January 23, 2015 by Dr. Sana Keller
A friend recently asked if I would write about the connection between stress, cortisol and insulin—Thanks, Janine—I love requests! This is a HUGE topic to cover, which many experts have done in a most detailed way. This is also a CRITICALLY IMPORTANT topic to cover (if you are a health-conscious person, which I’m guessing you are since you are reading this). 🙂
Consider this a ‘Cliff Note’ version on the topic…followed by some effective ways to reduce the effects of stress. Links to detailed information on the connection between stress, cortisol and insulin are at the end of this post.
Let’s face it, we ALL have stress in our lives…that’s life! Our bodies are designed to handle the typical ebb and flow of temporary stress and stressful conditions (thankfully). Stress starts negatively impacting our health when it becomes chronic, especially when it is not addressed with effective stress management measures (more on that later).
WHAT CAN CHRONIC STRESS LOOK LIKE?
Typical signs and symptoms of chronic stress include irritability, anxiety, memory problems, frequent colds, changes in bowel patterns, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, achiness, sleep problems, weight gain… (that’s the short list). In a nutshell, here is a brief equation describing the effects of chronic stress:
CHRONIC STRESS –> INCREASED CORTISOL and INCREASED INSULIN LEVELS –>INSULIN RESISTANCE–>WEIGHT GAIN and MULTIPLE RELATED HEALTH PROBLEMS
This equation is greatly oversimplified to help provide a basic understanding of what unaddressed chronic stress can do to our body. Over time, chronic stress can lead to low cortisol levels due to adrenal fatigue and exhaustion, which can be life-threatening. This is in addition to ‘Multiple Health Problems’ in the above equation.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING CAUGHT IN THE CHRONIC STRESS EQUATION: PAY ATTENTION!
- Pay attention to what your body is telling you–In other words, STOP ignoring the signs of chronic stress you’re noticing in your life.
- Pay attention to what you are putting into your body–In other words, START making healthier food choices each meal and healthier beverage choices throughout the day.
- Pay attention to your sleep cycle–In other words, ENSURE adequate amounts of quality sleep with a regular bedtime schedule and effective sleep hygiene practices.
- Pay attention to your breathing–In other words, REMEMBER 4-7-8: a Deep Breathing Sequence from Dr. Andrew Weil that helps reduce effects of stress that takes only minutes…AND is very helpful to use at bedtime.
- Pay attention to your schedule–In other words, SCHEDULE at least 30 minutes 5 times a week for exercise. This is one of the most effective stress-busters and healthy practices, it needs to be ‘inked in’ on our schedules.
- Pay attention to the ‘voices in your head’–In other words, CHOOSE your thoughts and make them work for you!
This can seem like a whole lot to pay attention to. That’s where Health Coaching can help. Check out my website for further information. I would be happy to help you—in person or over the phone.
To your long-term health,
Sana Keller, PhD, RN, CNC Health Unlimited LLC
Websites with detailed information on the stress, cortisol and insulin connection:
http://cortisolconnection.com/ch6_2.php , http://www.pnas.org/content/109/16/5995.abstract , http://www.hormones.gr/503/article/article.html , http://www.humanstress.ca/stress/understand-your-stress/stages-of-chronic-stress.html.
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