Many of us have been living in high voltage mode in recent months. Situations such as quarantines, pandemic crises, and work difficulties maximize stress levels and nervous tension.
According to new research, 80 percent of hospital admissions are somehow related to the impact of stress factors on us.
Stress has always existed. Its initial physiological role is to rapidly mobilize our body’s resources in response to certain life-threatening external factors. This is the body’s “fight or flight” response.
Direct stresses on life can be repeated every day. But the main thing is that short-term priorities should not become chronic and give the body time to rest.
It is impossible to escape from stress. You can’t leave the job that you don’t like, get rid of debts and end the epidemic with the help of a magic wand. All of this is sometimes overlooked and taken in, but sooner or later the body gets tired under this weight sooner or later. Persistent stress triggers physiological changes and health begins to crumble.
STRESS AND CORTISOL PRODUCTION
Any stressful situation is associated with increased production of the hormone cortisol. It occurs in the adrenal glands and helps the body respond adequately to changes in external conditions. When the brain detects any external threat, its level rises. For example, waking up without sleep, having an unpleasant conversation, disturbing news, or playing too many sports can increase cortisol levels.
Cortisol triggers a series of physiological responses that help the body ward off an external attack. With the increase in the concentration of this hormone, the sugar level in the blood rises, the heartbeat accelerates and the muscles are toned. As soon as the situation is resolved, unnecessary stress is reduced. This is a purely physiological process.
The problem is that cortisol levels stay high when there is no particular danger. As a result, it is constantly produced, and the body enters a state of chronic stress. In this case, all organ systems wear out, the immune, cardiovascular, endocrine and digestive systems are disturbed.
HOW DOES THE NUMBER OF CORTISOL CHANGES THROUGHOUT THE DAY?
It has long been known that it is this hormone that helps us wake up and keep us active. Usually, cortisol rises in the morning. If you live in harmony with circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycle), it is likely easy for you to get up in the morning, exercise, enjoy breakfast. Throughout the day, cortisol remains high enough for efficient operation. After six o’clock in the evening, it gradually decreases, relaxation begins, and at 22-23, the desire to go to bed comes.
But most often, the peak of cortisol formation occurs in the evening, and the morning its level, on the contrary, decreases. How would a person feel in this situation? He gets up with difficulty in the morning, drinks only coffee, refuses breakfast, is sedentary in the morning, moves slowly in the middle of the day and tries to do his full daily work after 14-15. In the evening, the cortisol level is at its peak and is ready to develop the vigorous activity. Sleep quality is low and sleep is intermittent. The causes of this imbalance are due to increased cortisol production.
SYMPTOMS OF EXCESSIVE CORTISOL
Causes that increase cortisol production include any long-term severe illness, chronic inflammation, body aches, excessive or insufficient physical activity, hunger, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine, poor diet, environmental factors, non-compliance with the sleep-wake cycle. , change of time zones, extreme heat or cold, a sharp change in weather conditions, change of climate or season, noise especially at night, exposure to toxins, working at night, insomnia or lack of sleep.
How does a person under chronic stress feel? Emotionally uncontrolled, irritable, tiring… Apart from these, there are other symptoms that indicate that cortisol may be out of scale:
Especially the arms and legs become very thin and the belly increases in volume. So from this perspective, cortisol is a fascinating hormone. It stimulates the breakdown of fat in the limb area and causes it to accumulate in the waist.
Only those who regularly monitor their weight will notice this. Not much change is observed. Your diet is the same, your physical activity level has not changed, and if you weigh + 1-2 kg on the scale, your cortisol levels may be high. Stress is an energy-consuming process, the body will store its reserves just in case.
This is because cortisol reduces glucose to flow into the cell and insulin sensitivity. So there can be too much sugar in the blood and at the same time, the cells starve. Therefore, prolonged stress often leads to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Decreased Muscle Mass
Increased cortisol increases the breakdown of proteins by 20 percent, and proteins are the building blocks of our muscles. If this state is prolonged, the overall stamina decreases.
Skin Condition Deterioration
The largest organ in our body is the skin, and it is the last organ to provide everything needed in case of stress. The priority is the more vital organs such as the brain and heart. Excess cortisol has a devastating effect on the skin proteins collagen and elastin.
HOW ARE CORTISOL LEVELS MEASURED?
There are several medical tests that allow you to tell if your body is producing excess cortisol. To do this, you can do a biochemical blood test, a general urinalysis and examine saliva for this hormone. All of these tests are done twice a day; morning and evening. This is important for understanding fluctuations in cortisol throughout the day. It is important to quit sports, smoking and alcohol a few days before such tests. If saliva is taken for diagnosis, it is important that the oral mucosa is intact and that there is no inflammation on it.
The increase in cortisol levels may be related to disruption of the hypothalamus and adrenal glands.
9 WAYS TO BALANCE CORTISOL PRODUCTION
To keep the stress hormone cortisol at ideal levels, you need to eat healthily and monitor your psycho-emotional state. It seems that everything is simple. However, these cannot always be applied in a healthy way.
Here are 9 ways to balance cortisol levels:
Reduce the Amount of Coffee
This drink stimulates cortisol production. Two cups of coffee a day is normal. However, 3 cups or more can trigger the production of stress hormones.
For Unsweetened Coffee and Tea
This may be the first step in reducing the amount of simple sugar in your diet. If you find it difficult to drink these beverages without sugar, opt for a natural sweetener. However, avoid using sweeteners for a long time.
Regulate the Amount of Fruit in Your Diet
Few people realize that four large pears or apples can contain the entire daily intake of simple carbohydrates. Avoid excessive fruit consumption, especially right after meals.
Start Nourishing Your Intestinal Flora
The intestinal flora participates in 70 percent of all processes in our body, including the regulation of the synthesis of various hormones. Eat more prebiotic foods like vegetables. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut are also excellent foods for intestinal flora.
Get a Breakfast Habit
It is known that when sufficient protein and carbohydrates are taken in the first meal, the calorie intake of other meals of the day decreases. Do not skip breakfast, which is seen as the most important meal of the day, and try to have a healthy breakfast at the same time every day.
Eat Fatty Fish Regularly
Consume oily fish such as salmon and mackerel regularly. These contain omega 3 fatty acids, which increase the sensitivity of cells to cortisol. And this significantly reduces cortisol production in general.
Block Blue Light
You can use the blue light emitted from digital screens periodically during the day or just in the afternoon. Wearing safety glasses that will minimize the effect of this color on the retina will reduce the stress on the nervous system. Also, be careful not to be exposed to blue light at least 1 hour before going to sleep.
Take Short Breaks
Take short breaks of 10-15 minutes every two hours. This is a great brain relaxer, much more beneficial than a full week’s vacation. Thus, it will quickly isolate the stress factors and trigger an adequate response to them.
Sleep in a Quiet Environment
Thicker curtains, earplugs or special sleep headphones will help you achieve this