Sun’s out, openings are becoming more frequent and the season of spring is proving itself to be here sooner than we thought.
You can’t help but find some inner turmoil between the comforts of staying at home and the thought of new exploration in once familiar territory which has been on pause for the last while. Challenged with thoughts of making the right decisions is one we’re all facing and the associated pressures can take their mental toll.
Stress inhabits the fibres in all of us. It’s how we react to it, which often dictates our body’s response to it.
Cortisol is sometimes described as nature’s built-in alarm system. It’s your body’s main stress hormone and it works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation and fear.
Your adrenal glands are triangle-shaped organs at the top of your kidneys which make the cortisol. It’s best known for helping fuel your body’s fight-or-flight instinct in a crisis, but cortisol plays an important role in a number of things your body does as well.
It manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins; increases your blood sugar values; controls your sleep/wake cycle; keeps inflammation at bay; regulates your blood pressure; and boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward.
When cortisol levels increase in response to stress, the cells of our body can also become resistant to insulin which might lead to an increase in blood sugar, weight gain and potentially Type 2 Diabetes.
The question is how we can regulate the amount of cortisol our bodies produce under significant episodes of either physical or mental stress.
The age-old debate of fitness and nutrition is a common reminder. Is energy output really all that matters for someone looking to modify their cortisol levels? Is a sound nutrition model on its own going to eradicate your body’s response to stress?
First steps: Exercise; limit alcohol; avoid caffeine, sugar, and processed food; and have a routine bed time and time to rise and enjoy the sunshine with a healthy walk.
Additionally, if you truly want to make a lasting difference towards your body’s stress response, here’s a simple strategy easier to say than do for most — nutrify yourself! This concept exists since research has proven that the body’s stress response is minimized in those who feel more empowered by taking charge of their health.
Therefore, it’s not solely the ingredients in the foods that aid in making the change, but more of the mental connection made in doing so, thereby contributing to the body’s positive response.
So, how do we get into the mindset of changing old habits?
Decision making to break common trends is easier said than done. Start small. Make each day a goal to get through with healthier choices and more water. Get some air. Nature is free. Not only does it provide necessary oxygen but the trade off of endorphins your body creates as a result of healthy movement increases the feeling of natural euphoria which contributes to a more positive mindset.
Ironically, highly-elevated cortisol can lead to insulin resistance and insulin resistance can lead to chronically elevated cortisol. It is also thought that insulin resistance is a major contributing factor to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which makes sense because insulin resistance causes increased testosterone in women.
Chronically elevated cortisol also impairs the liver’s abilities of collecting excess hormones and removing them from the body.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body cannot use carbohydrates efficiently. Normally when carbohydrates are ingested, they’re broken down into glucose and shuttled into the bloodstream. Blood sugar rises and insulin is secreted by the pancreas to move this glucose into cells, which it will use for energy or be stored as glycogen.
As insulin moves glucose from the bloodstream into cells, blood sugar returns to normal.
When you are insulin resistant, your body is resistant to insulins’ message and the pancreas secretes more insulin to get the cells to listen. Eventually, the pancreas wears out and can’t produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar stable. The blood sugar is chronically elevated and when it gets high enough, Type 2 diabetes is the result.
These are typical symptoms of cortisol mismanagement at the basic level. As you can see, nutrition plays a crucial role in management of our body systems.
Make this the beginning of the end to patterns no longer conducive to your intent behind being your best.
Take one day at a time, have patience and confidence, knowing that it takes time build on new habits to create success.
Story written by Shana Daniel, RHN