When we experience stress, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. This system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream and enhances your brain’s use of glucose. We need these hormones to follow through with daily tasks such as getting up in the morning, or responding to acute stress.
So what’s the problem?
Well, in order for you to perform such daily tasks, especially acute stress (like an unknown dog suddenly barking at you) cortisol also shuts down bodily functions that are nonessential in these types of situations. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. Could you imagine the havoc this wreaks on our health in this fast-paced, consistently stressed lifestyle? Our bodies are pumping out cortisol on a constant basis and when chronically elevated (along with our heart rate & sugars in the bloodstream), cortisol can have deleterious effects on our system such as:
- Blood Sugar Imbalance and Diabetes
- Weight Gain and Obesity
- Immune System Suppression
- Gastrointestinal Problems
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Fertility Problems
- Other Issues – Long-term stress and elevated cortisol may also be linked to insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, dementia, depression, and other conditions.