Can Low Cortisol Cause Depression
According to an article in the Pharmazeutische Zeitung , people with depression have high cortisol levels. It is assumed that this is caused by a physiological dysfunction, which suppresses the hormones normally needed to avoid high cortisol levels.
More and more studies indicate that depression is a stress disorder, as there seems to be a strong correlation between the two. An epidemiologic study associated early negative social factors with a higher risk of developing depression. These factors included natural disasters, physical violence, or sexual abuse.
Changes in ones personal environment or negative events are another risk factor triggering depressive episodes. Depression is assumed to correlate with the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels can in the long run lead to fat deposits in the blood vessels and thus lead to arteriosclerosis. For this reason, depressed people have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
How To Lower Your Cortisol Levels
If your cortisol levels are high, how you lower them will depend on the underlying cause. If its because of issues with your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or medication youre taking, youll need to work with your GP or health professional to lower them. If its because of chronic stress, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your stress levels:
- enjoy yourself do something you love every day, like dancing or listening to music, to improve your mood
- practice mindfulness for example, daily meditation or yoga
- connect with your friends, family, and even your pet a strong social support system is important for your mental health
- make sleep a priority do your best to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
- break a sweat aim for at least 75 vigorous minutes of activity or 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week
- eat a healthy diet aim for a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oily fish
- breathing exercises for example, deep nose breathing or counting breaths
- try a supplement omega-3, vitamin B-complex, magnesium, L-theanine, lemon balm, valerian root, and ashwagandha are linked to lower cortisol levels
More Natural Less Unnatural Light Exposure
If the artificial lights in your cubicle tend to bug you, there might very well be a stress-related reason.
You see, incandescent, fluorescent, neon, and even LED lights are all just a pale comparison to the real thing.
While they help us get through the day, they dont do our cortisol levels any favors. In fact, according to this study, they contribute to a host of mood and sleep problems.
Fortunately, theres a simple fix: get some exposure to natural sunlight.
After all, research shows that even short periods outside cause your body to immediately start lowering your cortisol levels.
Combine that with the natural Vitamin D from sunlight, and youll likely notice a difference in a matter of minutes.
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Understand Your Cortisol Levels With Home Testing
You can easily check your cortisol levels from the convenience of home with our Sleep & Stress Test kit. This test will tell you how your cortisol levels change over a 24-hour period, which can help you understand if youâre experiencing chronic stress and what parts of the day are especially stress-inducing for you. The test also measures melatonin, the âsleep hormone,â so you can get a better picture of your overall sleep-wake cycle.
If you do have chronically elevated cortisol levels, you can easily share your cortisol test results with your healthcare provider through our secure, online platformâso you can then learn what next steps they recommend for you.
Why Too Much Of A Good Thing Is Bad For You
If your entire life is high-stress and always in high gear, your body may constantly pump out cortisol. “This has several negative effects,” says Dr. Mawri.
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To discover more from our experts about any symptoms youre experiencing,
What do depression, skin rashes, stomachaches, and high blood pressure have in common? They can all be signs of stress. And there are many other possible symptoms and consequences that long-term stress brings with it. If your body constantly releases cortisol that is, stress hormones this can cause chain reactions throughout the body and have a lasting negative impact on your well-being and health.
Chronic stress is where your body is in a constant state of emergency. Stress becomes a problem when it is long term. The regular presence of stress hormones is unnatural for the human body and it is ill-equipped to handle stress over a longer period of time.
Think about our ancestors: When hunting predators, they had an option between fight or flight responses in order to survive. These responses were usually over relatively quickly, subsequently allowing the body to rest, stress hormones to decrease, and blood pressure to drop. Symbolically, stress thus guaranteed their survival. They were also exposed to stress but to stress of a different kind compared to today.
Read this article to find out why stress can make you ill in different ways, what the most common high cortisol symptoms are, how to achieve low cortisol levels, and how long-term stress is linked to stomach pain and gut health, headaches, and skin rashes.
Foods That Lower Cortisol
Foods that are naturally high in polyphenols lower the cortisol stress hormone. The long-term health benefits of drinking green tea, for example, are well established, and drinking just a half a cup per day keeps the risk of developing depression and dementia low.
Eating plenty of foods that reduce cortisol and restricting your sugar intake will keep your stress response under control.
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Natural Stress Relief: How Do You Relieve High Cortisol Symptoms
Apart from successful treatment or curing the underlying disease, which help to regulate stress, there are further ways to restore low cortisol levels without drugs.
- Give your body the chance to regenerate! Sufficient high-quality sleep helps to reduce stress. There are various sleep improvement supplements you can take these days to boost the quality of your sleep.
- Do sport! Sport helps to relieve stress and can optimize cortisol levels.
- Allow time for relaxation! Bring in those stress management techniques. You can read about these techniques in our article on emotional resilience.
- Take time to spend time with important people on a regular basis! By doing this, you activate the feel-good hormone oxytocin. It is released as a result of physical contact and lets your cortisol levels recover.
Moderate Exercise To Lower Cortisol
Enjoying regular exercise can help to reduce your cortisol levels because it helps to cope with stress better.
The Journal of Endocrinological Investigation reported that moderate, low-intensity exercise has a positive effect on cortisol levels. However, intensive exercise increases cortisol secretion in the body.
