Can't Lose Weight or Hit a Weight Loss Plateau? Try Having More Sex! by Dr. Vikki Petersen
We all experience stress, and with stress comes elevated cortisol levels which can wreak havoc on the body and your health in general. Cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone, works to regulate metabolism and immune response; but when it’s elevated, it can cause belly fat (bye-bye summer bod), anxiety, fatigue, lack of sleep and so much more.
But there is one surprising way to decrease your cortisol levels, in turn helping you get that summer body you have been working toward – and one of those is having more sex.
Engaging infrequent, low-intensity exercise can help decrease your cortisol levels significantly. While intense exercise elevates cortisol levels short term, exercise actually helps to reduce your cortisol levels at night, thus aiding in a better night’s sleep, allowing the body to regenerate and heal itself. Sex is a great, low-intensity exercise that can actually help lower circulating cortisol levels (thus helping get rid of that stubborn belly fat).
So yes, sex can help you get that summer body you’ve been wanting! At least if stress has been what’s preventing it. But if more sex isn’t on the radar for you, there are other things you can do to lower cortisol naturally.
But first, what exactly is cortisol?
Cortisol is your body’s main stress hormone; it is released by your adrenal glands when stress or fear are perceived. Cortisol regulates a variety of functions in your body including your immune function, inflammatory regulation, glucose metabolism and it also affects the release of insulin and regulates your blood pressure.
How can you tell if your cortisol levels are spiking and what does it do to the body?
Cortisol is needed for normal functioning of your body; but, if levels stay elevated it puts you at risk for a variety of health conditions and disease states. When it elevates acutely (for a short time) you can feel symptoms of elevated heart rate, anxiety, a feeling of stress or fear. You may also notice a digestive response such as diarrhea or stomach cramps. When it has been elevated chronically we start to see long-term negative effects.
What are some common signs to be aware of?
- Elevated Blood Sugar Levels: Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to both diabetes and heart disease and is also the cause of increased abdominal fat. If you find you can’t lose the spare tire around your belly, it’s likely due to cortisol and its effect on blood sugar.
- Depleted Immune Function: Have you been getting sick more frequently lately? This is a common symptom of elevated cortisol, as too much cortisol can deplete your immune system.
- Increased Inflammation: Got more aches and pains in your joints and body than normal? One cause of inflammation in the body is due to heightened cortisol levels.
- Elevated Blood Pressure: Cortisol causes an increase in heart rate, causing blood vessels to narrow, and elevating blood pressure. Even though hormone levels may regulate once your stress levels subside, these temporary elevations can still cause damage to your blood vessels, heart and kidneys.
- Suppressed Thyroid Function: Increased cortisol levels can elevate reverse T3 levels, which is crucial for glucose control. This can alter the number of insulin receptors available and how receptive they are to insulin. Blood sugar issues are connected to suppressed thyroid function, so if you suspect your thyroid function is impacted, cortisol may be to blame.
What is another way to reduce cortisol levels naturally other than sex?
Do some breathing exercises! Breathing exercises can switch you from fight or flight to the relaxed, parasympathetic nervous system response needed to allow cortisol levels to drop naturally. Stress causes the sympathetic nervous system to go into overdrive and shuts off the parasympathetic nervous system. Breathwork, meditation and listening to music for relaxation can all help the body relax and start rebalancing itself. Also, adding in some low-intensity exercise will help your cortisol levels to stay regulated and can reduce stress, thus improving your overall mental and physical health.
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