Thursday, November 30, 2023

Can High Cortisol Cause Weight Gain

Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue

Will Adrenal Fatigue Cause Weight Gain? Cushing’s Syndrome & High Cortisol Levels Dr.Berg

Traditional allopathic Western medicine doesnt recognize adrenal fatigue, even though the changes it can cause are now starting to be confirmed by science. Referring to it as exhaustion syndrome research from Umeå University in Sweden has found that people suffering adrenal fatigue have lower activity in their frontal lobes and also altered regulation of cortisol.

The study also found that people more prone to this condition are often over-achievers and perfectionists. This is not news to functional and integrative practitioners who see women suffering from this problem every day. They arrive feeling absolutely at the end of the line and suffering from these kinds of chronic complaints:

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Weve all felt that surge of energy as we confront something threatening or startling. A barely avoided car accident. A call that your child has been hurt. The pressure to meet a deadline.

As your body perceives stress, your adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Often called the stress hormone, cortisol causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Its your natural flight or fight response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.

Normal levels of cortisol also are released when you wake up in the morning or exercise. These levels can help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even strengthen your heart muscle. In small doses, the hormone can heighten memory, increase your immune system and lower sensitivity to pain.

If your body experiences chronic stress, you may begin to feel unpleasant and even dangerous effects, such as:

  • Muscle pain or tension in the head, neck, jaw, or back

Try This Quick Iris Test:

Your eyes are not just the window to your soul, they are also the window to your levels of arousal and stress. An article by Scientific American magazine, gives a good rundown on the science of pupillometry.

A similar study is also looking into this area.

But you can also conduct a simply little eye experiment at home. Heres how:

  • Go into a dark room that has a mirror and allow your eyes to adjust for a few minutes this allows your pupils to dilate.
  • Stand close to the mirror or hold it close to your face.
  • Using a penlight or a weak flashlight, shine light across your right eye.
  • Watch your right pupil for about 30 seconds to see what happens.

It should quickly contract when exposed to the light. If, within seconds, it dilates again, this is a sign of adrenal fatigue. Rest your eyes, get accustomed to the dark again and repeat with the other eye.

Also Check: Male And Female Hormones List

Can Cortisol Be A Good Thing

Clearly, cortisol is important for a lot of bodily functions, so we dont want to be afraid of it or eliminate it altogether. We need cortisol.

Every one of our cells has cortisol receptors, which tells us that cortisols effects are felt throughout the body. Transient spikes in cortisol are nothing to worry about. We dont all have high cortisol, contrary to what some wellness warriors want you to believe.

Sometimes though, cortisol levels that are too high or too low are beyond our control.

Addisons Disease is a condition where the body doesnt make enough cortisol, so blood cortisol levels are low. The symptoms of Addisons Disease include low appetite and weight loss, fatigue, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and dizziness.

Cushings disease and Cushings syndrome are conditions in which the adrenals secrete much cortisol. Cushings causes fat to be stored in the abdomen and muscles, and its catabolic it breaks down muscles and bones. A wide face, purple stretch marks, puffy shoulders and a buffalo hump are all signs of Cushings.

Cushings is fairly rare, and is mainly caused by tumours. Although some people believe that chronic stress may lead to Cushings syndrome, there is no evidence to support that.

The Connection Of Cortisol Depression Weight Gain And Anxiety


Americans today are more stressed than ever. We face stress at work, home, in our relationships and even from lack of sleep. Unfortunately, we are finding that chronic stress is causing a serious impact on our lives and our health. We now know that chronic stress can lead to:

High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndromeFatigueAnxiety & DepressionLow libido

There is a growing body of literature that is looking at just how our bodies respond to stress, and how we can treat the deleterious effects of stress. But what is stress exactly? And why, when you are cramming for your final exam , are you polishing off your last Twix and not a carrot?

What is stress?

Regulates insulin

Manages how your body uses / stores fats and proteins in times of stressAdjusts blood pressure and glucose levelsControls your sleep / wake cycleInfluences immune systemAffects learning and memory in times of stress

In a healthy response to stress, the body will quickly raise cortisol levels in an effort to handle the stress. Once the stressor is gone, the parasympathetic system kicks in , and cortisol levels fall. However, when a person is burdened with continued stressors, the cortisol levels are unable to fall. This persistent state of high cortisol production can lead to various metabolic and psychiatric disorders.

How do high cortisol levels affect your weight?

Finally, there is the behavioral component of eating and stress. Stressors work on three parts of the brain:

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Cortisol Levels And Trauma

There is evidence that people who have suffered trauma, especially long-term, have elevated levels of cortisol as a baseline.While cortisol levels should return to normal after the stressor has passed, with long-term trauma, they remain higher.

Stressed people tend to eat more, but this may be more than just behavioural. Weight gain from stress can be multifactorial, including genetics, environment, social determinants, and lifestyle.

