How Stress Can Cause Weight Gain
The Role of Cortisol in the Body
Stress can significantly impact your ability to maintain a healthy weight. It can also prevent you from losing weight. Whether it’s the result of high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, unhealthy stress-induced behaviors, or a combination of the two, the link between stress and weight gain is glaring. Self-care strategies like mindfulness, journaling, and exercise can help you fight stress and the unwanted effect it can have on your eating habits.
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin
Balance Cortisol With Phytotherapy
Using the right plant-based ingredients helps reduce the negative effects of cortisol. Astragulus root, rhodiola, cordyceps and passionflower are highly effective in resolving adrenal imbalances because they adapt to your bodys specific needs.
Along with phytotherapy, consider supplementing with a high-quality multivitamin mineral complex that you can count on to supply basic, everyday nutrients that you cant live without. As adrenal expert, Shawn Talbott, PhD, confirms, When it comes to dietary supplementation for stress adaptation and cortisol control, the first line of defense appears in the form of a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement
What Is A Stress Belly
Stress belly is the extra abdominal fat that accumulates as the result of chronic or prolonged stress. Although stress belly is not a medical diagnosis, it is a term used to describe the way that stress and stress hormones impact your midsection.
Most people realize they have a stress belly after struggling to lose weight. Despite following the best weight loss guidance, people with stress belly wont notice much difference in their stomachs. This is because they arent treating the hormones that are at the root of the problem.
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Limit Lifestyle Weight Gain By Dealing With Your Stress
Given that the research jury is still out on whether high levels of cortisol actually cause weight gain, the minimum that seems to be true is that since the role of cortisol during stress is to provide your body with energy, it can cause an increase in appetite. In other words, stress might lead you to eat more.”
During the first couple of days following a stressful event, cortisol is giving you a cue to eat high-carbohydrate foods,” says Dr. Perfetti. “Once you comply, you quickly learn a behavioral response that you can feel almost destined to repeat anytime you feel stressed.”
Whether your eating is driven by stress hormones, by habits or a combination of both, research shows that there are ways to interrupt the cycle and stop the weight gain. Notice how the advice is the same as it is for living a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re experiencing chronic stress don’t go on a strict diet, though. Canadian researchers found that severely limiting calorie intake can kick off a series of biochemical events that ultimately increase stress and can make you feel hungrier.
Here’s the bottom line about weight loss. It always has been the bottom line, which suggests it always will be — until a miracle weight loss treatment is invented. There are two ways to lose weight, eat fewer calories and burn more of those calories by moving your body more. It’s truly that simple.â
Beware Of Unsupported Claims
In recent years, the diet industry has tried to capitalize on findings from studies about cortisol and weight gain. Perhaps youve come across advertisements promoting dietary supplements claiming to lower cortisol and enhance weight loss. Most medical professionals advise patients to avoid these products as no independent studies published in respected, peer-reviewed medical journals have shown that these supplements have any value in cortisol reduction or weight loss.
Overall, its important to remember that theres no miracle cure for elevated cortisol. Exercise, eating right and relaxation are the best methods for lowering these harmful hormone levels that have risen in response to stress.
Can Stress Cause Weight Gain
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is produced when youre stressed. It is released in your body when you experience a stressful situation or negative emotions. Cortisol is important for our bodies in the short-term. However, its been shown to be harmful when our cortisol levels get too high. This can cause serious health problems such as weight gain. Cortisol is produced when you experience stressful situations and negative emotions. It is released in your body when you experience a stressful situation or negative emotions. Cortisol is important for our bodies in the short-term, but has been shown to be harmful when our cortisol levels get too high. Over-stimulation of our cortisol levels causes many health problems. One of these problems is weight gain. Increased cortisol levels cause you to have more cravings for food and feel more hungry. Additionally, the cells in your body do not have the same ability to metabolize fat. This can make it more difficult to shed fat and get healthy. A Harvard study found that when a group of people were instructed to stress about a challenging personal situation for two hours each day, cortisol levels increased. Additionally, the people who experienced the most stress gained the most weight. The people who reported the least stress had the lowest levels of cortisol and gained the least weight. Because of this, its important to find ways to reduce the amount of stress you feel.
Dieting Cortisol And Weight Gain
As we know, cortisol levels rise in tension-filled times. If you are under chronic stress, your body is always in fight or flight mode and looking for quick bursts of energy to fight off danger. However, this can turn your sugary snack into a habit.
Cortisol also causes your body to raise insulin levels, which drops blood glucose levels and causes you to crave sugary, fatty foods. These comfort foods also cause your body to release dopamine and serotonin, which have a calming effect.4 Sugar and fat are culprits in weight gain and link cortisol to weight gain.
