Put a DENT in your Stress through Detox
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones, and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.
It functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. It also decreases bone formation. Elevated levels of cortisol, if prolonged, can lead to proteolysis (breakdown of proteins) and muscle wasting. Cortisol reduces bone formation, favoring long-term development of osteoporosis, which is a progressive bone disease. Collagen is an important component of connective tissue. It is vital for structural support and is found in muscles, tendons, and joints, as well as throughout the entire body. Cortisol down regulates the synthesis of collagen, which leads to weakness of structure and increased injuries. Long-term exposure to cortisol damages cells in the hippocampus of the brain; this damage results in impaired learning. Furthermore, it has been shown that cortisol inhibits memory retrieval of already stored information.
The above litany of negative effects of cortisol would get anyone’s attention. As we age our elevated cortisol levels from runaway stress are strongly connected to the chronic disease epidemic that is presently happening. In order to put a DENT in this negative spiral and reverse or prevent the negative effects of chronic stress we must learn how to detoxify or eliminate some of the stress we are under and find better balance.
Understanding the concept of “Cortisol Steal”
You see, the biochemical pathways to produce many of your hormones starts with cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is very important in the balance of your hormones. Many hormones come from fat initially. The cholesterol is biochemically converted to pregnenolone and then this can be converted to numerous different hormones depending on what biochemical pathway it goes through. It can go to aldosterone, a hormone that helps us balance our body water. Or, it can go to cortisol, which is our stress hormone. Other options or paths lead to DHEA, a hormone that gives us energy, strength and vitality; or other paths lead to testosterone and then to estrogen. But, once the path to the production of cortisol has been taken, no other hormones can be created.
As you can see, if your stress level is constantly elevated and all of your cholesterol is taking the road to produce cortisol to keep up with your stress, then this is “stealing’ from the production of many of your other hormones and disturbing the balance. Your strength, energy, vitality and sex hormones cannot be produced because your need for cortisol is constantly stealing from their production.
The Detoxification and Elimination of Cortisol
Once cortisol or any chemical is produced in the body, it gets utilized and then must be detoxified and eliminated from the body so its metabolites do not get stored or cause problems in our body. The liver is the main organ to carry out the biochemical process of detoxification. The toxins that we are exposed to can be either water soluble or fat soluble. Water soluble toxins are the easiest to deal with because they dissolve in water and are already in a state that can be easily eliminated in our sweat, urine or stool.
But, fat soluble toxins like hormones need to be converted from a fat soluble chemical state to a water soluble chemical prior to being eliminated. The steps to convert a fat soluble toxin to a water soluble toxin are complex and take two phases of biochemical reactions to complete. Cortisol, for example, must first be reduced or oxidized and this process removes something from the cortisol chemical structure. Reducing the cortisol however also causes the cortisol to become positively charged and reactive. It turns it into a dangerous free radical floating in our system until the second phase of detoxification occurs and conjugates or neutralizes the free radical making it water soluble. Cortisol is conjugated by adding a sulfate or glucuron acid to it. Once this step occurs the cortisol has been fully conjugated to a water soluble chemical and now it can be eliminated through the kidney in our urine. If we have too much cortisol circulating in our system and overloading our liver, this will lead to too many fat soluble toxins for the liver to deal with and therefore cause weight gain and “fatty liver”. This is a chronic disease state that slowly destroys one’s ability to detoxify any chemicals.
Ways to Put a DENT in your Cortisol Levels
Here is a list of ways to decrease your stress and your cortisol levels so that your detoxification system is not overwhelmed by too much cortisol in the first place.
- Music Therapy can reduce cortisol levels in certain situations.
- Massage therapy can reduce cortisol.
- Laughing, and the experience of humor, can lower cortisol levels.
- Regular dancing has been shown to lead to significant decreases in salivary cortisol concentrations.
- Avoiding stimulants like too much caffeine or sugar can help lower cortisol levels.
- Making sure you eat small amounts of food and graze throughout the day and not get to hungry. Hunger or low blood sugar will raise your cortisol levels so avoid this as much as possible
- Sleep is the best way to rebalance ones cortisol levels and replenish your detoxification system.
- Exercise is an excellent way to burn off excess stress and cortisol; but, one must realize that if you over exercise or over train instead of helping to release cortisol and stress you will need to increase your cortisol level to handle the demands you are inflicting on yourself. So, start with a level of exercise that feels fun and invigorating and then working up from their as your body becomes more conditioned. This is the best way to help rather than hinder your stress reduction. Be sure to watch for next weeks blog in which I discuss more thoroughly how you can put a DENT in your stress through Exercise.