Hormonal reactions to stress including cortisol secretion can also make us crave hyperpalatable food, which is thought to in some way soothe some of the HPA axis response and make us feel calmer.

Become A Pleasure Seeker

When you add oxytocin-releasing activities to your like, it helps rebalance the adrenal deficiency. What makes gives you lots of joy? Here are a few ideas:

  • Watch a comedy series or film: Not only does laughter boost your immune system, it directly reduces levels of cortisol and epinephrine.
  • Use music to calm you: Try some classical or ambient music. Or just put on a CD of soundscapes from nature.
  • Enjoy a relaxing aromatherapy bath: Add some candles and close your eyes. Enjoy!
  • Schedule a massage that gives you lots of pleasure. If you have limited funds, think about doing a massage swap with a friend where you do it for each other.
  • on a regular basis: that gives us a HUGE oxytocin release.
  • Embrace a child or a pet: regular touch is very healing.
  • Do the twist: Take up dancing join a class or follow online tutorials at home. Research shows that taking up tango dancing can relieve stress more than meditation.


Also Check: Does Melatonin Help You Stay Asleep

Is Cortisol A Stress Hormone

Cortisol is widely known as the stress hormone. However, it has many important effects and functions throughout your body aside from regulating your bodys stress response.

Its also important to remember that, biologically speaking, there are multiple different kinds of stress, including:

  • Acute stress: Acute stress happens when youre in sudden danger within a short period of time. For example, barely avoiding a car accident or being chased by an animal are situations that cause acute stress.
  • Chronic stress: Chronic stress happens when you experience ongoing situations that cause frustration or anxiety. For example, having a difficult or frustrating job or having a chronic illness can cause chronic stress.
  • Traumatic stress: Traumatic stress happens when you experience a life-threatening event that induces fear and a feeling of helplessness. For example, experiencing an extreme weather event, such as a tornado, or experiencing war or sexual assault can cause traumatic stress. In some cases, these events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder .

Your body releases cortisol when you experience any of these types of stress.

Your Body On Stress Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue

Cortisol And Belly Fat | Does Stress Cause Weight Gain?

Youre about to go for a job interview. Your body treats this as a perceived threat and triggers a powerful danger signal. This activates your HPA , a feedback loop between your brain and other organs such as the kidneys. Your hypothalamus is like the command center and its job is to send urgent Watch Out messages to your pituitary and Adrenal glands. Within femtoseconds, your fight or flight response kicks in. This preps you to defend yourself or flee. So you experience a rapid cascade of other stress responses:

  • Your adrenal glands quickly pump out adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Part of their job is to ensure that glucose is quickly dumped into your bloodstream to give you energy and focus to handle this emergency.
  • Breathing and heart rate speed up in order to pump oxygen and nutrients to your brain and to your muscles, which tense up at the ready, in case you have to sprint away.
  • Your mind and hearing zoom in on sensory information, but you could not focus easily to write a report or read a book.
  • Blood-clotting clotting ability is heightened in case you sustain an injury.
  • Perspiration increases to help prevent your body from becoming overheated if you have to make a quick getaway.
  • Your pupils dilate and let in more light to sharpen your focus for fighting or fleeing.
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    How To Stop Weight Gain From Cortisol

    If you have symptoms related to cortisol dysregulation and you have abnormal serum cortisol then it may be time to explore treatment options.

    Ive included below a list of several therapies designed to help reduce the impact that cortisol has on your body and reset the system so to speak.

    Some of these therapies are common sense and others may be counter-intuitive at first but I can tell you from experience that they work.

    #1. Reduce or Eliminate the Source of Stress

    The first and most important step is to remove the source of your stress.

    This isnt always possible, I get that, but it should still be the thing that you focus on if possible.

    Your symptoms will not resolve completely until the source has been removed.

    If you cant remove the source then the next best step is to increase your tolerance to stress in general.

    You can do this using several therapies including things like ensuring that you sleep at least 8 hours each night, taking adrenal supplements, eating healthy sources of carbohydrates, and practicing meditation or mindfulness .

    A word of warning:

    Dont neglect this step.

    Many people will do basically everything but address the source of their stress and taking this route will not lead to long-term success.

    Potential sources of stress include:

    Something as simple as taking a walk in nature, enjoying some time in the sun, and spending time relaxing or enjoying your family can dramatically improve your resilience to stress.

    #2. Dont Over-Exercise

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    An endocrinologist can very often help you reverse weight gain that is associated with hormonal imbalances. Potentially useful interventions include lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet modification, or stress management, as well as treatments such as testosterone or thyroid hormone replacement. Medications may be able to help with weight gain-related symptoms such as increased appetite, or to moderate excessive hormone levels.

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    Will Lowering Cortisol Help Lose Weight

    There is no definitive proof that cortisol blockers cause weight reduction. When you are stressed, your body produces more of the hormone cortisol. Chronic stress and chronically elevated cortisol levels may be linked to increased hunger and weight gain. However, there are medications available that can reduce cortisol levels without causing weight loss.