Cortisol and chronic stress affect your body other than weight gain. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, decrease libido, and contribute to acne, obesity, and chronic diseases such as Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and asthma. Lets briefly discuss the other effects of cortisol on your body.
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What Is Hormonal Weight Gain
Weight gain associated with underlying hormonal imbalances. For men, hormonal weight gain can be caused by high stress or cortisol levels in the body. The heightened levels of cortisol may make the body go into survival mode and induce the production of fat cells which will cause a declining metabolism to store food for later use. For women, a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol decreases at menopause helps regulate metabolism and body weight. The lower the levels of estradiol may cause weight gain. Throughout a womans life, they may notice weight gain around their hips and thighs.
Cortisol And Gaining Weight
Monday, february 21, 2022 You will read this text in min.
If you have ever wondered why, despite a healthy diet and regular training, you still cant lose weight or even happen to gain extra kilos, analyze whether the main culprit isnt stress, or more precisely, long-term elevation of cortisol in your blood, which can lead to hypercortisolemia.
The heavy burden of stressors related to the modern lifestyle and the fact that in many cases this exposure is chronic show that it is the personality type and the individual way of coping with stress in personal and professional life that may contribute to the development of chronic hypercortisolemia at the tissue level. This, in turn, will predispose you to develop some features of the metabolic syndrome and, more rarely, to develop Cushing’s syndrome or disease.
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Cortisol And Weight Gain
It shouldnt be a surprise that chronic stress and weight gain have a close-knit relationship for many reasons. However, we now understand that chronically elevated cortisol levels may be a factor in weight gain or resistance to weight loss.
How does cortisol affect your weight? First of all, chronically elevated cortisol levels can increase your appetite and lead to increased intake of food especially foods that are high in sugar . This stress hormone may also blunt your bodys ability to send the Im full signals to your brain, leading to a vicious cycle of increased appetite and a reduced ability to feel satisfied after meals. High cortisol may also shift your metabolism to store more fat, particularly in the abdominal area and around your organs .
Other than unintentional weight gain, high cortisol levels may also lead to disruption in your menstrual cycle, infertility, heart disease, and digestive problems .
Supplements To Reduce Cortisol
There isnt 1 supplement you can take that is going to reduce cortisol and get rid of all your problems. Just like with anything else, you have to look at it in the big picture sense. This means if you start supplementing, you need to also change your lifestyle. Decrease stress, sleep, eat healthy, drink water all of these are going to be bigger contributing factors to decreasing cortisol than a supplement will be.
There are a few supplements you can take that will help push you in the right direction and reduce cortisol, these include fish oil and ashwagandha. I am sure there are other naturopathic supplements like Chinese herbs that help reduce stress, but these 2 are the most common things you can find/take.
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High Cortisol Can Lead To Overeating
Weâre probably all familiar with the feeling of stress eating. Weâre slammed at work and get the urge to reach for a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate to help us through our growing to-do list. Part of this stress-eating urge can come from your cortisol levels.
One study found when participants were exposed to stressful situations, those who had high cortisol reactions ate more calories than those who had lower cortisol reactions. Whatâs more, those with high cortisol reactions also ate significantly more sweet foods across the day. So, just by being stressed, you may be craving unhealthy foods and more food in general.
Researchers are still finding out how exactly cortisol causes overeating, but itâs thought it may impact the hormones that control your appetite, such as leptin, the hormone responsible for making you feel full.
Add More Soluble Fiber To Your Diet
Soluble fiber may help reduce belly fat since it increases satiety and prevents overeating.
Research also suggests that soluble fiber can reduce the number of calories your body stores from your meals.
Researchers in this study found that participants reduced belly fat gain by 3.7 percent, for every 10-gram increase in consumption of soluble fiber, over a period of five years.
Remember to eat high-fiber foods in every meal. Flaxseeds, legumes, avocados, and Brussels sprouts are excellent sources of soluble fiber.
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How Does Cortisol Cause Weight Gain
Research has shown that if you have unwanted belly fat or your weight is increasing no matter what you do, you likely have a hormone imbalance of some sort. Cortisol specifically is a big culprit of the unwanted inner tube around the belly. Cortisol is a very important hormone that our body needs to survive, but it can also be easily thrown out of wack if we are not careful about our day to day routines.
Coffee And Belly Fat: Quit Coffee Lose Weight
Remember how digestion slows down when cortisol surges through the body? If digestion slows down, fat metabolism becomes less effective. And heres the cruel reason why you tend to store more fat in the abdomen: you have more cortisol receptors in your midsection.
Pretty cruel, right? Well, its a starvation prevention mechanism. Think about itwhen we undergo stress, our body has no way of knowing when our next meal might be. So it tells digestion to slow down to conserve fat.
