Stop Stressing. Start Losing Weight

Nowadays, the subject of stress has become so commonly discussed that many people may not be aware of the major role that it plays in weight management. However, recent clinical studies have helped shed new light on the relationship between the two, and it seems that all that worrying may be taking a significant toll on your waistline. 

There are three hormonal stress responses: acute, chronic, and adrenal burnout. Acute stress is often felt before a physical test, such as running a race or just prior to an automobile accident. In addition to a rush of anxiety and nervousness, many things are taking place at a cellular level in the body during acute stress. First, the brain''s hypothalamic center releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). This hormone then travels to the nearby pituitary gland, where it causes the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), which in turn travels through the body to the adrenal glands. 

The adrenal glands then release three hormones. The first two are epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase the heart rate and selectively increase blood flow to the muscles, lungs, and brain to allow for enhanced performance during the stressful moment. Following the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, a third hormone is released. That hormone is cortisol, which helps raise blood sugar and calm the body in order to let it recover from the stressful event. 

While effective during times of stress, this chain of chemical reactions can be debilitating if allowed to take place repeatedly in the body. When this happens, it becomes chronic stress, which can lead to the persistent elevation of both cortisol and CRH levels. This can have negative effects on the body, specifically with regard to body weight. That is because increased cortisol can lead to insulin resistance, which promotes fat deposition. 

Likewise, increased levels of CRH have been shown to increase inflammation, and chronic inflammation can ultimately result in further fat deposition. As chronic stress continues, the adrenal glands may eventually become fatigued and stop producing cortisol in response to CRH and ACTH. When cortisol levels become too low, it can lead to adrenal burnout. This can be potentially harmful, as normal amounts of cortisol are needed to help manage pain, inflammation, blood sugar, blood pressure, fatigue, mood, and emotional stability. 

Since many herbs and nutrients help to regulate cortisol production and support the adrenal glands, nutritional supplementation may be an effective way to help reduce stress and maintain a healthy cortisol balance. For example, because the adrenal glands depend on vitamin B5, a B5 deficiency puts continual stress on the adrenal glands, which can eventually lead to exhaustion and malfunction of the glands. Herbs such as ashwagandha root, eleuthero root (ginseng), and rhodiola rosea are all considered adaptogenic; that is, these herbs have a history of supporting adrenal function and cortisol production, as well as enhancing our ability to withstand the negative effects of stress. 

In addition to helping regulate blood sugar, banaba extract has been shown to reduce cortisol production and support adrenal function. The amino acid L-theanine is believed to induce relaxation and relieve emotional stress. This has to do with its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and contribute to the production of GABA, an amino acid well-known for its calming effects. 

While healthy weight management involves many factors?including limiting the amount of calories you consume each day and following a regular exercise program?nutritional supplementation may also provide noticeable benefits. When choosing a supplement, look for these ingredients that help support adrenal health and regulate cortisol levels.

Brenda Watson is a New York Times Bestselling Author, Naturopathic Doctor and President of RenewLife Formulas. She has been helping people achieve optimal digestive health for over twenty five years. 

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