Excerpt from Eva Cwynar, M.D.'s new book, "The Fatigue Solution"
Two hormones in particular affect our energy levels: insulin and cortisol.
The Insulin Factor: Insulin is one of the body's key hormones. It works with a partner, glucagon, ro regulate how the body utilizes food for fuel and therefore energy. Insulin is a storage hormone designed to take excess glucose (sugar) from dietary carbohydrates, excess amino acids from proteins, and other nutrients, and store them as fat. Not only does it store the fat, but it also locks fat up so it can't be released. Glucagon, insulin's biological opposite, mobilizes stored energy (primarily carbohydrates), to be circulated in the bloodstream as a source of energy. Its primary job is to release stored carbohydrate, in the form of glucose, from the liver so that it can be used for energy. So...
Insulin = Stored Energy
Glucagon = Released Energy
An imbalance between these two hormones is usually seen as elevated insulin levels. Excess blood sugar usually responds to elevated insulin by dropping down dramatically, which will decimate your energy level and give you that well-known "sugar crash". Or it can respond by stayin elevated, in which case the body's cells can't handle the excess and simply don't allow any more sugar or insulin to come in. This is known as insulin resistance, which is the body's inability to respond to and use the insulin it produces. This can eventually lead to a variety of conditions, including the accumulation of body fat, diabetes, heart disease, and a decrease in energy levels. So...
Excess blood sugar = insulin resistance
The Corisol Factor: Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands that is critical to your body's ability to mediate stress. This came in very handy in the age of the caveman; cortisol is part of the "fight or flight" process that prepares you to either face and hopefully vanquish your enemy or run away as fast as your feet can take you. Today's stressors may not be as dramatic as facing a hungry saber-toothed tiger, but they are quite a bit more varied. Stressors can be physical, biological, environmental, or even social, from a weekend warrior's overexertion to a sudden viral infection to a chronically abusive screaming boss. Cortisol helps you cope and allows you to respond to different stressors in different ways. However, long-term exposure to unremitting stress (taking care of a parent or child with a chronic illness; a chaotic lifestyle that never slows down) will have dire consequences for your health, as too much cortisol can produce extensive biological damage, and is a leading cause of premature aging and fatigue.
Cortisol has many actions in the body, and one ultimate goal of cortisol secretion is the provision of energy for the body. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy, and stimulates insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. The end result o f these actions is an increase in appetite. That's why chronic or poorlly managed stress may lead you to eat too much, which can show up as weight gain or difficulty losing unwanted pounds. So...
Excess cortisol = premature aging and fatigue
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To learn more about Dr. Eva Cwynar, visit her website: www.dreva.com