Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is stress making you fat?

Do you experience stress on a daily basis? Do you feel unable to lose weight? Do you feel like you gain weight the more you stress out?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then KEEP READING!
Compliments of New Line Cinema
While Michael Myers is wearing a fat suit in this picture, it still makes you wonder how people can live like this on a daily basis. Imagine that extra weight on your joints and how much degeneration is occurring not only in those joints but also in your spine! Take a look at the picture below for a comparison MRI of an average and overweight female and check out those joint spaces!!!
Let's do a short anatomy lesson. Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys and are responsible for secretion of many hormones essential to every day function like epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone. In fact, in women going through menopause the adrenal glands are a major source of the estrogen and progesterone needed to prevent bone loss and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and even depression! In andropause, (YES that's right men go through a change too!), the adrenals are relied on for another source of testosterone to prevent excess weight, lose of confidence, and the familiar "low T" syndrome that is advertised everywhere now.

So how does stress play a part into being fat or weight loss in general?  Well let's dig a little deeper. Cortisol is released from your adrenal glands when you are stressed out  (It's called a "fight or flight" response). This stress doesn't just have to be at work under a pile of paperwork because your body views stress as a perceived threat whether its physical such as running a marathon, emotional during a tear-eyed movie, or even environmental such as extreme temperature changes. When you are under "stress" your adrenal glands release cortisol which will signal your liver to release amino acids from muscle surrounding the liver in order for the body to make more glucose (blood sugar) for your body to be able to spring into action to deal with this stress.

When we are under stress long term and our adrenal glands are constantly producing cortisol at high levels, our body will start to store that excess blood sugar as fat. That fat usually gets deposited right around our middle which can lead to that big pouch that is hard to get rid of with diet and exercise. This is due to the fact that our cortisol levels are too high and our blood sugar never gets the chance to lower to normal levels!

So how do we get around this problem? Well we have to relieve some of the stress in our lives and focus on supporting our adrenal gland function so that they are still able to support us later on (such as during menopause or andropause!). In addition, we need to incorporate some healthy diet changes that seek to keep a consistent blood sugar rather than spiking our sugar levels up and down.

A balanced wellness program can be designed to reduce stress levels and support or even restore the adrenal glands if they've started to decline their function. Talk to your doctor and they will be able to give you a better picture of where your body is at and what kind of support you are going to need.