Stress and the pesky enzyme
So you now know what stress can do to you, how it can damage your metabolism, memory and appetite control. When left unchecked it can lead to osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and more. But what about those of you who aren’t constantly stressed, but still can’t shift the pounds despite exercising and eating well?
Let me introduce you to the sneaky ninja tactics of a little known enzyme called HSD.
It’s full name is 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-1 and it is spectacularly good at ruining your best weight loss intentions. It has been shown that HSD (you don’t mind if I call it that do you?!) is a little known fat storing enzyme that lives in most cells in our body, but has the highest concentration in fat and liver cells and brain tissues.
But what does it do? It has been discovered that HSD will reactivate cortisol that has done it’s job and been deactivated by the body. It can make it’s host cell ‘see’ or be presented with high levels of cortisol from inside the cell, even if the cortisol levels in the blood are normal. This means that this enzyme shouts two messages to the cell. One of the messages is ‘STORE MORE FAT’, which they do. Unfortunately the other message is ‘MAKE MORE FAT CELLS’ – so we not only fill our fat cells more, but also gain more cells along the way. With HSD being found to be more present in abdominal fat cells than anywhere else it’s not surprising that it leads to the wodgier middle and muffin top associated with normal blood cortisol excess.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you can eat junk if you have over-active HSD enzymes on the basis that you are going to get fat anyway. Remember that the foods you choose to eat can cause a stress on the body too. So if you are prone to eating junk food then that is already a big stress and needs to be removed from your diet before you start going around blaming your HSD levels 🙂
It’s worth considering that given the three main areas of concern from cortisol excess are obesity from damage to fat cells, diabetes with damage to the liver and poor memory from brain tissue attack. It’s not surprising that HSD is found in a higher concentration in these areas and ultimately shouting these two messages louder than anywhere else.
Researchers have shown that we are genetically predisposed to our HSD levels. This doesn’t mean that we’re destined to fail at our weight loss efforts though. There are some natural methods to help reduce the HSD activity.
By eating foods rich in flavonoids we can really help manage the HSD behaviour.. Foods like apples and onions which are rich in quercetin and grapefruit which is rich in naringenin (be warned naringenin can interfere with some medications). Also oranges which are a rich source of PMFs (see below) namely, nobiletin and tangeretin.
Licorice contains a flavonoid called glycyrrhetinic acid, which helps suppress HSD. You need to be warned with any licorice preparations though as it can raise blood pressure, not a good combination if you are already stressed. It shouldn’t be consumed long term.
However the most effective way to naturally nobble the HSD is with something called polymethoxylated flavonoids (PMFs). These are found abundantly in citrus peels and can be taken as a supplement which has been shown to reduce HSD activity by 20-30 percent. Apparently 300mg daily has shown excellent results for weight loss, cholesterol lowering, cortisol lowering and waistline reducing.
So here are five tips to reduce your cortisol exposure
- Get 7.5-8 hours sleep per day (I told you that already, but it’s that important)
- Increase vegetable, salad and fruit per meal.
- Specifically include apples, onions, citrus fruits.
- Cut or remove caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
- Exercise at least four times a week.
- A bonus tip – look into citrus flavonoid supplements to help suppress HSD activity.
Tomorrow I’ll share with you how chronic stress can lead to disease and what to do about it.