Belly Fat and Cortisol Connection – 8 Tips to Curb Cortisol

We always seem to blame belly fat on sedentary lifestyle, too much beer, unhealthy eating or all of the above. While these do play a large role in creating excess weight, another reason for belly fat, stress, is often overlooked.

Cortisol is a stress hormone responsible for the, “flight or flight” response.  This response is governed by the “sympathetic” branch of the nervous system, part of the autonomic nervous system.  It is the primary stress hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands that sit right on top of the kidneys.  Mother nature has equipped us with this hormone to help us out in stressful situations.  Think running away from a lion or other growling beast ready to have you for dinner.  It is because of cortisol that we are able to harness a strong and quick boost of energy when we need it most.  In the short term, our senses are highly aroused, we think more quickly, our pain tolerance and our immune system are increased.  In the old days there weren’t so many situations where we had to use this incredible stress provoking system.

Today, stress response is everywhere. The problem is NOT cortisol release.  It is the constant elevation of cortisol that can run us into trouble.  Chronic stress is the main culprit, as it causes cortisol to interfere with the exact systems it’s supposed to support.  This can lead to a variety of issues including increased abdominal fat, blood sugar imbalances, adrenal fatigue, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, decreased bone density/muscle mass and lowered immune response.

In order to rebalance cortisol levels we must reduce stress and engage in activities that promote the relaxation response in the body which is held largely by the “parasympathetic nervous system”.  The parasympathetic nervous system supports digestive and repair processes and opposes the effects of the sympathetic nervous system.

Ways to Reduce Stress and Cortisol Output:

1.  Identify your primary stressor. Focus on reducing stress in the area that is causing the most problems.    Most of the time, alleviating the chief stressors in your life creates a domino effect and also reduces the other minor stressors.

2. Utilize stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis, belly breathing at stressful times throughout the day.  Great info here:

3. Get to bed on time.  10:30 at the latest.  Physical repairs mostly take place in our body at night between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am.

4. Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar.  Stimulants shift the body into “sympathetic dominance” ie. “flight or fight”.  If you must have your coffee, do so before noon and stick to one cup.

5. Eat and hydrate at regular intervals throughout the day.  Skipping meals creates a cortisol release.  Dehydration is a common cause of internal stress.  (1% reduction of water content in your central nervous system can cause significant psychological disorders)

6.  Eat right for your Metabolic Type.  Eating too many carbohydrates for your metabolic type creates a cortisol release in response to constantly elevated insulin levels.

I’ll be talking about Metabolic Typing in a future blog post, so stay tuned!!

7.  Go out of your way to eat as much organic and free-range food as possible.  The more conventionally grown food you eat, the more toxins you consume.  The more toxins you consume, the more metabolic stress you have to endure.

8. Don’t over train.  Keep workouts under an hour.  At the 1 hour mark, testosterone begins to decline and cortisol levels increase.  “Regular intense exercise may increase total cortisol release far above the moderate training effect. If you are are at risk for certain diseases, you may want to consider limiting the time you spend participating in stressful exercise (either for longer than 60 minutes or increasing heart rate about 180 beats per minute)” Read more:

These effective approaches to reducing stress will help reduce your stress levels by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system.  Stay tuned for more info on how to optimize this important branch of the nervous system!

Cat Dillon

This blog is my journal, where I share everything wellness. From tips on healthy lifestyle to creating as much deliciousness in your life as possible.

Cat Dillon is the Cat in Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.

Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness is a unique combo of nutrition, fitness and cooking coaching all in one pretty package. Read more about Caterpillar Nutrition and Wellness.

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