Cortisol is a hormone made by your adrenal glands that can promote fat accumulation on your abdomen. Cortisol is a stress hormone; your body secretes more of it whenever you are stressed. Cortisol has three main jobs in your body – to raise blood glucose (to prepare your body to fight or flee), raise blood pressure and to modulate your immune system (in the short term it reduces inflammation; in the long term it can suppress your immune system).
Problems arise when your cortisol level remains chronically elevated. This can cause chronically raised blood sugar, and eventual insulin resistance. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you secrete, which promotes abdominal fat accumulation.
Unfortunately, eating carbs and sugar also raises cortisol, which worsens the weight gain. It gets worse – belly fat cells contain four times more cortisol receptors compared with other cells. That means every time you raise cortisol levels, you just feed that muffin top.
Bringing your cortisol down can be hard work because sometimes we are caught in a stressful life situation that we can’t escape from. Trying to get adequate, good quality sleep; meditating, performing yoga and gentle exercise can all help. It is also important to nourish and support your adrenal glands, as excessive cortisol secretion can lead to eventual adrenal burnout and adrenal gland exhaustion. Certain herbs and nutrients can be very helpful.