How High, Stress-Induced Cortisol Levels Cause Stubborn Belly Fat & Disrupted Sleep
In today’s fast-paced world, stress is an inevitable part of life. However, when cortisol (the stress hormone) becomes imbalanced, it can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues, including muscle tension, high blood pressure, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and the dreaded, stubborn lower belly fat, commonly referred to as a “stress belly”.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It plays a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and the body’s inflammatory response. When cortisol levels are high, the body is in a state of “fight or flight,” and is geared towards survival. This is useful in short-term stress situations, but chronic stress can lead to an inappropriate or unnecessary surge of cortisol, leading to an imbalance.
One of the most visible, frustrating signs of cortisol imbalance is the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area, particularly in women. Chronic or prolonged stress increases cortisol levels, which stimulates the production of fat, especially in the abdominal region and upper back, and also increases cravings for high-calorie, sugary foods. This belly fat is not only difficult to tone, even through dedicated exercise, but it also increases the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
A cortisol imbalance can also affect the mind by disrupting sleep patterns, leading to a higher risk of insomnia and feelings of anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce excess cortisol and promote greater balance. Dietary changes such as increasing protein intake, reducing refined carbohydrates and processed foods, and eating more anti-inflammatory foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids can help. Another way is to exercise regularly, as physical activity can promote the release of endorphins, which can counteract the negative effects of cortisol. Stress-reducing practices like yoga and meditation promote relaxation and mindfulness. Additionally, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol consumption, and reducing caffeine intake (especially after 3pm) can help.
Studies have also shown that CBD can be beneficial in reducing stress levels and promoting recovery after a workout, sports game, or exercise. Recent research found that a moderate to strong dose of CBD has the potential to interfere with the secretion of cortisol, decreasing its prevalence in plasma samples. These are incredible findings and shine a light on additional steps we can take to effectively reduce physical and emotional stress on the brain and body. Seeking out a CBD-rich tincture formula or a CBD capsule enhanced with the tension-melting cannabinoid, CBG, can be a great option to explore.
It’s clear that cortisol plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s response to stress, but when those levels become imbalanced, it can lead to a host of physical and mental health issues. Dietary and lifestyle changes, including exercise and incorporating stress-reducing practices from meditation to CBD can reduce stress levels and promote greater balance. It’s important to remember that it’s not about eliminating stress from our lives, but learning how to manage it in a healthy way.