Cortisol and Stress

Cortisol and stress can directly effect fat storage and weight gain in stressed individuals. 

Cortisol and your body

Cortisol has a wide variety of roles in the body. Cortisol influences such things as gaining body weight, muscle size, and strength. 

Cortisol is produced in excess during times of stress which leads to health problems such as a slower metabolism and weight gain. 

Cortisol controls body fat in terms of both the amount and distribution. Too much cortisol and stress will make you gain weight. While being overweight makes your adrenal gland produce more cortisol, your body can create a vicious cycle where the result of problems tend to cause other problems. 

Hormone balance

As with all hormones, balance is key. 

Produce too much or too little of a particular hormone, and your metabolism can go crazy. The problem with metabolism can then lead to other problems like changing the amounts of other hormones circulating the body. Those changes in hormones will then throw off other hormone levels leading to changes in other body functions. 

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's Syndrome is a hormone disorder caused by high levels of cortisol in the blood. 

Also called hypercortisolism, characteristics of people that have Cushing's Syndrome include upper body obesity, a rounded face, increased fat around the neck, and thinning arms and legs. 

Women usually have excess hair growth on their faces, necks, chests, abdomens, and thighs. Their menstrual periods may become irregular or stop. 

Men have decreased fertility with diminished or absent desire for sex. 

Children tend to be obese with slowed growth rates. 

Other symptoms 
Your skin may become fragile and thin. It also bruises easily and heals poorly. Purplish pink stretch marks may appear on the abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts. The bones are weakened, and routine activities such as bending, lifting or rising from a chair may lead to backaches, rib and spinal column fractures. 

Most people that have Cushing's Syndrome have severe fatigue, weak muscles, high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Also common symptoms are irritability, anxiety and depression. 

Cortisol and Stress

Addison's Disease

Addison's disease results from the adrenal glands not producing enough cortisol. 

People with cortisol deficiencies tend to lose weight and feel tired all the time. Especially when exposed to stress, cortisol levels continue to drop and the body shuts down. 

People with Addison's disease must take cortisol-like medications to live. 


Cortisol and Stress and the Adrenal Gland

The main function of the adrenal gland is to make stress hormones. If your body is put under too much stress, your adrenals will work overtime causing adrenal gland problems.

Stress can be caused by many different things such as... 

  • constant worrying


  • constant physical exertion


  • excess weight or other health problems


Any one of these stressors can cause adrenal exhaustion

Fight or flight response 
Adrenaline is the first hormone that's produced when the body is under stress. Adrenaline is a counterinsulin hormone, so insulin and blood sugar go up when there's a lot of adrenaline around. 

Adrenaline makes your heart beat faster and rev up when you're under stress. Under normal conditions, your body responds and everything goes back to normal. 

Cortisol and stress 
Cortisol is another hormone that's produced when the body is under stress. When cortisol is produced, it tends to stick around causing symptoms that lead to weight gain. 

Chronic stress causes weight gain by increasing cortisol levels. 

The effects of excess cortisol include... 

  • gaining weight


  • lowered sex drive


  • catching a cold more easily


  • having less energy


  • poor memory


For the most part, your body can handle surges in cortisol caused by stress. But if there is too much stress, the body may not be able to keep up. 

Modern day stressors are hard to avoid. The good news is that you can lower your high levels of cortisol and stress by changing your lifestyle, diet, or medication. 


› Cortisol and Stress

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