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Stress leads to weight gain

Do you find that stress can lead to weight gain (Seaward, 2015)?   Have you thought about how this might occur?

Contrary to what you may think, stress is not always the problem.  Many people thrive on stress, using it to get the most from their lives. The body doesn’t differentiate between stress that comes from outside or from within.  Stress is stress.

How your system responds to stress

In response to stress, various parts of your brain kick into action. The hypothalamus acts like a thermostat, responding to signal input from sensors throughout your body. It uses chemical messengers to the pituitary gland, which is a bit like a fuse box. This controls other endocrine glands in the body, such as the adrenals. The adrenals release adrenaline to provide our ‘fight or flight’ response (Bowen, n.d.).  This is just what you need when approached by a stranger threatening your child’s safety, or for when you have to stand before a class to give a dissertation.

Another hormone produced by the adrenals is cortisol.  It is cortisol that promotes the release of glucose (sugars) and lipids (fats) into the blood to be used by your muscles.

Given our modern sedentary lifestyle we often don’t use our muscles enough to burn up these fuels.  With low levels of physical activity we will be less efficient at clearing excess cortisol, glucose and lipids from our system.

When your body detects an increase in the levels of glucose in your blood it stimulates the release of insulin. Insulin promotes the uptake of glucose into the muscles to help regulate blood sugar. However it also plays a role in increasing fat storage. When the level of insulin in the blood is high, excess sugars in the blood are converted to fat around your organs.  As well as increasing overall body fat, visceral fat is considered to be an unhealthy body fat with most experts recommending that we decrease our visceral fat by increasing physical activity and following a calorie controlled diet.

In a nutshell, what you can do

There are specific herbs and nutrients which may help support the adrenal glands in these times of stress by reducing cortisol levels in the body. Since it is the increase of cortisol that can lead to weight gain, reducing this hormone in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet and regular exercise may help you manage your weight in times of stress.


Bowen, R. (n.d.). Physiologic effects of insulin. Retrieved from
Seaward, B. L. (2015). Managing Stress. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett.
About the Author
Vincent Bowyer Adv Dip Nat, a Naturopath in Lismore and a Complimentary health practitioner since 2002, has been helping many hundreds of people find relief from pain and leading many to a more vibrant health. His is a practitioner member of CMA, STAA, and AMT Trained by Australia's Chris Mortensen, Vince has attended master classes under Prof. Alexander Tarakanov, Prof. Alexander Revenko and Dr. Galina Subottina.  By special invitation he participated in the international SCENAR trainers forum in Switzerland led by Prof. Revenko, which included SCENAR practitioners from Europe, Africa, Australia and North America. He is a passionate user and trainer of the latest Non-Invasive Neurostimulation technology available in Australia.

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