Is inflammation taking over your body? Are you struggling with migraines, joint pain, or fluid retention? Or perhaps you keep gaining weight despite eating healthy? If so, stress might be the culprit.
When you’re stressed, cortisol levels go up. This hormone can take a toll on your mind and body, causing a chain reaction. In the long run, it leads to inflammation, chronic pain, weight gain, and metabolic disorders.
What Is the Role of Cortisol in the Body?
Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It’s released during times of stress, helping you stay alert. For instance, when you’re in traffic, your cortisol levels increase. This triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response, which acts as a survival mechanism. In this case, we’re talking about acute stress.
Chronic stress is a completely different story. Emotional trauma, heavy workload, financial distress, and other factors cause your stress hormone levels to stay elevated for weeks or even months. This causes mental and physiological changes, messing up your health.
Under normal conditions, stress is good for you. It helps you face challenges and be aware of dangers. Prolonged or chronic stress has the opposite effect.
The Dangers of Cortisol Imbalances
Cortisol plays a vital role in your body. Too much or too little of this hormone can affect health and well-being. If your adrenal glands fail to produce enough cortisol, you may experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Low energy
Elevated cortisol levels are often the result of chronic stress, Cushing’s syndrome, or endocrine disorders. In this case, you may notice excess body hair growth, acne, weight gain, recurring infections, and digestive problems.
When your body produces too much of this hormone, insulin levels increase and testosterone levels drop. These hormonal imbalances affect metabolic health. Muscle loss, fatigue, lethargy, and abdominal fat storage are common side effects of high cortisol production.
According to health experts, excess cortisol weakens the immune system by inhibiting the action of white blood cells. It also causes your body to store fat, especially around the waist. Due to its testosterone-lowering effects, it decreases lean mass and physical strength.
If you suspect that your cortisol levels are too high, take a blood test. Once you get the results, adjust your diet and lifestyle habits. Limit stress as much as you can, ditch the sugar, and prioritize sleep. Regular exercise increases dopamine and endorphin levels in the brain, so it can help ward off stress.