Your body is protecting you.
You have two small pyramid shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys called the adrenals. Your adrenals are nicknamed your stress glands or your stress organs. The hormones they release can be triggered by emotional stress, chemical stress, or even physical trauma. The adrenals are a part of a feedback loop that helps control and respond to various functions of your body's hormonal and nervous systems.
These tiny adrenal glands are responsible for the funny feeling you get when you are scared by something. Just imagine the last time you were driving or riding in the car, when suddenly another car cuts in front of you. The brakes are slammed to avoid an accident and hopefully the near accident was avoided. That "wave" of fear and funny adrenaline rush you get is called your "fight or flight response". This is an instinctive reaction by your body for your protection. This reaction is designed to either get you out of a dangerous situation or allow you to deal with a dangerous situation for your ultimate survival.
There are an amazing number of hormones being released to prepare you for stressful scenarios whenever the body deems it necessary. The problem occurs when this protective mechanism that is designed for promoting survival is fooled into being active when no true stressful event is present. When you get scared by something there are certain physiological functions that occur such as an increased heart rate to pump more blood to your extremities in case you need to flee, your digestive system stops breaking down food to allow more energy for other areas of the body and you become more focused. All of these responses occur during the excited state of the nervous system.
Stress and belly fat explained...stay with me I'm going somewhere with this.
The true problem occurs when your nervous system is functioning in the excited state during a relaxed scenario. Here's a brief example. If you are like millions of people in this country and enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea to start your day or get you through a mid afternoon meeting, to battle your chronic fatigue, you are causing this false scenario to occur. Caffeine is a researched and known stimulant that triggers the same functions that are triggered when you are scared. The problem is after you ingest the caffeine your body is left in the excited state during a relaxed scenario.
Some of the physiological effects are an increased heart rate, changes to the digestive system and better mental focus. This is great to avoid being caught sleeping in a boring meeting but not so great for your body. You have just sent the signals to your adrenals and nervous system that some dangerous scenario is occurring. The body is very smart but also very dumb. It will do what it's told just like a computer. When the user tells a computer to delete something, that's exactly what the computer will do. The body can't differentiate between right and wrong when it comes to releasing hormones and reactions to stress. Physiologically the body cannot tell whether you were almost in a car accident or sitting in the weekly board room meeting.
I'm often asked, what is the best way to lose belly fat?
While you will increase abdominal strength doing exercises, doing them is not the best way to lose fat. The quickest way to lose is through stress management. Stress and belly fat have a very intimate relationship that you can easily abolish. You must eliminate or decrease the stressful influences on the body so the adrenals don't release stress related hormones on a continual basis. When these hormones are released they travel through the blood stream in search of problems to fix. When no true problem is discovered your body will begin to prepare itself for some impending stressful scenario that the body assumes must be on the way. After all why would there be a stress response if no stress were coming?
A hormone that you may be familiar with is called cortisol. Cortisol is released when the body gets information that it is in danger. Cortisol is responsible for controlling inflammation and swelling when there is a physical stress on the body. Once the adrenals release the cortisol because of increased stress, the hormone does not just disappear if no trauma is discovered.
When there is no dangerous situation the one protective mechanism is to use the cortisol to store fat around internal organs to protect them from a future risk. This is where the unwanted belly fat comes from. When this hormone is triggered with other protective hormones it will appear that the exercise and dieting you have so intensely committed yourself to are in vain. The problem stems from another source and that is the reason for the poor results with your weight loss protocol.
How can you decrease the emotional, chemical and environmental stress?
Obviously we all have things that concern us. The best way to deal with emotional stress is by using avenues like prayer or meditation to help balance your mental well being. Exercising is a great way to promote adrenal health. This can be doing something as simple as walking, yoga, swimming or more intense types of exercise. The emotional component of stress is extremely common in our society and can be the most damaging. This is because we can potentially think "bad" thoughts constantly and constantly keep our system in a position to release fat storing hormones.
The chemical and environmental stressors are somewhat easier to handle because we can all make better choices of the products we consume and use. Are you on a diet? I recommend avoiding diets and just adopt better habits and lifestyle changes over a period of time. You have higher chance of sticking with it if you're not overwhelmed by the sudden changes in your routine.
The easiest changes to make are centered at the foods you eat. Avoid foods made with preservatives, additives and other synthetic chemicals that trigger stress responses. Substances like alcohol, nicotine and caffeine all cause the adrenals to become active. Sugars and artificial sweeteners also contribute to causing elevated adrenal stress. Weight loss pills will only make your problem worse when the bottle is finished and should be avoided at all cost. A great and simple way to start is to decrease the amount of liquids you consume that contain caffeine and excess sugars. Then choose a time frame to start reducing certain foods from your diet that lead to adrenal stress.
Environmental stress can be reduced by making better choices around the home and using more "green" products. Using more organic friendly cleaning products and personal hygiene products is not only better for your body but may also help you with your weight loss protocol. It has been researched for over half a century that certain types of chemicals will cause your hormonal system to function less than optimum. Research has been performed by the FDA, EPA, CDC, major pharmaceutical companies and medical universities showing the effects of certain chemicals on your body. The fancy name for these problems is "endocrine disruptors". I suggest you just search the term on Google and read the information for yourself.
Belly fat is only one of the symptoms that you will experience when the adrenals are compromised or fatigued. The adrenals are also responsible for a few other key functions in your body. The adrenals do not only control inflammation and swelling.
You may have adrenal fatigue if you notice any of the following symptoms:
chronic fatigue, osteoporosis, trouble falling asleep or difficulty sleeping through the entire night, anxiety, constant worrying, high blood pressure, cravings, arthritis, difficult menstrual cycles, low sex drive, allergies and asthma.
One of the best ways to know if your adrenals are compromised is to have an Adrenal Stress Index performed. This is a saliva test that will measure your hormonal levels over a period of time. The test is non-invasive & can be performed wherever you are. Saliva is collected under real life conditions and there are no stressful blood draws and no gallon sized urine containers to carry around for 24 hours. With blood and urine testing, a number of borderline adrenal conditions are missed due to lack of sensitivity.
This is not the case with the Adrenal Stress Index because samples are taken within one circadian cycle and the more definitive free fraction is measured. Treatment options are expanded by 400-500% over blood test and urine test results.
Once you understand the mechanisms for many of the symptoms that are causing your difficulty, it becomes much easier to handle the battle of the bulge. Good luck to you and I trust this information will serve you well.
Dr. Evans practices in Marietta, GA Please visit his website: http://www.dtoxdoc.com for more information.
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