Cortisol is an adrenal hormone mimicked by Cortisone, the wonder drug used to battle inflammatory and allergic reaction. Side effects of cortisone include “rapid weight gain,” among many other not-so-appealing impacts. Think there might be a connection between cortisol and weight gain?? If you said “yes,” you’re right!
But what are the causes of high cortisol levels?
To figure that out, we must first identify what cortisol’s primary physiological purpose is. Just as doctors use cortisone to fight inflammation and allergy, so too does the body to fight the very same things – with cortisol.
Essentially, the causes of high cortisol levels are inflammation and allergy, and in some regard stress.
Now we get into a trickier realm, as we are left needing to decipher what causes inflammation, allergy, and stress to be able to bring cortisol levels down.
In all of my research, the best and most concise chain of events leading to high cortisol follows a pattern like this:
- With a diet that supplies a greater proportion of calories to nutrients – an inevitable consequence of a Western diet which often derives 50-75% of calories from nutrient-free vegetable oils, refined sugars, and white flour or and/or rice, the body runs through vitamin and mineral reserves faster than they are re-supplied.
- The body responds to using up these reserves more quickly than they are replaced by slowing down the rate at which it uses nutrients – it does this by slowing down the metabolism.
- When the metabolism slows down, the body temperature is lowered. With a lower body temperature, the body is more prone to infection, and chronic infections take root causing chronic inflammation and high cortisol levels in the body to fight that inflammation.
- Then this problem spirals out of control. A body with a low metabolism develops insulin resistance with the aid of cortisol. This leads to high levels of blood sugar and a type of cellular damage called glycation. Glycation = more inflammation.
- To top all of that off, cortisol, the “fire fighter,” tends to suppress immune function (another one of the prominent side effects of cortisone). This triggers overactivation of the immune system which leads to allergy (more inflammation and more cortisol) and sometimes even autoimmune diseases in which the immune system is so vigilant it begins attacking itself!
What a friggin mess!
Then, when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, your stressful lifestyle, lack of sleep, use of stimulants to get through it all, and more contribute even further to the problem. Yes, you got it. Cortisol is one primary reason why there is such a strong connection between stress and weight gain.
Dont believe me?? Simply consider that a recent book on the topic of chronic hypercortisolemia was entitled, The Potbelly Syndrome, by Russell Farris and Per Marin. I rest my case.
Cortisol is one of the primary hormones that is researched and focused upon at 180DegreeHealth, not only for the purpose of achieving weight loss, but for completely preventing the metabolic syndrome to which high cortisol levels contribute. Join the 180 mailing list and you’ll find out more about cortisol and what you can do to prevent the negative impact of high cortisol levels.
Conversely, what happens to a person’s weight if the cortisol goes down to a low level. Would that person experience unexplained weight loss?
I experienced a remarkable loss of weight without any change of diet whatsoever. I went down to 98 pounds and stayed right around there for several years. This was somewhat concurrent with severe chronic illness, mostly chronic fatigue/fibro type stuff. My cortisol level was low, but the endocrinologist did not believe I had Addison’s so sent me and my suffering body away. I was in a lot of fear because of the symptoms and because of being rudely turned away by a so-called “specialist”.
Now, for the past year or so, I’ve been packing on the pounds, but not feeling one bit better. Still have pain, severe insomnia, fatigue & weakness, and neuropathy type symptoms throughout my body.
Sorry, didn’t mean to go on, I’ve been looking for the answer to that weight loss thing for a long time, as it was so out of character for me; I never was skinny before in my whole life
I am wondering the same thing. I came here to get answers for my mom, who has been diagnosed with low cortisol levels. She’s had loads of symptoms of hypothyroid, which she isn’t helping by hard excercise and under eating. So now I am confused as to why she would have low cortisol as opposed to high….
Actually… She had read her paperwork wrong, it is high! Makes much more sense.