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.

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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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