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How To Stop Cortisol Weight Gain
Exposure to stressful situations could lead to chronically raised cortisol levels in the body, which can cause health damage.

Cortisol may help to maintain healthy immune function and blood pressure. However, excessive cortisol levels can disrupt the body’s natural balance and have adverse consequences.

High cortisol levels could influence your metabolism and appetite, causing rapid weight gain and poor health. Thus, maintaining a cortisol balance is crucial for overall health.

This article elaborates on the effective approach to dealing with unstable cortisol levels. Read till the end to know how cortisol levels affect your weight and what measures you could try to overcome the damaging effects of cortisol.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol hormone is produced by adrenal glands and regulated by the pituitary gland present in the brain.

It acts as an internal alarm system, helping to manage stress and support the body’s overall function. Cortisol may also help improve your immune system and reduce inflammation.

The adrenal glands release cortisol throughout the day, with levels rising in the morning to assist in waking up and staying alert and gradually decreasing as bedtime comes.

When cortisol levels are too high for prolonged periods, it can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to weight gain, increased blood pressure, and a compromised immune system.

Effect of High Cortisol

Excessive cortisol levels in the body can harm overall health, leading to various adverse health


High cortisol levels might interfere with the body’s ability to sleep and stay asleep, leading to insomnia or poor sleep quality.

Excessive cortisol may also cause weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. When cortisol levels remain elevated, it could increase appetite, especially for high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods.

Cortisol increases unwanted fat storage, which could develop visceral fat that may cause severe metabolic disorders.

High cortisol levels may raise blood pressure. It may increase the compression of blood vessels and promote the release of adrenocorticotrophic hormones that raise blood pressure. Prolonged elevation of cortisol could develop hypertension, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Impact Of Cortisol On Belly Fat

Fat accumulation around the abdominal area, commonly called ‘cortisol belly fat,’ could result from prolonged periods of elevated cortisol levels caused by chronic stress.

High cortisol levels may disrupt the natural cortisol rhythm and influence energy storage mechanisms in the body.

If your waist size surpasses 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, it may be a sign that your belly fat is increasing due to stress.

When cortisol is excessively present in our system, it could stimulate the breakdown of muscle protein and promote fat storage in the abdominal region.

Best Ways To Reduce Cortisol Belly Fat

  1. Follow a Healthy Diet

    High cortisol levels could be managed by maintaining a healthy diet. Making a calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than your body burns may support weight loss.

    Whole may provide fiber and nutrients, promoting satiety and regulating cortisol. It contains polyphenols that may reduce stress and support gut health.

    Whole fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, supporting overall health and weight loss. It may also help in fighting free radicals, which could reduce stress.

    Healthy fats may provide essential fatty acids, promote satiety, and help balance cortisol. Saturated fats may cause cognitive decline and increase cortisol levels.

    Try to consume a diet with unsaturated fats like Omega 3, as it may lower metabolic stress and promote cognitive health for a healthier stress level.

    Calculate your calorie needs and desire for a moderate deficit, typically reducing 500-750 calories daily, resulting in a weekly weight loss of about 1-1.5 pounds.

  2. Regulate Stress Levels

    Identify the sources of stress in your life, whether related to work, relationships, or financial pressures. Mindfulness and meditation techniques could help reduce stress levels and improve overall health.

    Activities such as yoga, tai chi, qigong, and acupuncture may offer stress relief effects. Deep breathing exercises may provide some relaxation and reduce stress levels.

    Therapy and counseling could also be helpful when it comes to managing stress. Professionals could provide personalized support and guidance to help you manage stress effectively and reduce the impact of cortisol on weight gain.

  3. Avoid Processed Foods

    Processed foods may increase inflammation in the body. These foods contain trans fats, excessive sugar, and refined carbohydrates, contributing to weight gain, especially around the belly area.

    Choose whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats for vital nutrients and antioxidants that could help reduce inflammation.

  4. Proper Hydration

    When you drink insufficient water, it may cause elevated cortisol. Your body may perceive it as stress and increase your cortisol levels. Ensuring hydration may support a healthy metabolism and could also be effective for weight management.

  5. Avoid Caffeine

    You should stay mindful of your caffeine intake to manage cortisol levels and promote relaxation effectively.

    Caffeine is found in foods and beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate. It stimulates the central nervous system, increases heart rate, and can interfere with sleep.

    According to a study, caffeine intake before workouts may raise cortisol levels. After meals, this effect was more intense in women experiencing a greater cortisol response when they took caffeine.

    Consuming caffeine in the evening makes sleeping difficult, leading to insufficient rest and elevated cortisol levels the next day.

    It is essential to consume them in moderation and avoid consuming them close to bedtime to minimize any potential sleep disturbances.

  6. Start Workouts

    Regular physical exercise could be an effective strategy to manage cortisol levels and promote overall health.

    However, choosing the right type and intensity of exercise is essential, as intense exercise can actually trigger an increase in cortisol levels. Low- or moderate-impact exercise could be better for people with high cortisol levels.

