Live the Red Mountain Way

Healthy & Happy  

Cortisol Levels, Stress & Weight Gain: How it all Relates


Co-Authored by: Dr. Suzanne Bentz, D.O., Founder & Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Shelly Kocher, M.D., FACOG, Medical Director


When undergoing a stressful situation, your brain triggers the secretion of two hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenaline causes our heart rate & blood pressure to rise while cortisol releases glucose to be used for energy production as your body prepares you for a stressful event and helps your brain think more clearly wile shutting down non-essential functions of the body (such as your GI tract). Think of it as an “all hands-on deck” emergency situation where the urgent task at hand (stressful, inciting event) needs everything in the body to work towards that one goal of resolving the stressor. This is a great system for an acute response to an actual threat.

What is so common in our society today is CHRONIC STRESS.

When the adrenals continue to be over-stimulated, the cortisol, insulin & glucose levels remain high in the blood. Over time, the body becomes less sensitive to insulin and cells stop responding or become resistant to insulin and fail to utilize glucose. The body thinks we are starving and hangs onto stored fat for energy, thus causing an increase in appetite and cravings. This creates the perfect storm when someone is actually consuming an overabundance of calories but the body doesn’t use those calories for energy and instead stores them as fat. The body also won’t be using its stored fat for energy so instead it goes after lean body mass such as muscle to be utilized for energy. Our system becomes sluggish, then overeating and decreased activity ensues, creating weight gain and difficulty losing weight. A healthy lifestyle and normal weight is the best way to keep insulin and glucose in check to avoid weight gain.

6 tips to reduce stress levels & weight gain:

  1. Avoid/stop unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, overconsumption of junk foods and fast foods
  2. Exercise improved the body’s ability to fight infection
  3. Reduce sugar sugar is a big instigator of inflammation. Inflammation has been associated with weight gain and poorer immune function
  4. Increase antioxidants berries, fiber, green leaf vegetables are high in antioxidants and will lower inflammation which in turn improves immune function
  5. Sleep important for metabolism, maintaining a healthy weight, relationships, mood, immune function
  6. DHEA add to your supplement routine to help lower cortisol levels (available at Red Mountain)