FIT Talk With Tania  

Fifteen signs you have high cortisol and what you can do about it

Regulating cortisol levels

Cortisol, is a buzzword that's popping up everywhere as we move into 2024.

But what exactly is cortisol and why should you be concerned about it?

In order to understand why it would be important to pay attention to it, you need to understand what cortisol is. It’s a hormone produced in the adrenal glands and is released when your brain perceives you are in danger. However, whether you are in actual physical danger or your brain perceives you're in danger, the result is the same.

For example, if you're out camping and come across a bear, your brain will trigger a danger response, releasing hormones, including cortisol, to prepare you for the physical response of either fighting or running away—the “fight or flight” response.

That same physiological response also happens when your brain merely perceives a threat, like that time your alarm didn't go off, you woke up late and went into overdrive to get to work as quickly as possible in an attempt to avoid being reprimanded.

You were in “danger” of getting reprimanded, or possibly fired, but that’s hardly comparable to duking it out with a grizzly.

Most of us would refer to the latter situation as stressful rather than dangerous.

Even though the severity of each situation is miles apart, your body will react the same for each. That is important to note when it comes to knowing where you are with your cortisol levels and whether they are something you should be addressing.

Cortisol plays a crucial role in regulating energy, metabolism, inflammation and controlling the sleep cycle. We need it as it helps with that fight or flight response when we truly are in danger.

But what if your body is constantly releasing cortisol because it perceives you're in danger when you're not? Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Getting up and exercising and moving your body daily helps to strengthen your muscles, including your heart and lungs and has a multitude of health benefits. Working out to the point of exhaustion, pain and/or fatigue on a daily basis however, actually causes damage to your muscles and joints and you'll likely end up hating exercise, not doing any and being worse off in the long run.

Eating healthy, balanced meals stabilizes blood sugar and hormones, which in turn allows you to maintain good health and healthy weight, have good energy and keep your metabolism turned on. Oh the other hand, never having that slice of birthday cake, piece of pizza or Christmas cookie only leads to stressing over food, guilt and disordered eating. With the exception of very rare instances, extremes in anything don't serve your body or your health well, and cortisol is no different.

Cortisol is a hormone and hormones help regulate all parts of the body. How do you know when your body's been producing more than what it needs?

Here are 15 signs your cortisol is elevated and your body is working overtime. If you've noticed or are struggling with any or all of these—weight gain, puffy/flushed face, mood swings/easily frustrated with small things, memory problems/brain fog, increased anxiety, fatigue, sleep issues, high blood pressure, acne, struggle to focus, sugar cravings, digestive issues, low immune system, change in libido, excessive thirst —you should be looking at how to start bringing down cortisol levels.

The worst part is some of these issues can actually trigger your body to release even more cortisol, which, of course, perpetuates and even worsens the cycle keeping you stuck, uncomfortable and at risk for metabolic disease the longer it carries on. Identifying these signs and working to bring down cortisol, not simply brushing them off as something expected with age, is critical for overall health and disease prevention. Age, in and of itself, doesn't determine health outcomes. It's more about the length of time you've been doing something that is not serving your body. It's the small things we do, or don't do, consistently over time that yield a result – good or bad.

As for cortisol, it is triggered by danger and stress. While it's unlikely you'll run into any bears on the way to work, stress on the other hand, is everywhere. Less stress means fewer danger signals, which means less cortisol pumping through your body.

But as much as we know bringing down stress is good for us, it's sometimes not an easy thing to do.

We can't often control what comes at us that triggers that stress response but we can control how we respond to it. Eating clean, balanced foods, making time for movement, staying hydrated and supplementing with the right strains of good bacteria to restore your gut microbiome are essential to managing stress.

More than 90% of the hormones that make us happy, regulate our moods and help us sleep are made in the gut. Fix the gut and you're happier, better able to handle what life throws at you and cortisol comes down naturally.

If you've got a “gut feeling” that's what's fuelling your cortisol, email [email protected] and request a free video with a proven solution.

The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute medical advice. All information and content are for general information purposes only.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


A really crappy problem for your body

Healthy digestion

We've all got that friend who's never at a loss for a bathroom joke.

