Cortisol and weight loss
Colin O'Brien, ND
A: As much as we focus on calories in and out of the body, weight management is far from such a simple equation. The entire story must consider blood sugar regulation, medication side effects, psychological barriers, obesogens (hormone-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates), and imbalanced hormones. While it’s crucial to address thyroid health for weight gain, an often-overlooked hormone is cortisol.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It’s a great hormone in the short term to help us cope, but over the long term chronic cortisol elevation can lead to an array of health concerns including weight gain.
Elevated cortisol directly increases blood sugars and fat storage. Moreover, cortisol blocks the activation of thyroid hormone, which leads to a slower metabolism. As if this all wasn’t bad enough, when we’re stressed, we crave sugars and junk foods.
So what does this mean for you? You need to keep your stress and cortisol levels in check. Deep breathing techniques, laughter, and proper sleeping habits are all great places to start.
Irregular or poor quality sleep can directly increase cortisol levels and reduce growth hormone release (which is important for healing and metabolism). When we consider these hormonal alterations, it’s no surprise that sleep deprivation has been linked to poor stress coping, unhealthy food cravings, obesity, and diabetes.
After making these lifestyle adjustments, a high quality B-complex vitamin and adaptogenic herbs, such as Rhodiola rosea and Withania somnifera, may be indicated. These key supplements have all been studied for their ability to normalize the stress response and to balance cortisol.