How Stress Affects Cortisol


The world is a stress-filled place. Stress can be overcome by a lifestyle that includes nutrition, life-style maintenance, exercise, and proper sleep as key stress reduction pathways. Without the proper building blocks for mental and physical health, our stress will overwhelm us.

Bad stress is a persistent feeling of loss of control and being overwhelmed, threatened or isolated. It can also arise from prolonged inactivity. In fact, it can just as easily be generated from our own thoughts, such as when we attempt to hold onto opposing views and values at the same time.

Negative stress is a growing and significant killer in Western societies.
Cortisol has been termed “the stress hormone” because it is automatically produced in much higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to anxiety and fear. It is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:

• A quick burst of energy for survival reasons (adrenalin “rush”)
• Heightened memory functions
• A burst of increased immunity
• Lower sensitivity to pain
• Helps maintain homeostasis in the body

Consistent cognitive and emotional pressure can cause the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol, too often. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

• Impaired cognitive performance
• Suppressed thyroid function
• Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
• Decreased bone density
• Decrease in muscle tissue
• Higher blood pressure
• Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
• Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body.

Excess cortisol creates a cascade of internal compensating mechanisms that tax the other hormones and glands: thyroid, insulin, progesterone, testosterone, serotonin, DHEA. As a result, stressed people burn certain minerals in their bodies that are used in hormone production and regulation. There are both immediate and chronic effects.

Urine and hair analysis of people undergoing recent acute stress shows an immediate loss of calcium, magnesium and zinc.

If you are concerned about your stress levels, it may be time to consider diagnostic testing and a program to get back on track. These are individually formulated and patients are not only healed, but given the necessary tools to implement and make life long changes. High cortisol is not simply cured by taking supplements. It requires a restoration in your overall lifestyle and endocrine systems.

The Second Genome

“You are what you eat” may be truer than we think, or at least in terms of the composition of our gut microbiota. Until recently, we didn’t know how quickly the microbiota – or the hundreds of trillions of bacteria and microorganisms that live in our digestive system – responds to short-term changes in the types of food we eat.

A study published in Nature has cleared up any doubts by proving having volunteers for five days, limiting their food intake to meals made with rice, tomato, squash, peas, garlic, lentils, banana, mango and papaya. They then returned to their regular balanced diet for a week. Finally, they spent another five days eating just animal and fatty products, essentially bacon, eggs, pork ribs, beef, salami, prosciutto and cheese. By analysing the evolution of the microbiota throughout the period, they saw that just three days after each change in diet, the activity and composition of the bacteria present in the gut had undergone significant variations.

These findings lead researchers to consider that dietary changes could be used in the future to treat certain medical conditions, rather than drugs or even surgery. “One day, we hope we might be able, through an altered diet or behaviour, to shape the microbiota to improve health”, says Professor Lawrence David, co-author of the research. No wonder, then, that the gut microbiota receives the name of “second genome” and, as Professor David stresses, “what’s interesting is that this second genome is potentially plastic and responsive to the way we choose to live our lives.”

2ndActHealth establishes all its health programs based on the principal that food medicine is the pathway to optimal health and healing.

Nutrition: Stevia – Whispering Sweet Nothings

The stevia that is being added to everything these days is anything but “all natural.” These days it is in many products and supplements that are touted as “sugar-free” and “natural.”

In its original, unprocessed state, stevia’s molecular makeup triggers the tongue’s taste receptors for both sweet and bitter. But when scientists figured out how to chemically alter stevia, they snipped off the molecule’s less attractive, bitter bits. The result was a solely sweet product — one that’s up to 300 times sweeter than table sugar.

“‘Natural’ used to mean whole, as in holistic,” says Kevin Spelman, PhD, a principal scientist at Herb Pharm, a company that makes herbal extracts. “But the concentrated extraction of one particular fraction of stevia that exists in the little green packet is a far reach from how stevia appears in nature.”

Yikes… But there is more…

“In the context of human history, we haven’t been eating a lot of sugar or other sweeteners for very long — just decades, really,” says Paul Breslin, PhD, a researcher who studies taste perception in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J. “We don’t know what these dietary changes will do to us in the long run.”

Breslin is concerned about physiological changes sparked by eating a diet that includes additives that are hundreds (or even thousands) of times sweeter than naturally occurring sugars. The body is exquisitely sensitive to sweets, he notes, and receptors in the intestine respond to both sugar and sugar-like substitutes.

When sweetness receptors on the tongue are triggered, the body prepares itself for an onslaught of sugar. Whether or not that sugar ever arrives, our bodies may still release insulin, a powerful hormone with significant biological repercussions for blood sugar and more.

“We respond hormonally to sugars — and possibly high-potency sweeteners — in our mouths. We also have sweetness receptors in the intestines, liver, pancreas and brain,” says Breslin.

According to The Food Babe – Truvia (owned by Coca Cola) goes through about 40 steps to process the extract from the leaf, relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens.

In addition to this there is added an added genetically modified corn derivative and a chemically laden fermentation process. Other products like Stevia in the Raw contain dextrose…

So, what to do?

We recommend keeping the sweet tooth at bay… cravings are often the body requiring real nutrients.

When you do need to bake or sweeten something – stick to honey or maple syrup and coconut palm sugar all in moderation – coconut palm sugar is nutritionally superior for magnesium, amino acids and a host of other things but a little goes a long way.

It should be also pointed out that of the few studies published to date – most were commissioned through companies with a vested interest in marketing and selling the stevia product.

In the mean time, food and dessert can easily be prepared without added sweetness.