And although we all laugh, for a great many people, digestive and elimination issues are no-go. Literally.

I realize no one likes discussing their bathroom habits and schedule, but the bottom line is avoiding the issue will only increase the problem.

About 25 years ago, my youngest had a blocked colon. She had been complaining of stomach pains for quite a while but because she was having a bowel movement everyday, doctors would not do the x-ray necessary to take a peek inside. That was until she started waking up in the middle of the night in pain.

When they finally did take a look, there was, “more than we'd like to see in there,” which, given what they prescribed to help clean her out, was code for, “We did not expect this.”

I share that to say one normal-looking bowel movement per day doesn't always mean things are as normal as they should be on the inside.

Think about it. Every time you take in food, your body extracts the nutrients and good stuff it needs to send out to your body and discards the crap. It's literally your body's version of taking out the trash.

What happens when you get lazy and the trash can doesn't get taken out when it should? It can start to smell, it's hard to put any more garbage in, and when you do, you've got to stretch the bag to make it all fit. When you do decide to finally take out the trash, it's really hard to pull that bag out of the can because the amount of trash going in hasn't stopped, and in order to fit, it ended up getting packed in there.

Your body's not so different. Gas, bloating, harder, fewer and more difficult poops that keep you in the bathroom longer trying to pass them are all signs your “trash” needs to be taken out, and you probably shouldn't wait. It’s not a pretty visual but you get the point. It's important not to get lazy with the things that keep your body taking out the trash consistently. FYI, that's gonna be more than just once per day.

Surprisingly, when I discuss with clients their number one and number two bathroom habits, many view taking a trip to the bathroom as an inconvenience, annoying and something that gets in the way of what's happening in their day. Some will purposefully avoid drinking water or eating anything at all in order not have to ask the person beside them on a plane to let them out to go to the bathroom, not to stop for a break on a road trip or not to use the bathroom at the grocery store.

Are you really saving time or being any more productive by not taking out your “trash”? Continuing to pack more in so that when you finally do decide it's time to dump it out, it takes a lot longer and is more difficult to try and get that trash bag out, if you can even get it all?

The more often that happens and the longer toxic trash hangs around inside your body, the more inflammation you'll have and the greater havoc it will wreak with your health. A pretty crappy situation for sure.

Inflammation is the root cause of all disease. You'll never be able to eliminate it entirely, but doing everything you can to keep inflammation to a minimum, like doing things to support a good pooping environment, reduces your risk of disease.

Cleaning up a crappy diet is just about the simplest and most effective way to bring down inflammation and gets things moving again. Choose whole, single ingredient foods and ditch the packaged and fast options 80 to 90% of the time. The more often you eat fast food, the slower your digestion and elimination will be. Choose organic and non-GMO whenever possible. Sprays, pesticides and herbicides are toxins and disrupt your body's systems.

Eat small, balanced meals that include a clean protein, fruit and/or veggie carbs, together with a healthy fat frequently throughout the day. Your body can only properly take in and metabolize a certain amount of food at a time and giving it too much will fill up that garbage can more quickly.

Replace coffee, soda, juice and alcohol with water 80 to 90% of the time to keep your body properly hydrated and consistently flushing out toxins.

Fill in your nutritional gaps. Soil is depleted, produce is harvested before it's ripe, food just doesn't have the nutriitonal value it did a few generations ago. In order to get the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your body needs, you'd need to eat between 13 and 15 servings of fruits and veggies every day. Most are lucky if they get in four to six per day, creating gaps in nutrition that need to be filled.

Our bodies are not designed to live in disease, they are designed to heal. And when you give it what it needs consistently, it will thrive and you get to enjoy optimal health and feel great.

For more information on gut how to improve health email [email protected] to request a free video.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Overwhelmed to organized in three simple steps

Organizing your life

Unfortunately, busier doesn't necessarily equate to more productivity. Often it's just the opposite.

The holidays are over. The kids are back in school. It’s the perfect time to get things organized as we head into 2024— at least in theory it's the perfect time.

I hear it a lot from clients — “I know what to do, I'm just not doing it.” And I'm not just talking about weight loss here either. So why is it so many people struggle with not doing things they absolutely know would make their lives, easier, more fun, healthier (physically, financially, mentally, emotionally) and just better in so many ways?

