This blog post acts as Part II and a continuation of "Belly Flab to Belly Flat"...
To improve our health status (via decreasing silent inflammation = fat) and to improve our comfort levels (via decreasing belly flab), let's turn our attention to another belly flab culprit, stress and cortisol.
To bring about clarity, cortisol is our alert or stress hormone that is released from the adrenal glands. In alert mode, it provides that natural feel-good energy and brings about alertness upon waking (ie. children in the AM). In stress mode, it puts us into survival state when we interpret a situation as stressful (ie. chased by a dog).
Cortisol is actually protective and phenomenal, it allows us to adapt in response to "whoa, stress!", essentially survive, exit survival mode once the stress is dealt with. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common that our stress response is activated too often and remains activated too long; the body does not exit survival mode, and we are exposed to excess circulating cortisol.
The take-away is that too frequent or too constant release of cortisol due to a perceived stress can be damaging, no longer protective and contribute to abdominal fat, general inflammation, muscle breakdown, sleep loss, increased cravings and that "Frantic Fanny" or "Nervous Nelly". The issue is that chronic stress contributes to chronic cortisol circulating,; unused cortisol influences fat to be deposited at the belly! The goal is to deflate our daily stress and inactivate our stress response, whereby survival mode occurs less and survival mode is exited quicker.
1. Improve your stress resiliency (the degree to which stress impacts you) via a solid health foundation to stand upon.
Focus on: Eat Right. Move Right. Drink Right. Breathe Right. Think Right. Sleep Right. Poop Right.
Note: These 7 Health Basics will be an eventual blog. Even just practicing 2 or more will create a positive ripple effect.
2. Analyze your stressors
Tip: Make a list, make your stressors visible. Ask yourself which ones you will accept? change? reject?
Note: This exercise can be powerful...after all, awareness brings change.
3. Balance your blood sugars
Balance sugar = Less insulin = Less body stress = Lower cortisol (Refer to Part I of Belly Flab to Belly Flat)
4. Physical Activity
A definite recharge to the nervous system, an opportunity to be in the moment and "let go"
5. Practice an Adrenal Lifestyle
Focus on: Bed before 11pm. Create structure and routine. Physical activity. Say “No” to that which does not inspire you. Laugh often. Blood sugar balance. Positive thinking. Make time for things/people/places that recharge you. Make time for stress deflation (talking, art, nature, mediation, cuddling, tea, reading, baths, movies).
6. Investigate any digestive stress
Digestive stress is a common invisible body burden/stress that increases cortisol.
Tip: Multiple rounds of antibiotics may create less beneficial bacteria at the colon
Tip: Do you suspect any food sensitivities contributing to inflammation (a "fire" that the body perceives as stress)?
To living in health,
Amy de Oliveira, Naturopathic Doctor
Women's & Family Natural Health Expert