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The Christmas holidays between rest and stress

Stress and cortisol.

Christmas is approaching, and if our imagination depicts a scene lit by warm lighting, with the family table welcomed by red berries, the smell of orange peels in the air, a relaxed and friendly atmosphere of conviviality, and especially the banning of guilt for the food calories, the path to reach the goal is rather bumpy.

Among the final sprint to work to close the pending tasks, anxiety for relatives and friend gifts, fear of ending up sitting at the table right in front of the obnoxious cousin, more than with the calories we could have some problems with cortisol.

Cortisol is also called the ‘stress hormone’ because increased levels are found in case of strong psycho-physical stress, hectic and irregular lifestyle or after physical activity very intense, and in general its role is to inhibit bodily functions not essential in short period, providing maximum support to vital organs: increases cardiac output, blood glucose, increased hepatic gluconeogenesis, stimulates glucagon secretion and reduces the activity of insulin. It also reduces the immune defenses.

The secretion of cortisol is controlled by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, and is regulated by the circadian rhythm of sleep-wake cycle, with a peak in the early hours of the morning, between 6 and 9 AM, followed by a gradual slowing down during the day to reach the minimum around midnight.

So far, so good. But what happens when we are subjected to a condition of prolonged stress, which forces the body to secrete chronically elevated cortisol levels?

A side effect of a chronic elevation of cortisol can be the acceleration of the onset of osteoporosis; in the absence of sugar, promotes protein catabolism and the utilization of fatty acids, but in some districts stimulates lipogenesis: stimulates the development of subcutaneous adipose tissue, especially in the torso and abdomen.

A stable state of hypercortisolism can lead to hypertension, alopecia, muscle weakness, menstrual dysfunction, recurrent infections, decreased libido, osteoporosis, headaches, depression, premature aging.

Measure and control cortisol.

Hypersensitivity to pain, such as back pain and muscle aches, sleeping difficulty and chronic fatigue, accumulation of fat around the abdomen, vulnerability to colds and infections, decreased sexual desire are symptoms of excessive production of cortisol.

Quantify the presence of cortisol in the body is very easy: the NatrixLab evaluation tests of hormonal balances is based on the sampling of saliva, which first of all … would not stress by sampling!

Besides non-negligible advantage, from the biological point of view should be known that the hormones are able to passively pass the membrane of the salivary glands, reaching the saliva.

The share of the hormone that is found, corresponds to the “free” hormone, then not bound to other proteins: the percentage which corresponds to the active part of the circulating hormones.

If, after the test, we find too high levels of cortisol, it would be a good idea:

  • Avoid junk food and prefer the unrefined carbohydrates, proteins (fish, egg whites, white meat), dietary fiber;
  • Minimize the consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, coffee, drugs and narcotics;
  • Make physical activity;
  • Sleep well and at regular times.

Even to be more focused on the goodness of the food, than the obnoxious diner, might be helpful, if only to keep alive the old saying that ‘at the table you never get old’.

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