There is a complex science to hormones, however let's back it up to the basics and focus for this example, only on the stress response to the Hypothalamus, Pituitary gland, and Adrenal glands in the greater endocrine system.
The image below illustrates the hormonal stress response.
Cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, affects many areas of the body and if you have high levels of cortisol coursing through you continually, chronic stress, you run the risk of adrenal fatigue ultimately, and even more common ailments of hypertension (high blood pressure), chronic fatigue, poor sleep (which fosters more cortisol to be released), excessive cravings, and mood swings to name only a few.
Additionally, over time, high stress hormones make your body store fat, especially in your belly. High cortisol is also linked to depression, food addiction, and craving high-sugar foods. In other words, stress can make you fat.
To make the situation even more complex, if you are under chronic stress, your hormones shift. Stress in a way pulls the hormone synthesis within the adrenal gland away from converting the master hormone (pregnenolone) into all the various hormones (DHEA, Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone and Cortisol) by stealing it's efforts and forcing it to only make Cortisol. This is called the Pregnegalone or Cortisol Steal.
So the longer you remain stressed, the more cortisol you will continue to make at the DETRIMENT of your other hormones!
The interesting catch here is that having high cortisol for too long means that you can ultimately have low cortisol as well - even high and low cortisol at the same time, on the same day. Is your mind blown yet?
The big take away is that chronic stress leads to many health issues, weight gain, chronic illness, and a reduction in your overall health status.
How to Manage Stress and mitigate the effects of high cortisol? In my next post I will share with you the lifestyle interventions and targeted supplementation to help Cool the Cortisol Fire!
Jenniferlyn Kryvicky, MS, CFSPP, CHHC
Certified Functional Nutritionist
functional nutritionist, transformation coach, and lighter of paths.