Glossary

Helping you digest the jargon

Science

Corticosterone
Similar to cortisol, this is a steroid hormone of the adrenal cortex; it affects carbohydrate, potassium, and sodium metabolism. It is usually classified as a glucocorticoid, but it also has slight mineralocorticoid activity, and therefore helps regulate the salt and water balances of the body i.e. electrolytes and fluid balance.

Cortisol
Cortisol is a hormone produced and released by the adrenal glands (located on top of each kidney) in response to stress or low blood sugar levels. It’s a steroid hormone (part of the glucocorticoid family) and is also implicated in: the regulation of blood pressure, central nervous system function, the body’s inflammatory response, and fat, protein and carb metabolism. Our cortisol levels should naturally fluctuate throughout the day in alignment with the day/night Circadian Rhythm. When we are going through periods of long-term stress, increased release of cortisol may cause adrenal fatigue, where the levels and fluctuations may go out of sync and we can experience insomnia, chronic fatigue, loss of appetite and low mood.

Free Radical
Free radicals are compounds generated naturally within the body, through cellular metabolism, stress, and also from external sources such as pollution and cigarette smoke. Because they only have one electron in their outer orbit, they are unstable, highly reactive molecules that can cause damage to virtually any molecule in our body, including our DNA. Scientists now believe that free radicals are causal factors in nearly every known disease, from heart disease, to arthritis, to cancer, and cataracts. Whilst they can be helpful to the body, by supporting the immune system when necessary, if left unchecked they create cellular destruction which can lead to premature cellular ageing. A fine balance between the production and destruction of free radicals is required for peak physiological function. The body has several regulatory systems to enable this, but if free radical production overwhelms them, a condition known as oxidative stress is generated.

Neurotransmitter
Our brains contain around 30 billion neurons (brain cells) which use chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to send messages around our entire bodies to tell our hearts to beat, our lungs to breathe and our stomachs to digest food. Neurotransmitters can be ‘excitory’ and stimulate the mind/body to action i.e. adrenalin, or inhibitory and have a calming effect on the central nervous system i.e. serotonin which helps to soothe and calm the body. Neurotransmitters play a significant role in helping to regulate sleep, mood, concentration, appetite and weight. It’s possible to ‘manipulate’ the release of specific neurotransmitters through drugs or food.

Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is created when our bodies react with the oxygen we breathe to produce energy in the cells. As a process of this interaction free radicals are produced. When there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals in the body and its ability to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects, oxidative stress can occur. It’s a contributory factor to tissue damage and premature ageing. Antioxidants can help to counteract the impact of oxidative stress by stabilising free radicals, so they can’t cause any more damage.

Serotonin
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that carries messages between brain cells (neurones) and other cells. Decreased serotonin levels can lead to anxiety, depression, and increased cravings for carbohydrate foods. At night-time, serotonin undergoes two metabolic changes to become melatonin, the chemical that induces sleep. Low serotonin levels are associated with insomnia and depression.

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