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“It’s like every time I look at a piece of chocolate, I put on 5 lbs.”
Sometimes the dread sets in like that.
And the fear and the anxiety increases with each whiff of freshly baked brownies and each glimpse of decadent chocolatey goodness.
No matter how healthy you eat throughout the day or how often you push that brownie away, it seems like even the smell of that brownie or the crinkle of the tin on that piece of chocolate puts an instant 5 lbs on the waistline.
Sure, some of that has to do with hormones or the way that your body responds to nutrients like sugar or carbohydrates. Maybe you have sensitivities that throw your body into a tailspin. But often it relates right back to one tiny little thing…
Or maybe not so tiny in your case!
It makes sense why this thing has a stranglehold on your waistline and how it influences your cravings — cravings to those foods that wreck havoc on not only your waistline, but also to how your body feels.
And, it is even more of a tyrant for women and their hormones, especially as we age or for reasons why our hormones get a little wonky on us.
Stress And Our Hormones
Stress and chronically elevated cortisol levels have long been talked about wrecking havoc on our health and causing an upset in our hormones. It is one thing to have increased stress in our lives, but it is a whole other story when we know exactly how it effects our bodies and influences our delicate hormonal functioning.
The 3 Big Players
The Adrenals. The adrenals are those tiny little glands that sit so regally on top of your kidneys. They are important to keep balanced for many reasons — one of them being that they are our ‘fight or flight’ response in the body, or survival center. When your “ready to run from a tiger” response is turned on, it will dominate over other functions, such as reproduction and metabolic rate. When it is constantly turned on, it begins to steal nutrients that help other hormones function correctly, such as testosterone and estrogen and DHEA. This leads to imbalances and disruptions in other areas of health. This may look like fatigue, brain fog, pregnancy issues, decreased libido, and trouble sleeping. Does that sound familiar?
The Liver. Healthy liver equals happy body. Part of the liver’s job is to deactivate hormones that no longer are in use or functioning as they should. These hormones then need to be broken down, conjugated, and removed from the body. Elevated cortisol (aka high stress) decreases the liver’s ability to detoxify and decrease the effectiveness of the liver pathways that perform the conjugation.
The Pancreas. The pancreas secretes insulin when the body triggers that insulin levels are not where they should be. Chronically elevated cortisol levels increase insulin production. High levels of insulin are not responded to properly by the cell’s insulin receptor — simply meaning, the cell will not allow the blood sugar to enter the cell and give it the energy it needs. This then sends a message to the pancreas and says,” Hey, can you try giving us another shot of insulin?” This puts a strain on the pancreas to secrete more insulin in order to transport glucose into the cells. This then leads to all the negative impacts that high insulin levels have on the body — insulin resistance and the health conditions associated with the body’s inability to control blood sugar. What does this ultimately mean? When cortisol is high, our body does not effectively read the message to lower blood sugar and our pancreas can not work efficiently to do it’s job. This can lead to a slew of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
5 Tips To Keep Your Stress Levels From Soaring
- Create more laughter in your day — everyday! Laughter really is the best medicine. By rapidly firing out endorphins in the brain, your mood increases and the stress-causing hormones (i.e., cortisol and adrenaline) decrease. Laughing tricks your nervous system into making you happy. Go and grab your copy of a funny skit that makes you laugh, like the classic Monty Python’s “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Those Brits are so hilarious, you’ll soon be cracking up, rather than cracking apart.
- Eat more Omega-3’s and healthy fats. Stress levels and a proper diet are best buds. When we’re overwhelmed, we often are hit with cravings and feelings of wanting comfort that can resort to using sugary, unhealthy fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and plan ahead with more Omega-3’s and healthy fats — such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, butter, etc. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress and healthy fats are crucial for supporting the brain and balancing out your hormones. A tuna sandwich with avocado really might be brain food.
- Breathe easier. Cliché is the term, “take a deep breath,” but it holds quite true when it comes to stress. Buddhist monks have been consciously and deliberately practicing breathing during meditations for centuries. But breathing easier comes with technique. Shallow breathing causes stress, while deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps you feel more centered, and clears the mind. For an easy three to five minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest and allowing your belly to expand out as you breath in (and pulling your belly in as you exhale).
- Listen to music. Music can be like a straight dose of happiness injected into your brain. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing music. Playing calm music or something that lightens your stress load and makes your feel upbeat has a positive effect on the brain and body. It can lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol. You could listen to an upbeat tune like Pharrell’s “Happy”, throw on your favorite classical track, or dive deep into ocean or nature sounds.
- Create a nighttime routine. Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse with time. Usually it is not the lack of desire to get sleep, rather the falling asleep is the problem! Nighttime routines are super helpful to get your brain primed for sleep and to get your body relaxed through habit and environmental cues. A nighttime routine could look like turning off the TV earlier, dimming the lights, making a cup of tea, taking an epsom salt bath, reading, and giving yourself time to relax before going to bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on my list.
Managing your stress and your endocrine system is not impossible. It takes some simple steps to get you on track and creating a strong foundation of balance and harmony. What is the one step you are going to start with today?
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