In health circles, cortisol is also known as the ‘fat tummy hormone’. It’s produced by our bodies, and in excess it could be the reason behind that spare tyre.
Find out whether you’re suffering from a cortisol problem…
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is important to your body. During times of stress, cortisol converts proteins into usable energy. Elevated cortisol levels for short periods is okay, but in the long term high levels can be harmful to your health. To tell whether you have elevated levels, see how many of these symptoms you have…
- You’re not sleeping well. Cortisol levels are supposed to drop at bedtime, but you could find yourself getting a second wind just as you’re supposed to be winding down for some all-important rest. Alternatively, you sleep well but wake up tired.
- You’re gaining weight… Even though you exercise and eat well most of the time.
- You get colds easily. An excess of cortisol compromises your body’s self-healing powers. A suppressed immune system means you get every bug going around.
- You crave unhealthy foods, especially sugar. Cortisol raises your blood sugar levels. High glucose then spikes your insulin levels, sending your blood sugar levels into freefall, causing – yes, you guessed it – more sugar cravings. For a list of foods that fight stress, click here.
- You’re susceptible to headaches and backaches. Elevated cortisol levels lead to higher levels of prolactin over the long term, making you more pain sensitive.
- You never feel like sex. The higher your cortisol, the lower your libido.
- You have gut problems. In addition to fat around the middle, you may also suffer from ulcers, nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, colitis, flatulence and bloating. Read how to banish bloating here.
- You feel anxious. A constant state of fight or flight causes your heart to pump more blood, but it’s diverted away from digestion, which slows down, and away from arms and legs. This puts dangerous strain on your heart. In addition to feeling hyped up, you can also feel panicked, jittery and paranoid.
- You’re depressed. Cortisol suppresses levels of serotonin (the happy hormone).
- You have high blood pressure. That is, a BP above 120mmHg/80mmHg.
If you’re concerned about your cortisol levels, talk to your GP about urine, blood or saliva tests.