Cortisol and the Adrenal Gland

Cortisol is an important hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This hormone is activated by stress of all kinds. Cortisol releases sugar from the liver and muscles into the blood to use for fuel in stressful events. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Although cortisol can be a fat-burning hormone it has an indirect fat-storing effect. Cortisol’s fat-storing effect occurs when it turns body-muscle proteins into sugar for fuel. This produces excess sugar in the blood forcing insulin to deal with the excess causing weight gain in the midsection.
As cortisol breaks down the muscle and turns it into sugar, insulin must then use the sugar for fuel. If the sugar is not completely used up, it then becomes converted to fat around the midsection. Because of this a person’s legs may become thinner and weaker as cortisol will take from the thighs and buttock region to supply fuel in times of stress. Cortisol can be destructive on the body’s proteins, leading to thinning of the bones. In chronic stress patients, one may notice a bulging midsection with thin legs.
High protein diets can trigger fat-burning hormones, except when the adrenals are releasing too much sugar from tissues and muscles. If this occurs, then fat-burning hormones get blocked. This may explain why some patients have difficulty losing weight on high protein diets. For these patients, getting into fat burning mode, there must be no extra sugar in the blood or the body will not burn fat. The body will always burn sugar over fat.
Excessive cortisol production can increase potassium loss, turning the blood into an alkaline state. This can decrease calcium absorption. Instead of calcium going into the body, it accumulates on body tissues, i.e tartar on teeth, bone spurs, joint arthritis, bursitis etc. If the adrenals continue to be overworked, adrenal fatigue will develop. Patients with weak adrenals do not handle stress well, have trouble sleeping, have muscle aches and pains, salt and mineral imbalances, and cravings.
Exhausted adrenals lower the immune system placing this patient at risk for opportunistic infections. Before this patient can lose weight, the adrenals must become healthy again, which can be achieved through food and diet modification.

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