The Cortisol Confusion

I’m a little disturbed at all the cortisol blocking products and misinformation out there. It’s not that they are unnecessary, I used a cortisol blocker from VRP during a time of enormous stress, and it was a lifesaver. The problem is that cortisol blockers are the new thing, and are marketed as yet another panacea of weight loss products.  
Coritsol is a really important lifesaving hormone that enables you to respond to highly stressful situations with energy and clarity of mind.  It’s not the quick response that adrenaline is (if you have to pick the car up off the child), but rather the hormone released in a slightly longer stressful situation.  
 The problem arises when throughout the day you go from one cortisol releasing stressor to another, and you never allow for hormonal balance to return.  The adrenal glands which secrete cortisol can sort of get stuck in the on position.
The most apparent side effect of cortisol is belly fat. So there you have it.  And the marketers cry, “Don’t worry about bringing some balance into your life, just scarf down a bunch of cortisol blocking drugs and full steam ahead.”
So those of you that know me, know I have issues with this approach.  Not only is the market being flooded with dozens of cheap rip-offs of good quality cortisol blockers, it’s being misrepresented as being the only solution to fatness. 
In fact, if you have prolonged stress, and therefore high cortisol levels,  you have more to worry about than just belly fat.  Prolonged high cortisol has been shown to impair cognitive function, suppress thyroid function, effect blood sugar, decrease bone density and muscle tissue, lower immunity and increase inflammatory response, and much more.  
This is a little personal for me because I have dealt with wacked out cortisol levels.  The upshot is that I’ve learned to tell the signs that I’ve released too much cortisol.  I get very sluggish and slow, my voice gets very hoarse, my arthritis flairs, and mostly I can’t remember words.  And yes, I cannot button the top button of my jeans for no overeating reason.  
But I don’t run out and take a cortisol blocker.  The real solution to this problem is shutting down and allowing your blood hormone levels to return to normal.  By the time you see outward signs, however, it usually means that you need to invest a few days of diligently unwinding.  Remember hobbies?   Engaging in a hobby is actually a very good way to unwind and turn on the relaxation response. 
For me, that means waking up in the morning for the few weeks and doing a relatively short and easy yoga routine called the Five Tibetan Rites (more on that later).  In addition, I try to take a few minute mental time out throughout the day just relaxing to allow my body to come back to normal.  That’s really all it takes.  My memory clears up and I get my vocabulary back, my voice sounds normal again, my thyroid function comes back, I stop hurting, and yes, my jeans button again.  
Now a smart person would commit to a relaxation routine on a regular basis.  But sometimes I’m just too busy to be smart.  I doubt that I am alone in that.  However, when I hear cortisol knocking, I run to that door pretty quickly, because I know the end of that story, and it isn’t pretty.
Now I have a friend who has been suffering with back pain for the last year and a half.  It’s no joke.  He’s had several procedures done, and he’s in a fair amount of pain every day.  He is also starting to see the effects of cortisol overproduction (naturally).  He has practiced yoga for years, but his level of pain prohibits him from his practice.  This guy needs the help of a cortisol blocker.  
For most of the rest of us, we just need to stop and take some time to allow the our relaxation response to balance things out.   You have the ruby slippers, Dorothy, you can get back to Kansas whenever you want.  You don’t need the Wizard’s help.  Just close your eyes, click your heels together and repeat …
For those of you who want to learn more about the effects of cortisol on the body, here is a short, concise article.  Read Here
I am preparing a post on why I use high intensity training as an exercise protocol, specifically to combat the cortisol flood gates.  I hope you will read it and give me your thoughts.

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