. Stress is very difficult to avoid in modern society. Humans originally lived in small clans but now many people live in big, stressful cities with high levels of mood disorders (20% of Australians) like anxiety (14% of Australians) or depression (4% of Australians will have a major episode this year), and digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
When stressed, your adrenal glands release the hormones cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline). That awful feeling of nausea that we have when we are awoken from deep sleep is due to cortisol. Sleep deprivation makes us wake up with higher amounts of the cortisol. Fasting, eating, exercising, awakening, and psychosocial stressors cause the body to release cortisol. Cortisol naturally rises and falls during the day, but when you are chronically stressed your cortisol level goes up and stays there. It increases your appetite and cravings especially for foods high in sugar and fat, causes a loss of muscle mass, libido and bone density, and also contributes to depression and memory loss.
We may not be able to prevent the production of excess stress hormones, especially cortisol, but we can help the body to break it down by limiting caffeine intake, avoiding simple carbohydrates (especially sugar), grains, and processed foods, eating vegetables, high-quality protein, omega-3 rich foods, consuming Mg, Zn, Cr, amino acids, carbohydrates, and vitamin C, B 1, 2, 5, 6, exercising and de-stressing.
These simple tips will help you to de-stress:
The book Cortisol Connection by Shawn Talbott is an interesting read and he suggests that one keeps a food and mood diary for 7 to 10 days to record every bite eaten (including time of day) and mood and energy levels before and afterwards. I did this for about 4 weeks and it helped me to remove sugar and grains from my diet. Part-way through the book I realised that Talbott’s agenda was not so much to enlighten as to proselytise about his special approach (and make money). He is a strong advocate of dietary supplementation and he suggests the following foods/supplements for cortisol control:
During heightened stress periods Talbott suggests that we consume:
Talbott suggests avoiding these herbal stimulants: