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Old 12-04-2012, 01:14 PM   #1
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Cortisol & Stress

Hi Juddbudds!

Here is a thread for Kettleboy and anyone else who suffers with cortisol issues to discuss what we have found that works for us.

I am very busy right now so won't be able to add till late this evening, but would like to get this going, so I can learn from my budds!
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Old 12-04-2012, 01:37 PM   #2
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I am guessing I do not have this problem although I have a stressful job I do not carry my weight around my middle. It is evenly distributed.
But it is interesting reading since I do believe my DH has this issue. Maybe I can help him.
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:26 PM   #3
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What's weird to me is that I thought I MUST have too high of cortisol because of my stress level, belly fat, etc.... but when I was tested, it was way LOW. I actually take some natural cortisol enhancers in the morning now to regulate. My adrenals got utterly exhausted I guess from too high cortisol for too long, and now can't produce enough to overcome the adrenalin. So now I get adrenal rushes for no dang good reason, and have to supplement with cortisol.

It's interesting to me on the other thread that kettleboy takes vitamin c to lower cortisol? Maybe I better change the timing of my c then to evening when it's supposed to be lower anyway.
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:33 PM   #4
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Marie,
How did you have this tested? I know that too low can be just as bad for you, as too high. I also know that exercise is an issue if you have too high, but not certain if it is if you are too low?
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:28 PM   #5
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I've been treated for adrenal fatigue, about 7 years ago, by a doctor who'd been trained in both standard (allopathic) and complementary and alternative medicine. A key for me was getting enough sleep (a big change for me), night after night. Avoiding excessive exercise (beyond something mild like walking) also helps; I keep my vigorous/resistence exercise to no more than an hour a day to avoid spiking cortisol, though I walk at a moderate pace longer than that. I remember putting some delicious liquorice-flavored drops on my tongue as part of the treatment; a naturopathic/CAM-oriented physician would be likely to prescribe specific supplements to help. And I did the saliva cortisol test to get the diagnosis--and am due for another round of testing like that soon. If you google "cortisol saliva test," you'll pull up links for labs that will send the test kit (3 vials with directions of when to spit in them) and will do the test without requiring a doctor's order.
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:34 PM   #6
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Sunday, I did the cortisol saliva tests. I was low in the morning and high in the evening, exactly opposite of what you'd like to see. But all numbers, including the high evening one, was too low overall. I have been working on circadium rhythm reset issues ever since. If I stay up too late I get an adrenal rush and then cannot sleep. It's brutal. Other things can set it off also, apparently for me certain foods and some needed medications as well.

I wouldn't recommend anyone take something to *lower* cortisol unless you know that it's too high. The spit tests aren't very expensive.
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Old 12-04-2012, 05:07 PM   #7
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Hi everyone!

C'Marie knows me from various other threads, and some of you may know me from my brief stint with JUDDD (still love me my JUDDD BUDDDs!) but just wanted to pop in on this one. Thanks to Sunday for starting it!

Just so you guys know where I'm coming from, I will disclose up front that I suffer from hypothyroidism and hypo-adrenalism, as well as hypo-whatever you call someone low in s*x hormones-ism. All of these things are connected and can have domino effects on the others, e.g. if you are low thyroid for too long, this may cause adrenal fatigue, if you have adrenal fatigue for too long, this may cause hypothyroidism, if either of these are present, they may cause s*x hormone issues. ALL need to be functioning properly to feel normal. ALL need to be in balance to avoid messing with the others.

It is CRITICAL to make sure that you are testing your cortisol before attempting to lower it. Often we think that cortisol is the root of all evils, including weight gain, and for some that may be exactly the case. But for others who suffer from adrenal fatigue or a worse condition, adrenal exhaustion, attempting to lower cortisol can actually exacerbate the condition and other related conditions, one side-effect of which is weight-gain and the inability to lose weight.

Adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are caused and/or made worse by all types of stress, physical, emotional, mental--including long term dieting, particularly low carb dieting, excessive exercise, pregnancy, and surgeries in the physical camp; breakups, divorces, family drama and abusive situations, in the emotional camp; and job stress, moving stress, and primary caregiver stress, in the mental camp. As C'Marie so aptly stated, if the adrenals need to make too much cortisol for too long, they just quit. Cortisol gets too low and the adrenals compensate by producing adrenaline, which is our primal defense against stress. See a tiger, adrenaline rush, run away. Which is great--if there are a lot of tigers around. Trouble is, when you have low cortisol, driving in traffic, or a fight with your spouse, or a low calorie diet, or a lot of exercise is seen by your adrenals as "a tiger." The body NEEDS cortisol to deal with these kinds of "stresses." And lowering cortisol in this situation is exactly the OPPOSITE of what is needed. Adrenaline spikes can cause anxiety, insomnia, and a whole host of other issues.

For years, I took cortisol lowering herbal supplements, not understanding the consequences. These include what are commonly referred to as adaptogens--licorice being one, holy basil, ashwaghanda, rhodiola, ginseng, and melatonin being some others. Some help support the adrenals by making more cortisol, some by helping spread the cortisol out over time, some by reducing cortisol. Unfortunately, often adaptogens that do opposite things (increase and decrease, for example) are combined in one supplement. Also not great for the adrenals. Use of SSRIs, pain relievers, muscle relaxants and other adrenal supplements (most notably glandular extracts) can also, either positively or negatively, impact cortisol production.

When I was tested, I discovered a condition very similar to C'Marie's which ONLY got resolved by actually SUPPLEMENTING prescription cortisol (along with meds for the other stuff). The journey was long, frustrating, and painful at times, but I am here, alive and better than ever, several years later. Yes, I am on multiple prescription medications, multiple times a day, probably for life. No, I'd rather not be on them. But if it's a matter of LIVING vs. the shadow-life I was leading before (brain-fog, depression, weight gain, anxiety, insomnia, etc. ), I'll take my medication happily.

Now obviously, not all of this is applicable to everyone. Some people DO have high cortisol which needs to be treated just as much as low. That said, I really do urge anyone who has concerns, of either sort, to get the Diurnal Cortisol testing kit (4x per day spit in a tube). It truly is critical for an accurate diagnoses of the condition. There are tricks to getting your money's worth out of those kits which I am happy to share with anyone either here or offline. I made some serious mistakes when I started my treatment and I want to make sure I am paying this forward! Because lord knows I have been there, done that, and been to he11 and back in the process!

Sorry for the book ...but this is a topic near and dear to my heart...and I take every opportunity that I can to share what I have learned.
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Last edited by shelbyla; 12-04-2012 at 05:55 PM..
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Old 12-04-2012, 05:16 PM   #8
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I'd also encourage anyone who is interested to browse eaware.org. There is a lot of great information on this site about the interrelated pieces of the endocrine system. Without these people, I would most certainly be on long-term disability, if not worse.

Googling "symptoms of adrenal fatigue" will also bring you to several websites with quizzes that you can take to see whether you might be suffering from it.

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Old 12-04-2012, 06:38 PM   #9
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Thank you for starting this thread, Sunday, and thanks to all of you offering advice and info. I've strongly suspected I have adrenal and/or cortisol issues for years now, and I really need to do more research and get tested and seriously look into this.

C'Marie, svenskamae and shelbyla, I really appreciate all the information and personal experiences you're sharing with us, and don't apologize, shelbyla! The more information we have, the better. This is a topic that confuses me like no other despite all the reading I've done on it so far over the years. I would love to hear more.
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Old 12-04-2012, 06:54 PM   #10
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Another diagnosed and treated with adrenal exhaustion here. Diagnosed Aug 2011--my adrenals were basically non-functioning. Actually started out ok first thing in the morning, and then dropped to almost zero by the noon collection (my naturopath surmised this drop likely happened within an hour or two upon waking, based on my symptoms.

Fortunately, my thyroid was ok (although I'm a bit worried about it right now), and my sex hormones were ok as well.

I started out taking pregnenalone (precursor to cortisol), plus licorice root, plus a thyroid support supplement. All under the close supervision of my doctor. We also went through a regimen of parasite cleanse, bowel cleanse and general detox plus liver support. We changed adrenal supps twice before finding the one that helped me.

So I will totally and whole-heartedly agree that this is a really complex issue, and best navigated with the help of a practitioner trained in these issues.

I am so much better than I was, and never want to go back to the shell of a life I was subsisting in for the 4-5 years of my "dark period". Depression, lack of motivation for anything except survival, insomnia, yet being exhausted all.the.time. I found no joy in anything, and mostly just felt numb. I wanted everyone to simply leave me alone (which with 4 kids that I homeschool and a dh who works from home and thus is here 24/7 never really worked out very well. lol), and I wanted to go nowhere and do nothing. I couldn't put 2 thoughts together coherently, had trouble with simply conversations because I couldn't think of anything to say, and didn't really much care. Nothing was funny, but nothing was really sad either.

I didn't really realize how bad it was, until I stared coming out of the fog. And I NEVER want (nor intend) to go back there again. We are currently working to heal my husband of the same issues.

Willing to help in any way I can.
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Old 12-04-2012, 07:49 PM   #11
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I feel like a hypochondriac reading this thread, lol. Certainly not trying to be disrespectful to anyone, of course. Is this a common issue? I have bouts of depression, anxiety and of course, weight gain over the past 12ish years. I also have alopecia areata that started 12 years ago, or was when it was noticed by my hair stylist...continues to this day. I have quit taking any medications because of side effects and have tried to "soldier" on as it were...am doing ok, but wondering if I should be concerned about cortisol?
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:38 PM   #12
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Librarygirl--it is VERY common, but not very often diagnosed. All those people living on energy drinks? Probably adrenal exhaustion. You need more and more stimulants to keep you going, because you simply can't make the fuel your body needs. People are literally, running on fumes (I was).

For most of them, a trip to the doctor nets them a script for an anti-depressant, which might make you feel a little better, for a little while. But doesn't get to the cause, or do anything to affect a cure. (My primary care doc was very willing to write the script when I went to see her. I decided to wait and go the holistic route first, to see if that could work).

There is a website, Women to Women, that has quite a few questionnaire-type tests to assess your likelihood of having issues with adrenals, thyroid, hormones and the like. Lots of good info on courses of treatment as well. Worth checking out imo.
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:40 PM   #13
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Thank you EVERYone for chiming in here! This is what I was hoping for!

Shelbyla, I saved your info you gave me about hypothyroidism and adrenal issues. I have been wanting to have this tested and just haven't found the doctor here that I want. I love my M.D. but need to get down to business and find a naturopath or someone more in tune to the adrenals and hormones. I suspect that I have some type of cortisol/addrenal issues, but I truly have not had insomnia. So, that may mean that something else is going on? I do have a lot of what I call "knots" that come up in my neck and the tension is so bad in the upper back/neck area that it literally hurts until I can get a massage. I beg for massages every time DH is near. You have helped me to see that there is hope to get this figured out!

Librarygirl, Don't ever feel like a hypochondriac! Our weight issues are usually a sign of other things going on internally and the sooner we get to the bottom of the real health issues, then our weight should be much simpler to manage.
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:44 PM   #14
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My mom flew in for Thanksgiving and I had the worse tension headache after she arrived that lasted for 3 days. In the last 15 years, have gone through major life changes, divorce, death, extreme stress on job, etc.
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Old 12-05-2012, 01:52 AM   #15
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Interesting stuff, keep it coming.

For what it's worth (as anecdotal) in body building circles; fat around the middle, and lots of joint issues and muscle knots is usually put down to high Cortisol.

I know that for me if I use stratagies to lower the blubber falls off, the aches and pains go away and I feel better?
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Old 12-05-2012, 04:58 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by mykidsteacher View Post
Librarygirl--it is VERY common, but not very often diagnosed. All those people living on energy drinks? Probably adrenal exhaustion. You need more and more stimulants to keep you going, because you simply can't make the fuel your body needs. People are literally, running on fumes (I was).

