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Back to blog Cortisol stress has 7 really negative effects on the body
Raw Education

Cortisol stress has 7 really negative effects on the body

In the modern lifestyle, cortisol stress is shockingly prevalent. You may have high levels of this stress hormone and not even be aware of its effects on your body. 

The fantastic news is that awareness and exploration of cortisol’s effects is the first step.

In this blog, we’re going to walk through important insights and how to shift away from cortisol ravaging. We are revealing: 

  • What cortisol is
  • Why cortisol stress is so common 
  • 7 common, shocking effects of cortisol on the body
  • Simple ways to relieve side effects of increased cortisol 

Even if stress has crept up in our life, especially in situations that have or felt out of your control, know that is okay and in the past. That’s why we’re all the more glad you’re here seeing how to decrease this stress hormone and up body’s health. 

Cortisol

This specific hormone is the root of a highly surprising level of issues and problems that plague people day to day, without their awareness. Before diving into the side effects of cortisol and how to combat these challenges, let’s touch on the definition of cortisol and why it has a big impact on our bodies. 

What is cortisol? 

In short, cortisol is a steroid hormone that has varying levels in your body at any given time. 

Cortisol is most often known the “stress hormone”, however? 

There are positives functions and important roles of cortisol. The issue is that when overactivated, cortisol side effects are intense. 

Why we have cortisol + the good roles it plays

When we’re in a healthy mindset and doing well physically, natural levels of cortisol pulse up and down. Cortisol: 

  • Upon waking up, it goes up because this hormone helps get our juices flowing and go from sleepy in sheets to on-the-go mode. 
  • Helps to regulate blood pressure 
  • Aids indigestion 
  • Perceives threats in order to try keeping you safe

The release at threats? This is when cortisol becomes an issue. 

Why too much cortisol damages the body

Stress is not only emotion. Stress is a physical response that affects many systems of the body - in both short-term and long-term. 

Cortisol is triggered when our brain perceives a threat to safety. This is often known as flight or flight and has been wired into humans for highly necessary reasons. If ancestors saw a lion, it was necessary for our bodies to have the energy to sprint away. Similarly, in modern times we need to have a surge of adrenaline to jump out of the way of an approaching car. The release of cortisol has importance in keeping us alive, safe and healthy. 

Fight or flight is important in short bursts in vital situation. We are NOT meant to live in this mode so much of the time yet it’s common. 

When overactivated, the constant release of cortisol takes a toll.

Why is cortisol stress so common? 

In the 21st century, hormonal stress happens for a number of reasons: 

  1. Phones are helpful but put us in constant response mode. From emails and social media to texts and phone calls, we’re constantly at other people’s fingertips. It’s harder to sit and relax when there’s a pinging device by you. 
  2. Comparing is easier than ever. In the 1700s, you likely saw fewer people and saw them as they were. With photoshop, filters and the highlight reels of social media, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others in terms of looks and lifestyle. This can add so much stress.
  3. Information overload can be very hard on the brain. With the number of TV shows we can watch, books to read, articles to review and apps to try, our brain can feel scattered and frantic at all the possibilities around us. 

In addition, naturally, there are stresses that have always been a part of human existence. Relationships. Grief. Loss. Daily errands. Finances. 

Our brain cannot tell the difference from the intense stress of a text message from a lion on the savannah. Cortisol can be triggered and a response made for fight or flight becomes a hyper-stressed, heart-palpitated daily life. 

Thankfully, there are ways to lower this stress hormone. First, let’s walk through what cortisol does and then share solutions. 

7 shocking effects of cortisol on the body

While we likely know stress isn’t good for us, you may be shocked at the in-depth levels of bodily health and function that are truly put off-track and deteriorated by this phenomenon. 

Digestive issues 

Our brain and gut are closely tied. In fact, the gut is often called the second brain and when stress goes off, our brain is told to channel energy elsewhere. This can cause multiple problems: 

  • Blood and oxygen flow are re-routed so digestion is poor. Why? If we’re running from a lion, our body’s programmed to put energy into other systems - not processing our quinoa salad.
  • Stress offsets the healthy bacteria in our gut, which can lead to a variety of issues such as ulcers, gastro issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cramping and more.
  • Acid is often increased in the stomach, which leads to a variety of issues - especially with modern diets being so high in acid already. This can also include heart burn. 

Weight fluctuation

When our body’s stressed, digestion being off also influences weight. In addition, if the body is worried it’s in an unstable situation, it’s more likely to cling to fat. There’s particular tendency for cortisol to increase abdominal fat deposits.

Increase in wrinkles

One might be surprised that the skin is actually affected by cortisol, too. Over longer periods, the more cortisol is in the body, the more it can start to affect our skin’s apperance. The more muscles tense *symptom of cortisol release and stress* this puts tension on facial muscles that trigger more wear and tear over time, what we often call more casually as “belly fat”.

Dull skin and acne

Beyond aging affects, there are other influences on the skin.  

  1. Acne: The more cortisol released, oil production (sebum) is influenced. This is why you may feel more oily in times of stress and, especially if pores clogged, see pimples appear. 
  2. Dullness: Your body thinks it’s in flight or flight mode, so it’s going to send body power and circulation to vital body systems rather than skin. With less circulation, your skin looses that glowy look.

    For right now? Here’s how to get rid of a cystic pimple... besides eating healthy & drinking water

Decreased immunity

Especially when prolonged, cortisol messes with our immune system. Because while cortisol is healthy in necessary dangerous situations, overtime if the energy keeps going to stress and flight or flight systems, your body doesn’t have a chance to rest and build its immune system back up - to fight off the “bad guys”.

Sleep issues 

When cortisol releases, your brain is basically on high alert. Your heart rate goes up, awareness shoots high and (since brain is sensing potential danger) is going to find it challenging to rest. The higher the cortisol, the more likely you’ll feel restless. 

Change in thirst 

A desire for more water is a surprising side effect of cortisol. If you find yourself feeling the need to guzzle lots of water even if should be hydrated, this is a side effect to watch out for.

How to reduce cortisol levels 

The good news is cortisol can absolutely be shifted and reduced on a daily basis. Here are top ways to give relief to cortisol heights. 

Relax 

Try to find ways to reset and slow down your body and mind. Things that may help your mind zone out and halt the flight-or-fight mode include: 

  • Walks outside
  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Reading
  • Any activities you find enjoyable *especially off technology*

    A great time to work in these habits is first when you wake up, so you start the day feeling grounded not on the run. In fact -

    Here are the best morning routine (Less than 15 minutes)

Eat stabilizing foods

While eating a healthy diet is fantastic for a number of reasons, here are specific foods that help to reduce cortisol or at least balance it out. And yes, they are natural, vegan and delicious options. 

  • Brazil nuts 
  • Avocados
  • Leafy greens
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Dark chocolate

Take apple cider vinegar 

Cortisol can trigger sugar cravings. Too much sugar can cause several issues to the body’s systems.

For example, an overload of sugar can flare up skin issues. Seeing acne, oily skin or other skin issues can make you feel even more stressed (and create a cortisol cycle). If cortisol has already flared up, start calming skin with a natural, plant-based moisturizer.

Increase this loud habit

A study showed that as laughter went up, cortisol plummetted. Especially during work day, errands or daily madness, we know it can feel hard to laugh. Here are a few ways to increase this out-loud emotion: 

  • A comedic TV show *besides the dramas you love* 
  • Reading books that make you giggle
  • Spend time with friends doing something silly 

Create a soothing evening routine 

By having a nightly ritual that unwinds you, this promotes relaxation and helps to get a good night sleep. Here are a few ideas: 

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