Cortisol levels increase when we are stressed - but what does that mean for us?
One of many of the multitude of functions of cortisol in the body is the provision of energy for the body. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for quick energy, in addition to stimulating insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. The ultimate result of these actions together is an increase in appetite - or as many of us know it to be called 'emotional eating'. Often times, chronic or poorly managed stress, may lead to elevated cortisol levels that lead to unwanted weight gain or difficulty losing weight.
The tough part is - that in short spurts, cortisol can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. But over time, your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood. And this opens the door for more inflammation, Dr. Calabrese says. In addition, stress decreases the body's lymphocytes – the white blood cells that help fight off infection. The lower your lymphocyte level, the more at risk you are for viruses, including the common cold and cold sores. High stress levels also can cause depression and anxiety, again leading to higher levels of inflammation. In the long-term, sustained, high levels of inflammation point to an overworked, overtired immune system that can't properly protect you.
Gastrointestinal The gut has hundreds of millions of neurons which can function fairly independently and are in constant communication with the brain explaining the ability to feel “butterflies" in the stomach.
Stress can affect this brain-gut communication, and may trigger pain, bloating and other gut discomfort to be felt more easily. The gut is also inhabited by millions of bacteria which can influence its health and the brain's health which can impact the ability to think and affect emotions. Stress is associated with changes in gut bacteria which in turn can influence mood.
Thus, the gut's nerves and bacteria strongly influence the brain and vice versa. Early life stress can change the development of the nervous system as well as how the body reacts to stress. These changes can increase the risk for later gut diseases or dysfunctioning.
(Cited Works: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/)
So - what do we recommend? Not everyone can just drop and change their lifestyle overnight - in fact, that is insanely unrealistic but you can start implementing small habits into your daily (weekly, or monthly) routine that will have a powerful impact long term.
Simple small habits are connected. We are habitual beings so why not be intentional about them?
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