What of Cortisol

So you are an Alpha male who wishes to over-achieve. Or you have a pre-disposition to a life of stress; say you have a criminal mind. Or life has been unkind to you, and you are undergoing long-term stress. In all such situations, your body responds by producing cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that helps you deal with the “fight-flight” syndrome. When confronted with a problem, do you face or escape the problem? Both cause stress. If this is a short burst, your body will go back to normal. If this happens as a lifestyle, your cortisol levels will remain elevated. Symptoms could include irritability, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, headaches, lack of sleep, a hyperactive state, low self-esteem or even depression.

In the short-term, Cortisol works by providing the body with glucose by tapping into the stores in your muscles through a process called gluconeogenesis. If cortisol is required long-term, you produce elevated levels of glucose. Your body is telling itself that it is stressed and needs the extra energy (glucose) to cope. Since your body seeks optimum efficiency, it stores this energy as close as it can. You guessed right – your belly fat a.k.a visceral fat. That is not all. Since elevated cortisol is continuously raiding your muscles of glucose, your body tells itself it needs more. The depleted glucose from your cells makes you feel hungry. You eat more and will seek high-calorie, fast sugars or simple carbohydrates. Think ice-cream or sweets. Finally, cortisol constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure. It does this to elevate the delivery of oxygenated blood. Over time this causes plaque to build up in your arteries.

It would be an understatement to say that your body does not like continuously elevated levels of cortisol. Whatever has caused your long-term stress, fix it. Sleep well, meditate, eat foods that do not cause inflammation or a spike in insulin (fast sugars), exercise, go for a massage or sit in a sauna. Your body will thank me for it.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.