More people are juggling more things on more plates today than ever before. If you need proof, just take note of the answer next time you ask someone, “How's your day going?”, “How were your holidays?”, “How's things going at work?” etc. The answer is always the same, “Busy!”.

Unfortunately, busier doesn't necessarily equate to more productivity. Often it's just the opposite. With so many things to juggle and deal with little or no plan in place as to how to effectively manage and accomplish all that needs to happen, a large swath of the population is on overwhelm overload.

Overwhelm overload comes not just from the physical tasks on our lists, but the perceived agenda swirling around in your brain that goes with those physical tasks. For example, you end up staying a little late at work. In the grand scheme of things, most rational people would agree that 20 to 30 minutes of anything isn't worth stressing over. But it's not just the time, it's the perceived tasks that start swirling around in your brain that go something like this:

Leaving work late means you won't have time to grab those things at the store before picking up your son and his friend after practice. Which means you'll either have to backtrack with kids in the car and then drop the friend off, which means dinner (you can't even remember if you took anything out to make dinner) will be even later, or fit it in tomorrow. Unless you end up working late again. Perhaps lunch hour would work?

We've all been there. What most people don't realize is it's really not the things that create the stress, it's the mindset around them that fuels the stress response and makes you feel overwhelmed. Our thoughts and beliefs dictate our actions and our actions dictate our results.

No one will gett productive results when a ton of new things to do start taking over your headspace every time there's a blip in your day. You can't prevent those blips from happening, but you can put things in place to foster the right mindset and shift from overwhelmed to organized when they do.

There are three things I've found to be essential when it comes to organization in all areas. The first and most important is to have a good morning routine. It's cliche but that saying, “When you win the morning, you win the day” is absolutely true. What you do first thing sets the tone for the rest of the day. Setting aside just 10 to 15 minutes each morning, before you check your phone, laptop or tablet to read something positive, journal, meditate, or pray, sets your intention of what kind of day you want to have. Then you can check your schedule and make any adjustments before you get going to start the day calm, focused and confident.

The second is to have a plan. Also cliche but equally true, “No one plans to fail, they simply fail to plan.”

A simple plan on the other hand can be life-changing. Take10 to 15 mins every weekend and jot down your list of things that need to get done that week. Then from that list, mark three things that need to get done for Monday, three for Tuesday, three for Wednesday, etc., and then those mini lists become your “to do” list for the day.

Rather than looking at a huge list of 15 to 20 items with just three or four things ticked off at the end of the day and feeling the angst and overwhelm fire up and burn all week, you see a mini list of just three, maybe four items, all ticked off at the end of the day.

That thought alone should make you smile. Imagine feeling satisfied at having accomplished everything you set out to do, not just on Monday, but everyday? It's like how you eat an elephant, one bite at a time.

The last one doesn't require time or a plan per se. It's about knowing how to properly classify and organize all the things to work for you.

Pretend a mason jar represents the time in your day. Rocks represent the important must-dos, small pebbles represent the urgent/would-like-to dos, and sand represents the extras and fun. The only way to get all these to fit into your time jar simultaneously is to put the big important must-do rocks in first, the urgent/would-like-to pebbles next, and the fun sand last.

You don't need more time, you just need to make more of your time count.

Click for more information on organizing a healthy body, mind, and lifestyle in 2024 or to register for Tania's small group coach kicking off Jan. 16.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Clear the clutter, physically and mentally

New year, less clutter

With the holidays officially wrapped up for another year, many of us are likely feeling the urge to box up and put away the last of the decorations, unplug those outdoor lights (let's face it, nobody is removing them in this deep freeze) and generally de-clutter for a fresh start to the year.

Just because that urge is there however, doesn't mean it's going to get done anytime soon. My husband onced worked with someone who left their Christmas tree up and decorated year round, covered with a sheet in the off season, so they didn't have to get it out or box it up each December. And extreme example of letting clutter collect, but you get the point.

There are two types of clutter, physical and mental. Physical clutter is the obvious stuff you can see at home, in your office office or workspace, etc., as well as what you can feel in your body. Things like low energy, poor digestion, inflammation, bloat are all cluttering up your insides.

