I spent a few hours this week checking in with my Plexus customers to see how they are doing. I wanted to see if anyone was not having success, and if that was the case, help trouble shoot why. After checking in with most everyone, I discovered that it was time to have a discussion about the “BAD BOY” in all of our lives and how it can reek havoc on your health and weight loss goals. Who is this bad boy? His name is CORTISOL and he is Not your friend.
Cortisol is the hormone that is released by your adrenal glands during times of stress. It is known of as the fight or flight hormone and it is the hormone that saved the lives of our ancestors. See bear. That bear can kill you. You have two choices: stay and fight or run away. Adrenaline and cortisol get released and you run away real fast. Or you stay and fight the bear. Hopefully, you ran.
The problem in our modern day society is that we are not fighting or running from bears. Instead we work long hours, have incredible demands placed on us by both work and home, we shuffle kids all over the place, we are sleep deprived by newborns. We experience emotional stressors from difficult family relationships, troubled marriages, out of control teenagers, kids with emotional/behavioral/physical limitations and disabilities. We live in a difficult economy and financial pressures are weighing on us as we try to find better jobs, reduce spending, live on a budget, pay the mortgage etc. Do I need to go on?
So what happens when you are under chronic stress? Hopefully you have good self care and you spend some time each day doing contemplative thinking/meditation, you breathe deep, you go to the gym and get a good sweaty workout, you make time for yourself and you get really, really good deep restful sleep every night? Are you doing that? no? That’s exactly what I suspected.
If you are not taking steps to reduce the stress in your life and you are not doing anything to “burn” through the extra cortisol your adrenals are pumping out it is going to result in a few things: fatigue, weight gain (around your middle especially), sugar cravings, sleep is that is interrupted (waking every night between 2-4 pm is a huge clue) or not being able to sleep. And even when you do sleep you will wake up feeling unrefreshed. Additionally, you will begin to experience issues with your immune system: chronic sinus infections are a big offender, or catching any and every bug that is out there. You may also begin to experience major issues with your menstrual cycle. Erratic periods, no periods, periods every 2 weeks, awful PMS, bloating, painful breats etc … The reason for this is that your hormones work in a cascade. That means one hormone gets made from another. Cortisol is made from progesterone. So when you are stressed and your body can’t keep up it siphons progesterone to make more cortisol. This is how a lot of women end up with progesterone deficiency and the litany of issues that go along with that and estrogen dominance.
But wait, it gets even better. Because in time, as your adrenals begin to become quite tired, your body decides to “down-regulate” and conserve energy for your survival. And it begins this process of down regulation by having your thyroid become sluggish. Your thyroid helps control your metabolism (and a gagillion other things too). At its root, thyroid disease is a metabolic disorder. As the thyroid slows down you will experience less energy, weight gain, all over aches and pains, your hair will start to fall out, you will feel exhausted all day, your skin will be dry, your cycle will continue to be off, you will be constipated, you will not sleep well and you will experience anxiety, depression, heart palpitations, low libido etc … Good times.
Is any of this sounding familiar? Do you feel like I am holding a mirror up to your face? Ok good.
Hopefully you know from researching Plexus that it is FIRST a health and wellness company. The products they have developed are designed to get your body healthy from the inside out. By addressing issues like candida, an acidic and oxygen deprived gut, balancing blood sugars and lipids, and lowering LDL cholesterol these products work in synergy to get you feeling better. And weight loss is just a happy side effect!!!
But Plexus is not a miracle pill and if you live a lifestyle that places your body under the demands of chronic stress, and the myriad of health issues that accompany it, you may not find the success that you have hoped for. Will Plexus help still? Yes! Getting your gut healthy and lowering your blood sugar will benefit your hormones tremendously. That is why some of people have reported other tremendous benefits but no weight loss.
So what do you do about high cortisol? First and foremost you have to take inventory of your life and see where you can reduce and eliminate stress. I realize the society we live in means that stress is an inevitable part of our lives, but there are steps you can take to improve it! Exercise is one! Getting sweaty everyday can really help to reduce cortisol. But you need to be mindful of the type of exercise. When dealing with high cortisol options like yoga, weight lifting, walking are all great choices. Running and other intense exercise can actually raise your cortisol levels and lower your thyroid levels. This is something that I, myself, have to be very mindful of. Even time spent in a sauna can be beneficial because you are sweating out the toxins.
Secondly, you can add supplements known as adaptogens into your regimen. Adaptogens do just what the name implies: they help your body adapt to and better handle stress. They can help lower cortisol where it is too high and raise it where it may need slight improvement. My favorite adaptogen is called Rhodiola Rosea. It is an ancient herb that has been proven to lower cortisol. There are also several adaptogenic blends of herbs that are great. My favorite is called Stress Response made by Gaia. These herbs will help lower cortisol and all of its negative side effects. They will also help you sleep better. Fish oil and vitamin B12 will also help.
Third, sleep. A good nights sleep is the BEST possible thing you can do for yourself when you are dealing with stress. Go to bed early and sleep as late as you can. Try to get a minimum of 7 – 9 hours of sleep. If you and get extra sleep on the weekends then take advantage of that. Your body needs sleep to heal and reset the adrenals. Go to bed before 11, preferably by 10. Leave the TV off and silence your phone. A dark environment is imperative. Get a sleep mask if necessary. Also cover any electronic devices that emit a blue light with electrical tape. The light, blue in particular, has been shown to upset the release of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to induce sleep.
Fourth, your diet. Caffeine is the worst enemy of cortisol. It spikes your blood sugar and adrenaline and can fuel cortisol over production. This causes issues with blood sugar regulation and creates cravings for both salty and sweet convenience foods. It can also lead to hypoglycemic episodes of shaking, sweating and dizziness. Not fun. Unhealthy food choices will not help either. Your body is crying out for foods that will help heal and restore. Anything processed should be avoided. Foods that are nutrient dense like kale, spinach, sweet potatoes etc are full of vitamins and minerals. Your adrenals also LOVE vitamin C and B-complex vitamins so adding these as a supplement is advisable.
So am I asking you to take some time and really evaluate your current stress level and see if there are some things that I have written here that resonate with you on a personal level. If so, make some room in your life to implement some of the suggestions I have made. Do some research on cortisol and adrenal health. Continue with your Plexus products and chronicle EVERY non-scale victory you experience: more energy, better sleep, better moods, having at least 3 regular bowel movements per day, no PMS, improved cycles, better stamina, increased libido, cleared up skin, reduced bloating, etc …
I am attaching an article written by Dr. Sara Gottfried, author of “The Hormone Cure” Here she discusses the BAD BOY: Cortisol and her tips for lowering it.