And if your cortisol levels continue to surge, you just might get coffee belly fat. Does coffee really cause belly fat, you might be wondering? Again, dont fret if you just drink a cup or two a day. But if you are someone who is type A and dont practice meditation or other stress-control activities, you might be more prone to coffee belly fat.
Thats why you might want to only have a half cup of regular coffee. This will prevent caffeine withdrawal symptoms. And then, the rest of the day you can drink decaf. In addition to preventing coffee belly fat, there are other benefits of quitting caffeine.
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The Benefits Of Physical Activity
Physical activity can help your health in many ways, including helping your heart and lungs. But it can also help you reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight, and improve sleep quality. Physical activity has also been shown to help with mental health. In a study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers found that physical activity was associated with a lower risk of depression. Another study in the same journal found that people who exercised regularly had a lower risk of anxiety and depression. Additionally, a study in Diabetes Care found that people who exercised regularly had a lower risk of depression.
Adrenal Stress And Fatigue Cause Belly Fat
Lets zero in on belly fat for a minute because it is such a major part of adrenal stress weight gain.
Under normal circumstances when we havent eaten for a while, our blood sugar drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenals to release cortisol to help out.
Cortisol maintains stable glucose levels in the blood by mobilizing stored glucose, amino acids and fat to prevent blood sugar from dropping too low, and to keep fueling your brain and body with energy in the absence of food.
But when we have long-term adrenal stress imbalances, cortisol levels are elevated in the blood and summon too much glucose. When glucose is not used for energy, it ends up stored in the form of fat primarily abdominal fat cells. Scientists know that fat cells have special receptors for cortisol. Thats a problem because there seem to be more cortisol receptors on belly fat cells than anywhere else!
And sadly, belly fat doesnt just sit there doing nothing. Incredibly, the fat itself becomes like an endocrine organ that reacts to the stress response, spurring still more abdominal fat to be stored.
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How Does Cortisol Effect Men And Women
Just because you are gaining weight, doesnt necessarily mean something is seriously wrong.
It can be something like over-eating high calorie foods like nuts, oils, and butter.
It can mean doing the same exercise routine over and over again, to which you have adapted to and the body is not being challenged enough.
The body is complex, so it can be more than just diet and exercise confusion that is causing weight gain.
If you have evaluated your nutrition and know you are eating in a caloric deficit and your exercise routine is programmed out for progression, then cortisol is likely the culprit. This can be found out by simply getting blood tests done to see all of your hormone levels. Once you know your levels you can either address high/low values or you know 100% that your missing piece lies somewhere else.
Cortisol weight gain is most common among women, but can happen for men as well. Females suffer the most because of the different hormones we have within our bodies and that we tend to take on more stress than males. You know, we are usually running around helping everyone except ourselves and putting ourselves last for everything.
What Does Cortisol Affect
Cortisol affects a number of processes in the body, the most important of which are:
- increasing the synthesis of glucose in the blood in response to stress, as well as during physical activity, i.e. in situations where the bodys need for energy increases,
- immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory effects, showing that it is necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system,
- increase in heart rate, leading to an increase in blood pressure,
- enhancing the action of other stress hormones , and thus enabling better stress management,
- regulating the strength of connective tissues,
- the intensity of protein breakdown,
- intensification of the breakdown of triglycerides,
- increasing the secretion of gastric juices,
- participation in the proper development of a fetus,
- sodium retention in the body,
- increasing potassium excretion,
- contributing to the release of calcium from bones.
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Key Takeaways About Hormonal Weight Gain
How To Test Your Cortisol Levels
The body has a natural diurnal rhythm of cortisol release . For example, cortisol levels should be highest in the early waking hours of the morning with a peak around 9 am. As the day continues, the bodys cortisol levels should decline gradually and reach the lowest point around midnight.
Testing blood cortisol levels is the most widely used method in conventional medicine, however, there are many downfalls to this practice. First of all, blood draws may be stressful for some people, which may falsely elevate cortisol levels. Testing blood cortisol also only gives us one biomarker. As we mentioned above, our body has a natural cortisol rhythm throughout the day, so measuring one aspect of this rhythm does not give us the full picture. Finally, blood cortisol does not represent the free biologically active form. We need to measure the free cortisol levels that are actively working in the body!
Testing your salivary cortisol levels is a much more accurate method . The salivary cortisol test generally requires multiple saliva samples throughout the day to provide an accurate picture of your cortisol rhythm. There are many private laboratories that offer saliva testing like Genova Diagnostics or ZRT Laboratory. The DUTCH Plus test is a combined urinary and saliva test that also looks at cortisol response.
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