Your internal environment is regulated by hormones and even the slightest change to hormone levels can have a large and lasting impact on your body.
Cortisol, The Hormone of Stress
One hormone, in particular, has a significant effect on your day-to-day life, affecting your ability to cope with stress, your energy levels, your weight, and even your reproductive and sexual health.
This hormone is cortisol and it is primarily released in times of stress via the activation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis.
Cortisol has many functions in the body and is the hormone that helps you wake up in the morning, gives you energy to exercise and helps you cope with stress.
It is released in a cyclical (circadian) rhythm, peaking in the mornings at approximately 8am and then waning in the afternoons, between 3-4pm.
This rhythm enables you to get up and function in the mornings and then relax and ‘switch off’ at the end of the day.
Interrupted Sleep, Insomnia, Fatigue
If, however, cortisol is constantly being released into your bloodstream due to ongoing stress, then this natural rhythm and hence your sleeping rhythms become displaced.
High levels of cortisol circulating in your blood stream in the middle of the night means you will be wide awake in the middle of the night. When these levels crash early in the morning you will too.
Blood Glucose Levels, Insulin Resistance, Inability to Lose Weight, Exhaustion
Another of cortisol’s functions is to increase the level of glucose in your blood stream.
However, constantly high levels of glucose in your blood stream lead to insulin resistance and the effects of insulin resistance include fatigue, increased appetite, abdominal weight gain, and eventually Type II Diabetes Mellitus.
Poor Immunity, Frequent Infections & Poor Healing
High levels of cortisol also suppress your immune system resulting in frequent infections and poor healing.
Gut Health, Woman’s Health and Pregnancy
In addition, excess cortisol has a negative effect on both your digestive and reproductive systems leading to digestive disorders, PMT and difficulties in conceiving or maintaining a pregnancy.
What is Stress Doing to You?
So if you find you can’t sleep at night, can’t lose weight, are constantly sick or struggle with digestive or menstrual/reproductive problems then perhaps it is time to stop for a minute and take a closer look at your stress levels and how you are coping with them.