Cortisol, also know as the ‘Stress Hormone’ is secreted by the Adrenal Glands. Adrenal Glands secrete this steroid hormone in response to stress – both physical or phycological stress. Do not think that this hormone is bad..it is actually a lifesaver too!
To explain it in a simple manner – suppose you stumble into a lion den, your brain (hypothalamus) immediately triggers you into a ‘fight or flight; mode. Ie. you either have to take your gun and shoot the lion or run away to rescue! In that survival mode, your body is least worried about many other functions such as digestion, reproductive/sexual drive, immunity, growth, repair of tissues etc. Your body would rather improve your senses, and ability to engage muscles and other voluntary organs of your body to save your own life. Cortisol is one such stress hormone that helps in this process apart from maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure.
Cortisol is produced when you are stressed physically (excessive workout), mentally (work-related, personal stress) and even when you do not get enough amount of sleep. Too much cortisol for longer duration in your system can suppress the immunity, increase blood pressure and blood sugar, decrease libido, produce acne, contribute to obesity and more. An increased amount of cortisol can also retain water and create bloating making one feel bulkier.
Often, people resort to comfort food as a method of coping with stress. Such comfort food is usually sugary drinks, fatty food, and other junk food. This adds a lot of calories to your routine calorie intake. When stressed, nobody would like to be more active., i.e the activity levels too plummets and the calorie expenditure also decreases substantially. This leads to excess weight gain, among the host of other issues