    The most common form of medication used to reduce cortisol is known as a glucocorticoid steroid. These steroids work by attaching themselves to receptors inside cells and triggering an immune response similar to that which occurs when you get sick. Because they trigger this response so easily, these steroids are often prescribed for people who need a quick way to fight off infection. Examples include prednisone and dexamethasone.

    Another type of medication used to reduce cortisol is called a mineralcorticoid antagonist. These drugs prevent the body from producing its own version of cortisol by blocking the action of aldosterone on cells. Aldosterone regulates salt and water balance, blood pressure, and inflammation throughout the body. It is usually recommended that individuals take these medications for several weeks to months before their effects can be felt by the body.

    Reducing cortisol levels with medication may help people who are obese find other ways to lose weight or prevent further weight gain. Being able to reduce stress using natural methods as opposed to medication helps people feel better overall.

    Cortisol And Weight Gain Ties Debated

    7 Ways To Balance Cortisol Levels

    We Americans, always looking for the quick fix for whatever ails us, search endlessly for weight-loss products. My advice–don’t hold your breath, at least not yet. Here’s the theory of the connection between weight gain and the cortisol released into your system from stress.

    Stress hormones, including adrenaline, which gives you instant energy, along with corticotrophin releasing hormone and cortisol, provide the biochemical energy you need to fight or flee from your stressors. High levels of adrenaline and CRH decrease appetite at first and for a short time.

    Cortisol helps replenish your body after the stress has passed, and lasts longer in your system. The problem, according to Sean Talbot, Ph.D., associate professor with the University of Utah’s Department of Nutrition and the author of the “Cortisol Connection,” is that, “too often today’s response to stress is to sit and stew in our frustration and anger, without expending any of the calories that we would if we were physically fighting our way out of a wild animal hunt .”

    Your neuroendocrine system doesn’t know that you’re not physically fighting or fleeing, so it still responds to stress with the hormonal signal to replenish nutritional stores making you feel hungry. This can lead to weight gain and a tendency to store “visceral fat” around the midsection.

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    What Do High Cortisol Levels Mean

    A high cortisol level can mean several things.

    High cortisol may be referred to as Cushing syndrome. This condition results from your body making too much cortisol. .

    Some common symptoms of Cushing syndrome include:

    • fatty deposits in the midsection, face, or between the shoulders
    • purple stretch marks

    Several things can contribute to the development of high cortisol.

    Brain Function Cravings And High Cortisol Levels

    When cortisol and stress levels are high, so is your appetite! Your motivation to get out of the stressful situation is also increased. But it is a little contradictory because your digestion shuts down during this stressful time so your energy can be utilized elsewhere.

    This increase in appetite is going to also increase the release of ghrelin, the hunger hormone. This is what causes the high calorie food cravings. And the more sugar and sweet things you crave the more addicted you become. Read more about sugar and its effect of the body and the brain here.

    This rise in hunger and sugary cravings is going to also lead to excess stored fat because you are more likely to over-eat your calories!

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    High Levels May Promote Overeating

    Small rises in cortisol levels in response to stress are normal and not likely to cause negative side effects.

    Yet, in certain instances, cortisol levels may remain chronically elevated.

    This is usually due to stress or a condition like Cushings syndrome, which causes blood levels of cortisol to remain high (

    • insulin resistance

    When under chronic stress, it may be difficult to maintain healthful eating habits.

    One study in 59 healthy women found an association between elevated cortisol levels and an increase in appetite, which could potentially promote weight gain .

    In addition, another study found an association between a higher cortisol response and a higher amount of belly fat in a group of 172 men and women, suggesting that higher cortisol may lead to overeating .

    That said, levels of stress and cortisol arent always directly related, thus more data is needed to establish a direct relationship .

    What Are The Health Risks Of Increased Cortisol

    Why Stress (Cortisol) Makes You Fat (Spikes Insulin) Stress and Weight Gain Dr.Berg

    Stress is obviously inevitable in our day-to-day lives and can be triggered by a range of factors. Whether it be emotional experiences, like a breakup, strenuous physical activities, infections, injuries, or even something seemingly mundane like running late or being stuck in traffic. On the other hand, stress can even be beneficial when it elicits a positive response to a stressor. This is known as eustress, and we may experience it when riding a roller coaster, on a first date, or starting a new job. Regardless of if you experience eustress or distress, it is quite literally impossible to go through life scot free from stress.

    But when we are in a state of distress we may experience either an acute or chronic stress response. An acute state of stress is immediate and intense and will usually subside once the stressor is no longer present. Think going to a job interview, being stuck in traffic, or having an argument with your spouse these are all examples of acute stress. While it is normal to experience varying degrees of acute stress, some individuals may experience short-term side effects including:

    • Impaired memory and ability to concentrate
    • Increased blood sugar levels
    • Immune system suppression

    Recommended Reading: Hormone Imbalance And Autoimmune Disorders

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