Stress and Cortisol

Stress and Cortisol
Your body responds to all the stress in the same way, whether it’s something legitimately life-threatening, like a bear attack or a ridiculous work deadline. First your brain instructs your adrenal glands to release a burst of adrenaline which revs heart rate and frees up stored energy (glucose and fat) that you can use to fight a flee.  Next, your adrenal glands release cortisol which tells your body to replenish that energy by stimulating your appetite for high-calorie foods, unfortunately your brain doesn’t know if you actually burned any calories.
Cortisol then can stay in your system for hours. The result- you end up feeling really freaking hungry, even if you just have been sitting at your desk all day.  Cortisol has another sneaky tactic, during stressful times, it tells your body to store any unburned calories as fat-  typically belly fat.  Back in the day these reserves would ensure you had a quick source of fuel to flee from danger or survive famine.  Today they keep you from buttoning your pants.
There is an upside to all these changes! Occasional stress can help you rise to challenges, and in the right amounts, cortisol has many important functions, helping you form memories, reduce inflammation and maintain healthy blood pressure.  The key is getting a handle on your stress to make sure you don’t live in a chronically overwhelmed state.
Here are a few tips:
1.  Take a Deep Breath! Deep breathing calms the fight-or-flight response, releases feel- good hormones called endorphins, and gives you an opportunity to reconsider how to respond to a situation. Breathe in through nose for 5 seconds, allowing your belly to rise, hold for 5 seconds then slowly release through your mouth for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
2.  Move Your Body! Physical activity helps keep you fit by burning calories and it’s the most effective method of lowering circulating cortisol. Regular exercise has are better at getting rid of this hormone and at producing just enough of it compared with sedentary people.
3. Eat Real Food.  Focus on eating a whole foods based diet loaded with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains and seeds, lean meats and fish, good fats, like olive oil and fermented foods like yogurt or kefir. Not only do these foods keep blood sugar levels steady but they are also packed with stress- management nutrients like B vitamins magnesium, selenium, zinc and calcium.