For most of them, a trip to the doctor nets them a script for an anti-depressant, which might make you feel a little better, for a little while. But doesn't get to the cause, or do anything to affect a cure. (My primary care doc was very willing to write the script when I went to see her. I decided to wait and go the holistic route first, to see if that could work).

There is a website, Women to Women, that has quite a few questionnaire-type tests to assess your likelihood of having issues with adrenals, thyroid, hormones and the like. Lots of good info on courses of treatment as well. Worth checking out imo.
Very well said. I went in to my doc (she is a DO as well as an MD who has had thyroid issues so she "gets it" very well!) to get treated for my thyroid. She looked at me and said "adrenal fatigue". "I don't think it is your thyroid". So she did some tests (very different ones, not the standard ones) and she found the adrenal fatigue. The symptoms for adrenal fatigue are very similar to those for thyroid issues. I am also being treated for my thyroid, so you really do need a well versed physician/naturopath to help you through this. You do need to be careful with what you take. My doc never wanted me on licorice, for example. But she did recommend some books to read for my conditions. She was the most helpful physician I have ever had. Ans so worth the 3 hour one way trip to see her. Too sad she could no longer treat me, she closed her practice.
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Old 12-05-2012, 07:54 AM   #17
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My mom flew in for Thanksgiving and I had the worse tension headache after she arrived that lasted for 3 days. In the last 15 years, have gone through major life changes, divorce, death, extreme stress on job, etc.
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:11 AM   #18
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Very well said. I went in to my doc (she is a DO as well as an MD who has had thyroid issues so she "gets it" very well!) to get treated for my thyroid. She looked at me and said "adrenal fatigue". "I don't think it is your thyroid". So she did some tests (very different ones, not the standard ones) and she found the adrenal fatigue. The symptoms for adrenal fatigue are very similar to those for thyroid issues. I am also being treated for my thyroid, so you really do need a well versed physician/naturopath to help you through this. You do need to be careful with what you take. My doc never wanted me on licorice, for example. But she did recommend some books to read for my conditions. She was the most helpful physician I have ever had. Ans so worth the 3 hour one way trip to see her. Too sad she could no longer treat me, she closed her practice.
I'm pretty sure it's not my thyroid also. Have been tested numerous times and even asked the doctor if I might need further testing, since sometimes if it's on the "low" side it could still be a problem. He said, no your numbers are not anywhere near low. The problem for me would be finding a doctor who was knowledgeable about this condition.
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:13 AM   #19
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where in SC are you? My doc was in Traveler's Rest. How far is that for you?
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:35 AM   #20
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Not sure but didn't you say she closed her practice, Dawn? I've heard of Traveller's Rest. I'm about 70 miles east of Columbia.
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:51 AM   #21
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Not sure but didn't you say she closed her practice, Dawn? I've heard of Traveller's Rest. I'm about 70 miles east of Columbia.
She is focusing in on hormones only. I can still get some supplements/guidance from her if need be. But if you are 70 miles east of me, and I have to drive about 3 hours---that would make about 4 hours for you. I am sure there is a good doc in Charleston. Travelers Rest is where Furman University is. She is there because when her dad was in decline she moved there to take care of him. He was a professor at Furman. Her degrees are from out west. Very interesting story. I loved seeing her as my visits would last at least an hour and she really listened to me, asked me what I wanted her to do, took account of my symptoms more than the lab results. It was more of a partnership rather than a doc telling me what I needed to do or else!
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:31 AM   #22
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A friend passed along this to me. It is toopoopedtoparticipate web site. I don't think I can link it though. It is for those with adrenal, thyroid or pituitary issues and want to use natural solutions.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:02 AM   #23
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A friend passed along this to me. It is toopoopedtoparticipate web site. I don't think I can link it though. It is for those with adrenal, thyroid or pituitary issues and want to use natural solutions.
Thanks Dawn! I will check this out. Looking forward to getting this addrenal issue under control.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:30 AM   #24
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Just fyi, licorice can cause bp to increase, so it isn't recommended for everyone. I have low bp anyway (as a result, likely of the adrenal issues), and the licorice helps bring it into a more normal (although still a bit low) range.

