Stress hormone, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine are released by the body in situations that are interpreted as being potentially dangerous. The hormone regulating system is known as the endocrine system. Cortisol is believed to affect the metabolic system and epinephrine is believed to play a role in ADHD as well as depression and hypertension. Stress hormones act by mobilizing energy from storage to muscles, increasing heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate and shutting down metabolic processes such as digestion, reproduction, growth and immunity.

Previously, when stress was not an everyday occurrence, cortisol levels rose in result of starvation or predator attack. Elevated levels of stress hormone gave the power to people so that they could survive the food shortages or escape from the danger. However, if stress hormone levels are elevated all the time, your body thinks you need an extra energy in the form of excess fat. Therefore, it will be difficult to lose weight under the constant stress, even if you follow your diet precisely.

In addition, stress hormone differs from other hormones with its feature to raise the blood pressure and increase the blood sugar. Chronic high blood pressure increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes development. Effective stress management and, consequently, the cortisol management helps to avoid complications and protects your immune system.

Constant stress causes continual release of various stress hormones which can cause:

  • A depletion of energy storage
  • Stress-induced hypertension
  • Effects on metabolic processes
  • Ulcers (digestion)
  • Hampered growth
  • Decrease in testosterone levels in males and irregular menstrual cycles in females.
  • Increased likelihood of infectious diseases
  • Depression
  • Ghost symptoms of other health conditions (acute in nature)
  • Neurological disorders
  • IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Addictions
  • Mental conditions such as compulsive disorders

How to reduce levels of stress hormone?

Techniques that may help reduce stress are: Massage Therapy, scheduling time off, meditation, deep breathing, music, physical activities other than the stress inducing routine activities, relaxing shower/bath/or hot tub, laughing (comedy), traveling, sleep, etc. As well, new scientific studies suggest that using certain diet can significantly reduce the level of stress hormone in the body. Thus, pay attention to your daily diet and incorporate the following foods in your menu.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Scientists say that taking the fish oil for 3 weeks reduces the level of stress hormone, compared with those in the control group, who did not take it. The fact is that fish oils contain a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include: salmon (not farm raised but caught in Alaska), halibut, mackerel, walnuts, almonds and linseed oil.

Vitamin C

Increasing the intake of vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits, sweet peppers and dark green leafy vegetables also significantly reduces the level of cortisol in blood. These are the results of a study conducted in the University of Alabama.

Low glycemic index food

The glycemic index (GI) – is an identifier of speed with which the starch is breaking down in the human body as opposed to the rate of glucose breakdown, which glycemic index is commonly accepted as a standard reference (its GI has the value of 100). The faster the product is breaking down – the higher GI index. Foods with a high glycemic index get into the human body and are quickly digested, which raises the blood sugar levels and stimulates the pancreas to release insulin. Thus, if your daily diet consists mainly of food with a high glycemic index, which means that your body often experiences the release of insulin, then you probably won’t be able to lose your weight and reduce the levels of cortisol. The optimal glycemic index has protein foods (eggs, lean meat, milk foods, fish), vegetables and whole grain products.

Dark chocolate

Good news for the chocolate lovers. Researchers from Switzerland have clarified the effect of dark chocolate on metabolism and cortisol levels. At the end of the two-week study, the researchers have found that people, who ate 40 grams of dark chocolate a day, had reduced stress hormone levels.

Artwork: “Cortisol-3D-balls” by Ben Mills.