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What is cortisol and how do we manage it?

Cortisol is a glucocortocoid hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It plays a crucial role in the body's stress response and helps regulate various functions, including metabolism, immune response, muscle building and blood pressure.

While cortisol is essential for our survival, chronic or excessive levels of cortisol can have negative effects on our health.

Understanding what cortisol is and how to manage it can help promote overall well-being.

When we experience stress, whether it's physical, emotional, or psychological, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol as part of the "fight or flight" response.

This response prepares our body to handle the stressor by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels. Once the stressor is gone, cortisol levels should return to normal.

However, in today's fast-paced and high-stress world, many people experience chronic stress, leading to prolonged elevation of cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol over an extended period can have detrimental effects on our health. It can contribute to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen, as cortisol promotes the storage of fat and increases appetite by maintaining elevated sugars in the bloodstream. It will change the look of our skin prematurely aging us with bruises, wrinkles, flushing give us a round face, or what is also referred to as a "buffalo hump." We can end up with anxiety, depression, irritability and brain fog. Elevated blood pressure which is often treated with a drug without appropriate guidance, Increased thirst and excessive urination, (bed wetting for children is a side effect of elevated cortisol) and finally, upper body weakness with a lack of muscle tone.

This is a classic menopause symptom but not specific to just menopause.

Elevated cortisol levels can also lead to sleep disturbances, mood swings, weakened immune function, and impaired cognitive function. Managing cortisol levels is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being.

Stress management techniques: Engaging in stress-reducing activities can help lower cortisol levels. Consistent practices such as warm baths, deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can all promote relaxation and reduce stress.

This is a primary conversation in my practice as most of my clients are “wired and tired.”

Regular exercise: Physical activity is an effective way to manage cortisol levels. When the mood is elevated, the body goes into a more relaxed state giving the internal message that all is calm in the environment.

Over achievers be aware, this can be a prime elevator of cortisol levels. Understand where you are on the metabolic chart from a 1-10 and determine your ability of exercise from there.

Adequate sleep: Getting enough quality sleep is essential for cortisol regulation. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and establish a consistent sleep routine. Create a relaxing sleep environment, limit exposure to electronic devices before bed, and practice relaxation techniques to promote better sleep. This though is a chicken/egg scenario as elevated cortisol is a primary consideration in sleep disturbance. The best way to reduce cortisol and get a good nights sleep is to honor your circadian rhythm. Watching a sun rise and set is the most effective thing you can do to rebalance the circadian hormones. When we use our devices after the sun has gone down, we are preventing melatonin from being released.

Balanced diet: A healthy, balanced diet can help regulate cortisol levels. Avoid excessive consumption of sugary and processed foods, as they can contribute to inflammation and stress on the body. Instead, focus on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Incorporate foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as foods high in magnesium and vitamin C, which can support adrenal health.

Avoid a very low carbohydrate diet as this can increase cortisol levels. The very act of gluconeogenesis, the ability to endogenously put glucose into the bloodstream requires cortisol.

Relaxation techniques: Incorporate relaxation techniques into your day to help manage cortisol levels. This can include activities such as taking a warm epsom salt bath, practicing deep breathing, listening to calming music, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation.

Creativity, breath and music have shown in research to have profound effects in lowering cortisol levels.

In my distance sessions, my primary intention and goal is to help you relax enough to begin allowing the body to leave the danger zone and enter a zone of peace and subsequent healing.



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