This is why a good doc is so important. Just because it's natural, doesn't mean there aren't side effects. And my dh is being treated for many similar symptoms, yet he is on different supps than I was because of nuances that he has that I didn't.

The American Association of Naturopathic physicians has a 'find a doctor near you' feature on their website, but my doc wasn't on there. I found more listings at findanaturopath website.

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Old 12-05-2012, 12:02 PM   #25
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Thanks, Tina. I'm going to try searching for a good naturopath near me again. Even with all the reading and research I've done, I really still feel like I'm flying blind here because there just isn't enough information out there on this, and there's a lot of conflicting info as well.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:15 PM   #26
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I have pretty good energy most of the time (when I'm not sick!), but have always suspected that something was going on that caused me to gain so much weight, start losing my hair, and experience depression that had me on zoloft/paxil and lexapro for the past 11 years (quit taking SSRI's in 2011). I also have the inexplicable rages from time to time that are, yes, set off by certain things, but a bit over the top and uncontrollable sometimes. Worriesome. I have some supplements that people have recommended including Amoryn (mood booster), but I rarely take anything. Seems like the only thing I took consistently, and with the most troubling side effects, were the prescription anti-depressants. Think I'll give Amoryn another try...at least finish this bottle.
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Old 12-05-2012, 02:29 PM   #27
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That's interesting, because I have joint issues and muscle knots but have low cortisol. Maybe it's a progressive thing - perhaps I had high for a long time and now it's crashed. Maybe the joint issues and muscle knots came at the highs and now haven't gone away. I also read some stuff about thyroid - if that's not optimized, you will possibly have joint issues also.

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Originally Posted by Kettleboy View Post
Interesting stuff, keep it coming.

For what it's worth (as anecdotal) in body building circles; fat around the middle, and lots of joint issues and muscle knots is usually put down to high Cortisol.

I know that for me if I use stratagies to lower the blubber falls off, the aches and pains go away and I feel better?
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Old 12-05-2012, 04:47 PM   #28
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I would get terrible knots in my trapezius area before I was treated for hypothyroidism. It was so bad the pain would radiate up my neck and eventually turn into a migraine.

I started having tension headaches again which I thought were from inadequate thyroid replacement but turns out it may be from adrenaline surges. I am also hypoadrenal and taking 4 mg Medrol daily, but may wean off per Endo's recommendations.

For what it's worth, starting medrol gave me my life back, but not sure if it was all worth it now because of the adrenaline surges (may be inadequate replacement of cortisol) easy bruising, and possible life time of meds which aren't the greatest.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:02 PM   #29
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babybella, Yes! The knots aggravate me late in the day and just about the time that I try to relax after work and sometimes I can't even sit and watch tv or read, without just wanting immediate relief for the tension. Back & neck massage work some, but the relief is temporary.

Thank you to whomever suggested the "Women to Women" website! I went and took their test for addrenal issues and scored high enough that it suggests that I have severe addrenal imbalance.

From their website~

Belly fat: key symptoms of adrenal fatigue

Women with adrenal imbalance often develop a “spare tire” around the waist. This happens for several reasons. Under normal circumstances, when we haven’t eaten for a while, our blood sugar (glucose) drops and the brain sends a message to the adrenals to release cortisol. This cortisol mobilizes glucose, amino acids, and fat to prevent low blood sugar and keep your brain and body fueled with energy in the absence of food. Cortisol maintains glucose levels in the blood, while insulin helps usher glucose into our cells.

When we have long-term stress, cortisol and insulin remain high in the blood, and the extra glucose that isn’t needed for energy gets stored in the form of fat — primarily abdominal fat cells. Scientists have discovered that fat cells have special stress-hormone receptors for cortisol, but that there also seem to be more of these cortisol receptors on the fat cells in the abdomen than anywhere else in the body!

And sadly, belly fat doesn’t just “sit there” doing nothing; it’s almost as if this fat is itself an endocrine organ that reacts to the stress response, spurring still more abdominal fat to be deposited. So the cycle continues unless we take steps to heal the adrenal imbalance.
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