Mental clutter is all the self talk that comes with the physical clutter. How many times have you said “I know what to do but I'm just not doing it.”, and that triggers the negative voices to start up in your head?

I do a weekly coaching call every Wednesday and this past week, we tackled how to clear the clutter, physically and mentally, in order to move into 2024 energized and set up to thrive. Here's the lesson we did.

Let's start with physical clutter. Grab a notebook and pen and write “physical - environment” at the top. Think of the space around you, where you spend the most time each day and where the clutter is that you've been meaning to get to. It might not be out in the open, it might be squirrelled away in a closet, garage, drawers or a room you avoid like the plague because it triggers such stress just looking at it. Write them down on the list.

Now make a second heading, “physical – body” and give yourself a little once over. Now you've heard me say before, I don't advocate making resolutions as they lead to diets which lead to unhealthy relationships with food and your body. That being said, it doesn't mean you shouldn't take care of the things that aren't serving your health goals. Maybe you're not getting enough sleep, or drinking enough water. Maybe you're feeling bloated and puffy after the holidays. Maybe you've had some red flags when it comes to health. Whatever they are, write them down.

Then move on to the mind and all the mental clutter taking up space in your brain. Add the last heading, “mental”, to your page. What are you telling yourself when you know what to do but aren't doing it? “It's OK, you're busy? It can wait another month?” “You can't do it by yourself, that's never going to work?” “Don't waste your time, you're going to fail just like last time you tried?” “This is what happens when you get older, just accept it?”

Whatever it is that comes to mind whenever you start to feel motivated to try and tackle something.

It’s good to be visualize tasks because often the negative self-talk, those voices that come in, the mental clutter often makes it seem like there are way more tasks or items and they're far more difficult to accomplish than they really are. Think, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You're going to break yours down into bite-sized pieces.

From both parts of your “physical” list, highlight, star or mark in some way, the top three from each that you would benefit you most to complete. From those groups of three, choose one from each that you feel you can get started on in the next 24 to 48 hours and circle them. Now you have just those two things on your clutter-clearing list. Must less overwhelming and more doable.

From your “mental” list, circle the phrase that stops you in your tracks and often brings with it feelings of guilt, depression, failure, etc., all things that keep you from being productive, achieving your goals and feeling that sense of accomplishment we all need to thrive.

Whatever phrase you circled, you're now going to rewrite it in the positive. For example, “Don't waste your time, you're going to fail again” becomes “Health is never a waste of time. I will focus on small steps each day so I can be consistent and reach my goals”. Say it out loud. Write it down and post it where you will see it first thing in the morning and throughout the day. Make it a screen saver on your phone. Have it available so when the clutter tries to creep back in – and it will – you have a rebuttal ready.

Talk positively to yourself. Read, watch and listen to things that encourage, break down tasks into small, bite-sized pieces and give yourself grace. You'll find yourself naturally shift to doing and accomplishing more of the things you know you should be.

For more information on achieving your body, mind, lifestyle goals watch this video. For Tania's Resolve to Do it Different group coaching program starting Jan. 16, find info and register here.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Nutritionist Tania Gustafson, owner of FIT Nutrition, has been active in the health and fitness industry since 1986 when she entered as a fitness instructor and trainer.

In 2011, Tania partnered with internationally renowned nutrition and fitness expert Mark Macdonald, and in 2017 officially earned the title of Master Nutrition Coach in conjunction with Venice Nutrition and the International Board of Nutrition and Fitness Coaches (IBNFC).

Tania is one of only five health professionals licensed and certified in Canada to deliver this proven, three-phase program of blood sugar stabilization, not dieting.Tania is committed to ending the dieting madness both locally and globally and educates her clients on how to increase health with age.

Tania is able to work with clients across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. to restore health and achieve their weight loss goals.Tania is a wife, mother of three adult children, global entrepreneur, speaker, workshop facilitator, writer, blogger, podcast host, travel junkie and self-proclaimed gym rat.

For more information and to book your complimentary health assessment go to www.fuelignitethrive.com. Check https://www.facebook.com/fuelignitethrive/  and https://www.facebook.com/groups/8weeksisallittakes/

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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