Did you know that stress can cause weight gain? Let’s talk.
Stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, allergies, autoimmune disease, thyroid dysfunction, mood disorders, and obesity.
While stress affects many parts of the body, your hypothalamus and adrenals are responsible for creating the stress response.
Let’s say a tiger is chasing you.
Your autonomic nervous system stimulates the adrenals to produce adrenaline. Your heart beats faster raising your blood pressure so you can get away. The adrenaline surge stimulates your hypothalamus which checks to see if you have enough cortisol to fuel the stress response. If not, your hypothalamus tells the pituitary gland to produce ACTH which travels via the bloodstream to the adrenal cortex and stimulates the production of cortisol.
Cortisol then tells the pancreas to produce glucagon which is the hormone that releases glycogen (stored sugar) from the muscles and the liver. Now your muscles and heart have the energy to get away from that tiger!
Whew! Following the surge of cortisol, the adrenals produce DHEA which controls protein and fat metabolism to help repair the damage from the flight or fight. The leftover cortisol is converted to cortisone, a natural anti-inflammatory, to soothe your aches after getting away from the tiger.
At first the high-stress response causes a catabolic reaction as tissues breakdown. You might lose weight initially but over the long haul, the high levels of cortisol can cause you to store body fat. Remember cortisol stimulates the release of stored sugar. How can the glucose get into the cells without insulin? So the pancreas also produces more insulin in response to the stress. If you are really running away from the tiger, then, of course, you will use the glucose. If not, well then, you develop insulin resistance.
What is Insulin Resistance?
Insulin resistance is your body’s way of protecting itself from all that circulating sugar. You see, insulin escorts glucose into the cells. Cells use glucose to produce energy. If the tiger is not really chasing you and you are not expending the energy, then your cells become resistant to insulin. All cells that cannot store sugar become insulin resistant. Your liver and muscles can store about 400 calories worth of glucose. Your heart, on the other hand, cannot store even one gram of sugar. Hearts can only use glucose to beat faster or grow bigger. A bigger heart is not an efficient pump, so your heart becomes insulin resistant.
What does your body do with the extra sugar? It stores it as fat. Thankfully, your adipose cells never become insulin resistant. No, they will store that extra sugar in the form of triglycerides (triple sugar molecules) to protect the rest of your body.
Insulin resistance is why you end up gaining weight after prolonged stress.
My recommendations for stress-induced insulin resistance:
RELAX – First of all, take time to relax. Yes, meditation, relaxation exercises, soothing music, long walks, just being in nature can help calm the stress response.
DIET – The best diet to reverse insulin resistance is a plant-based, moderate fat and protein, low carb.
EXERCISE – Exercise is important, but it matters when you do it. Exercise early in the morning to follow the natural cortisol circadian rhythm. Exercising late in the day and especially after dark creates a stress reaction. Exercise induces cortisol production and cortisol opposes melatonin so you will not sleep deeply.
The key to losing stress induced weight is to balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal response.
One of the biggest reasons I created Genesis Gold® is to help balance the stress response. Adrenal function improves, insulin resistance reverses, and metabolism increases when the hypothalamus is supported. Most people describe a more calm approach to life when taking Genesis Gold®.
If you have any questions regarding your stress induced weight gain, please join us in our Hormone Support Group. You’ll have access to that when you sign up for my free Hormone Reboot Training.
*Statements not evaluated by the FDA