You may have heard that high cortisol symptoms are caused by adrenal fatigue - one of the most serious effects of stress on health. Always remember that high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) has a great impact on your body fat; it leads to accumulating a lot of abdominal fat and to an increased resistance to losing weight.
So if you're asking...
"How does stress affect health?"
...you should know that being overweight and unable to lose belly fat is one of the most visible effects.
And if you think that losing belly fat is exclusively about cutting calories and exercising more, think again.
Haven't you experienced the frustration of not being able to lose your abdominal fat despite eating right and exercising regularly?
Agonizing, isn't it?
I’ve been there.
It took me a long time to figure out what was going on. In fact, until I found out that the resistance to losing this abdominal fat is in fact one of the high cortisol symptoms (among many others that you'll find in the table below), high cortisol caused by chronic stress kept accumulating over a long time.
But what is cortisol?
A useful hormone that’s produced by the adrenal glands, cortisol helps regulate your blood sugar levels and your body's use of protein, carbohydrates and fat. It also aids in energy production, controls inflammation, the functioning of your immune system and healing in general.
But, under prolonged stress, cortisol levels become dangerously high.
Elevated cortisol levels stimulate the release of glucose in your blood (to prepare your body for the fight-or-flight response to any stressors), but - in the absence of fighting an attacking tiger or flying the danger scene - this excess sugar is converted into and stored as fat - ouch!
That's why one of the nastiest symptoms of high cortisol that you’ll ever experience is increased body fat, particularly in the abdominal area.
And there’s more.
Adrenal fatigue and high cortisol levels not only make it very easy to put on a lot of body fat - losing it becomes almost impossible.
There's one important point to remember when talking about how does stress affect health:
can't feel an elevated cortisol level immediately.
Rather, you start experiencing its negative impact on your health gradually, as its effects accumulate over time, in months or years.
For example, it may start with only a few milder symptoms, like occasional mood swings, brain fog, irritability...
...Then, other things start to bother you: frequent colds or infections, unstoppable food cravings, anxiety, poor sleep and even depression.
Let's now take a look at...
...when you've been under prolonged stress:
Medical research also lists among the symptoms of high cortisol a condition called Cushing's Syndrome. While in men it manifests as a loss of libido and low fertility level, in women its symptoms can vary from growth of hair on the face to an irregular menstrual cycle. In fact, under intense and prolonged stress, many women experience premature menopause.
The bottom line is this. Along with the symptoms listed above, both men and women experience weight gain and an increased resistance to lose the belly fat.
...is not easy if you don’t have some reliable relaxation techniques to release stresses of all sorts, which accumulate over time. Whether you experience physical stress like, chronic pain, overwork, lack of sleep, poor nutrition...
...or psychological stress like, a demanding job, unemployment, worry over relationships or money issues, anxiety, unresolved emotional distress like frustration and resentment, your body reacts to it by releasing increasingly more cortisol in your blood stream to help cope with it.
So, what can you do?
Sure, the obvious choice would be to reduce the stressors in your life--good luck with that!
However, what you CAN do is use some fun ways to relieve stress regularly so it does not accumulate.
Pick some anxiety and stress management techniques that work for you:
...or any other enjoyable activity that kicks your endorphins and makes you release stress - except eating, of course ;)
Here are two (almost instant) stress relaxation techniques for reducing cortisol levels.