  7. Getting Enough Sleep

    It is crucial to prioritize getting sufficient sleep to effectively manage cortisol levels and combat

    belly fat caused by cortisol. It may help in hormonal balance, overall stress, and weight control.

    Difficulty in sleeping could increase stress and may also cause sleep apnea. It may disturb circulating cortisol and your natural hormonal functioning, which could reduce your energy levels.

    When we sleep, our body goes through different stages of sleep, including REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. These stages allow our body to repair and restore itself,

    including regulating cortisol levels.

    Research suggests that sleep deprivation could cause an increase in cortisol levels. Lack of sleep can disrupt the natural cortisol rhythm and increase stress and weight gain.

    Thus, maintaining sleep hygiene is crucial for controlling cortisol levels and belly fat. Establish a proper bedtime routine and avoid going to bed unless you feel sleepy.

  8. Avoid Smoking

    Smoking could impact cortisol levels, as well as sleep quality. According to a study, cigarette smoking may cause increased cortisol levels.

    Smoking may cause a significant rise in the hormone cortisol due to nicotine exposure. Thus, avoiding or limiting smoking to support balanced cortisol levels is essential.

  9. Trying Relaxation Techniques

    Relaxation techniques like walking meditation, visualization, and guided meditation techniques could activate the body’s relaxation response, potentially reducing the production of stress hormones.

    Guided meditation includes listening to a recorded or live voice guiding people through relaxation exercises. This practice encourages mindfulness and may help you concentrate on the present moment, reducing the impact of stress and anxiety.

    Walking meditation may include walking slowly and mindfully, focusing on each step and the body’s sensations. It may help reduce stress, increase mindfulness, and improve mental clarity.

    Visualization techniques may involve creating mental images of peaceful and calming scenes. It could stimulate relaxation and reduce stress by imagining oneself in peaceful surroundings.

Supplements That Could Lower Cortisol Levels

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. Research suggests that ashwagandha might help reduce cortisol levels, particularly morning cortisol levels. It may also impact serotonin and GABA levels, similar to antidepressants.

Rhodiola rosea may help regulate cortisol levels by combating stress and fatigue. Some studies suggest that Rhodiola rosea can reduce cortisol levels and improve stress-related symptoms.

However, more research is needed to understand its effects fully.

Magnesium has calming properties and may help regulate cortisol production. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids and might help reduce cortisol levels in people experiencing burnout.


Health Issues Related To Chronic Stress

  • Cardiovascular Related Issues

    Prolonged exposure to chronic stress can affect cardiovascular health, increasing the risk of various heart-related issues.

    Stress could trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that temporarily elevates blood pressure levels. High blood pressure could lead to hypertension, which is a major hazard aspect for heart disease and stroke.

    When the body is under stress, cortisol tightens the blood vessels, and the heart starts to beat faster, which prepares the body for “fight or flight” situations.

    However, when stress becomes chronic, the continuous release of cortisol might lead to sustained high blood pressure, which could strain the heart and blood vessels.

    Chronic stress also causes the development of atherosclerosis, a condition in which arteries build up plaque. It narrows the arteries and restricts blood circulation, increasing the possibility of heart attacks.

  • Gastrointestinal Problems

    Stress causes gastrointestinal problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and reflux disease (GERD). It occurs due to the complex relationship between the gut-brain axis.

    Stress has the potential to trigger IBA, a digestive issue that causes pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. GERD is indicated by acid reflux or heartburn and can also be worsened by stress.

  • Disruption Of The Endocrine System

    Stress-related hormonal changes might disturb the delicate balance of the endocrine system, leading to adverse effects.

    Prolonged stress can disrupt the normal release and regulation of hormones in the body. It could cause an imbalance in cortisol, insulin, and thyroid hormones.

    These hormonal imbalances could also affect metabolism and energy levels, which causes

    unwanted weight gain.

    Chronic stress can also result in tissue-level insulin resistance condition in which the body’s cell response decreases to insulin, increasing blood sugar levels.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can Pets Help Lower Cortisol Levels?
    Pets, like dogs and cats, could help lower cortisol levels. Interacting with pets may promote relaxation and decrease cortisol release.
  • What Are Some Precautions to Consider When Taking Ashwagandha Supplements?
    Ashwagandha may cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation in some people. However, you should consult a doctor before consuming ashwagandha daily. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha for their and their infant’s safety during pregnancy.
  • What Are the Signs of a Stress Belly?
    People with stress bellies have large waist sizes and higher BMI. They could also experience more hunger and are constantly overwhelmed.


Managing cortisol weight gain is essential for improving overall health and bodily function. Healthier lifestyle habits and caring for your physical and mental health could help handle cortisol levels naturally.

Fluctuations in Cortisol levels could impact your mental and physical ability to perform. However, through practical methods and mindful practices, stress could be manageable.

Understanding the role of cortisol and executing strategies might help you regain control over your cortisol levels to achieve a healthier weight and life.

If you still experience stress levels hindering your lifestyle, you can also seek professional guidance and advice for personalized and comprehensive care.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this review.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips.
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