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Is stress and high cortisol driving your weight gain, mood and more...?

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, 95% of diseases are either caused by or worsened by stress. The American Institute of Stress notes that 75-90% of doctors visits are connected to stress related conditions.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that is responsible for hunger cravings, digestion, blood pressure, sleep/wake pattern, physical activity and your ability to deal with stress. Cortisol keeps us alive by raising blood sugar & blood pressure, regulates inflammation.

Cortisol’s main job is to keep blood sugar at a normal level. It can raise your glucose and store the excess in the liver.

Stress is a normal part of life and in certain situation your cortisol levels will increase as if you are in imminent danger. But should return to normal after the situation has settled.

The problem occurs when for some women, the increased levels of cortisol does not return to normal

When your body is consistently under perceived stress (fight or flight) and constant high levels of cortisol, this is where most women start to experience symptoms such as sugar cravings, belly fat, anxiety, etc. (fat cells in the belly have 4 times more cortisol receptors than other parts of the body).

In a ‘fight or flight’ situation, hormones in the brain tells the adrenals to release more cortisol; this happens because the body needs to increase glucose into the muscles so we can fight/run/defend and increase blood pressure so we can have fresh oxygen to think clearly.

Persistent or chronic stress increases cortisol and cortisol can block your progesterone receptors and both cortisol and progesterone compete for the receptors. This can lead to other hormonal issues, especially with estrogen, as progesterone and estrogen are like twins, they function together.

Both estrogen and progesterone need to be balanced otherwise you can experience low and low levels of both estrogen progesterone leading to many of the hormonal symptoms that perimenopause and menopausal women face.

Health problems associated with high cortisol

  • Abnormal blood sugar, prediabetes, diabetes

  • Obesity, increased body fat and metabolic syndrome -too much stress makes you fat especially around the belly

  • Emotional issues (Mood, depression) brain-Alzheimers, MS-excess cortisol shrink your brain, causing cognitive impairment

  • Wounds take longer to heal

  • Infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

  • Insomnia

  • Bone loss in menopausal women

What you can do to manage high cortisol

  • Diet, nutrition, movement and supplements such as Vitamin B, fish oils, etc. are key

  • Limit Alcohol as it raises cortisol (1 glass/week)

  • Avoid caffeine, except for caffeine in green tea)

  • Get regular massages (optimal once a week) - lowers cortisol and increase oxytocin

  • Daily chanting/prayer - lights up particular regions of the brain such as the hippocampus, which helps memory

  • Acupuncture -3 times a week for 12 weeks. Shown to decrease hot flashes and night sweats and increase quality of life for menopausal women

  • Forgive -harboring resentment ages you and increases cortisol

  • Increase intimacy

  • Practice yoga -incorporating deep breathing through the nose, chanting

  • Eat dark chocolate -studies show that eating 40g of dark chocolate a day for 2 weeks helps lower cortisol. (This is not the conventional chocolate, good quality dark chocolate)

Source: Dr Sara Godfried, The Hormone Cure

In Good Health,


DISCLAIMER: This information is not intended to provide medical advice. The purpose is to provide education and broader understanding to my readers. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. I do not recommend or prescribe, or recommend changing dosage or discontinuing, any prescription medications or pharmaceutical drugs.

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