Maybe you’ve heard of cortisol and that it is the Hormone that causes belly fat? That cortisol is bad. Well, there are no bad Hormones, Only Hormones out of balance.
So what exactly is cortisol? Cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands. It has its own natural circadian rhythm. Cortisol rises as soon as your melatonin drops when the sun comes up. It peaks from about 8am to 2pm or 4pm, depending on whether it is winter or summer. Then, in the mid-afternoon, cortisol naturally falls.
Animals and humans all experience the natural fall of cortisol and most feel tired. Animals know enough to rest. And some countries still take a siesta at this time. Here, in the US, we try to work through our cortisol slump by reaching for caffeine and sugar.
Cortisol rises a bit before dinner and then peters out within three hours of dark, to allow your melatonin to do its job and let you sleep. Unless, of course, you do not turn off those lights and go to bed. Cortisol also plays a big part of your stress response. You see, when you get stressed, whether it is a tiger chasing you or you are late for work, it is the same response. Your nervous system turns on your adrenals and they produce adrenaline to raise your heart rate and blood pressure so you can get away from the danger or fight it. It is called the fight or flight response.
Immediately your hypothalamus responds to the surge in adrenaline by telling your pituitary to tell your adrenals to make cortisol pronto! (Remember, your Hypothalamus is the true boss of your body, your pituitary is just middle management). The surge in cortisol tells your body to release stored sugar from your muscles and liver. Now you have the fuel for fight or flight. But what if the danger is not as real as a tiger chasing you? All that sugar floating around in your bloodstream has to go somewhere. So your body stores it for much later – in the fat cells around your middle.
You were not meant to live under stress for long periods of time. I mean that eventually you would either be caught by the tiger or outsmart the tiger. But in today’s modern world your Hypothalamus is on high alert, constantly being stimulated by your over-stressed nervous system to get you out of danger. Every time you stress out over anything, your adrenals are told to make more cortisol. And over time, your adrenals get pooped out. That is called adrenal fatigue.
Hormone Healing Tip: Lower Cortisol With De-Stress Breathing
One of the best ways to lower cortisol is to calm down your nervous system. A calm nervous system does not hyperstimulate your Hypothalamus. A peaceful and balanced Hypothalamus will not continuously turn on your adrenals. And your cortisol production will be blissfully normal.
So how do you calm your nervous system? By breathing! But, you say,” I always breathe.” Probably not in a calming way. When you are stressed, you breathe more shallowly and rapidly, taking in less oxygen and further stressing your Hypothalamus. The trick is to learn de-tress Breathing!
Place your hands on your stomach. Now breathe normally. Notice if your hands move much. Probably not. I want you to consciously take a deep breath, using your abdominal muscles to slowly draw in as much air as possible. Notice that your hands have moved out as your stomach expands. That is good. Breathing super deep like this gives your Hypothalamus more oxygen, calming it down.
Take a really deep de-stress Breath – with your hands on your stomach, slowly inhaling for at least four seconds, using your stomach to help your lungs. Next, hold your breath for a few seconds. Then, very slowly exhale…taking twice as long as you did to inhale…using your stomach muscles to gently push all the dead air out of your lungs. Notice how your hands have moved in as your stomach contracted.
Take three deep slow de-stress Breaths whenever you feel stressed and you will immediately calm down. Practice de-stress breathing every day. You will help balance your Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis. That means normal cortisol production. Which means less belly fat, and less fatigue!