We can be eating a perfectly healthy diet – and hitting the gym regularly, but if our stress levels are out of control, then our metabolism is not working optimally.
A little stress is a normal part of life, but so many of us are stuck on the proverbial “hamster wheels” today – we are just going and going and going. High stress levels are a recipe for metabolism melt down and can lead to weight gain, and in some cases weight loss.
When we are under stress all of the time, our sympathetic nervous system is turned on – that means that our body is stuck in the fight or flight state – so that means that our heart rate, blood sugar, insulin, and blood pressure is elevated, while, our digestion, elimination, immune system, and reproductive system all go dormant – “ain’t nobody got time for that when we are running from a sabre tooth tiger!”
A steroid hormone produced in the adrenal cortex, cortisol is often referred to as “the stress hormone,” because during times of stress, the body pumps out more cortisol. During a normal day, our cortsiol should be slightly elevated in the morning, to give us that “get up and go”, and it should be low at bedtime to help us settle down to sleep. But sometimes, when we are under a lot of stress, and fueling up all day with caffeine and carbs, our cortisol levels can get out of whack. Feeling “tired but wired” at bedtime is a classic symptom of a messed up cortisol rhythm. Or needing 3 cups of coffee to get the engine running each morning is another. Cortisol issues can also show up as weight storage in the midsection – because of the chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin it causes. Chronically elevated cortisol can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which means the body is not able to use carbs to energy, and it is storing carbs as more fat.
Over time, chronic stress can mess with our sleep, raise cholesterol levels, contribute to dehydration and blood pressure issues, and eventually it can cause our other hormones to get out of balance too – causing things like estrogen dominance, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and adrenal fatigue. Stress can be a trigger that sets serious diseases like heart disease and autoimmunity in motion too.
What do hamsters do when they are not running like mad on those wheels? They are resting and recovering. We need to take a cue from them and get off those wheels occasionally. So although it might seem impossible to get off the hamster wheel – we have to remember – that we have a choice. There are a number of things that we can choose to do to reduce stress levels.
Many people can benefit from supplements** that can help us to reduce our stress hormones and activate our calming neurotransmitters so we can get those stress hormones back in a normal rhythm:
Chronic stress can be the “switch” that turns on disease and slows down our metabolism. In order to have a healthy metabolism & a healthy life – we need to prioritize getting our stress levels under control. Chapter 7 of my book The Perfect Metabolism Plan is dedicated to strategies for lowering stress and improving sleep.
* this quote is attributed to a number of people including Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Diane Schwarzbein, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.
** If you are currently taking prescription medications or under a doctor’s care, it is recommended that you consult your doctor before taking any supplements or herbs.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
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