Interestingly, sweating after exercise can cause high concentrations of cortisol in the body and these concentrations are detected in hair. Doctors can test hair samples for cortisol to help diagnose conditions related to chronic stress.
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What Causes Low Cortisol Levels
Low cortisol levels manifest as adrenal insufficiency, of which there are three types:
- Primary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the body mistakenly attacks the adrenal cortex, causing autoimmune adrenalitis.
- Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone to stimulate cortisol production.
- Tertiary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the hypothalamus fails to produce enough corticotropin-releasing hormone to activate ACTH synthesis.
Low cortisol levels manifest as adrenal insufficiency, of which there are three types. Primary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the body mistakenly attacks the adrenal cortex, causing autoimmune adrenalitis. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone to stimulate cortisol production. Tertiary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the hypothalamus fails to produce enough corticotropin-releasing hormone to activate ACTH synthesis.
Have Good Personal Relationships
Having healthy and loving relationships with your family, friends, or a partner can help in keeping your daily stress to a minimum. Unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships, on the other hand, can cause a serious deal of stress, a spike in your cortisol level. One study showed that arguing with your partner can raise your cortisol levels. Another study concluded that children with a happy and secure family life have healthier levels of cortisol than those living with families in constant conflict.
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Reduce Alcohol And Caffeine Use
While many adults use alcohol to wind down at the end of a long day or in social situations, alcohol has been found to significantly increase cortisol levels in both men and women, particularly those who drink heavily. Caffeine does the same, creating a temporary but dramatic increase in blood pressure and related symptoms of anxiety. If youre struggling with cortisol imbalance, steer clear of these substances and give your body the chance to recalibrate on its own.
Cut Out Caffeine Or Consume Less
A 2005 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that caffeine increases cortisol secretion even in people at rest. Because caffeine can stimulate cortisol production and increase blood pressure, Krista King, MS, RDN, of Composed Nutrition, offers a solution to lower cortisol: âTry doing a caffeine reset. Gradually you have each day by swapping it out for a caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternative.â
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Is Cortisol A Stress Hormone
Cortisol is widely known as the stress hormone. However, it has many important effects and functions throughout your body aside from regulating your bodys stress response.
Its also important to remember that, biologically speaking, there are multiple different kinds of stress, including:
- Acute stress: Acute stress happens when youre in sudden danger within a short period of time. For example, barely avoiding a car accident or being chased by an animal are situations that cause acute stress.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress happens when you experience ongoing situations that cause frustration or anxiety. For example, having a difficult or frustrating job or having a chronic illness can cause chronic stress.
- Traumatic stress: Traumatic stress happens when you experience a life-threatening event that induces fear and a feeling of helplessness. For example, experiencing an extreme weather event, such as a tornado, or experiencing war or sexual assault can cause traumatic stress. In some cases, these events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder .
Your body releases cortisol when you experience any of these types of stress.
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These negative effects also often come with their own consequences. For example, increased abdominal fat is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat include an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, metabolic syndrome, higher levels of bad cholesterol , and lower levels of good cholesterol .
Cortisol is important for your body to function normally, but too much cortisol can be bad for your health.
Chronic high cortisol levels can also lead to a condition known as Cushing syndrome. Causes can include adrenal tumors or the prolonged use of glucocorticoids. Symptoms of Cushing syndrome can also include high blood sugars with increased thirst and urination, osteoporosis, depression, and more frequent infections.
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Where Is Cortisol Produced
The adrenal glands are situated above the kidneys, weigh approximately five grams, and are responsible for the production of several hormones. The adrenal cortex comprises three zones:
- zona glomerulosa: production of aldosterone, responsible for the long-term regulation of blood pressure
- zona fasciculata: responsible for producing glucocorticoids
- zona reticularis: produces male and female sex hormones
Cortisol is the most important glucocorticoid which is produced in the zona fasciculata. For cortisol to be produced, cholesterol and the peptide hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone are needed. ACTH is secreted by the pituitary gland and activates the production of glucocorticoids in the adrenal glands. When in a stressful situation, ACTH is released.
How To Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally 6 Steps
You can greatly help manage cortisol levels and regain your health by changing your diet, exercise routine, sleep and stress levels. Assuming you havent been diagnosed with Cushings disease by your doctor, here are steps you can take to help lower high cortisol levels naturally:
1. Switch to a Whole Foods, Anti-inflammatory Diet
Poorly managed blood sugar levels and high levels of inflammation can contribute to high cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. Following an anti-inflammatory diet low in processed foods and high in antioxidants, fiber and essential nutrients is key to balancing hormones, controlling your cravings and getting you on the right track. These same strategies can also help with adrenal support, allowing you to reach and maintain a healthy weight, boosting energy during the day and helping you sleep better at night.
Some of the most significant dietary contributors to inflammation and high cortisol levels include:
- high-sugar, high-glycemic diet
- consuming high amounts of refined and trans fats
- drinking too much caffeine and alcohol
- experiencing insufficient intake of micronutrients and antioxidants
- not consuming enough fiber
- not consuming enough healthy fats or protein
2. Reduce and Manage Stress
Fortunately, stress management is something you can begin without too much trouble. The natural stress relievers listed below are proven to help lower cortisol and decrease the negative impact stress has on your health:
3. Exercise Regularly
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What Causes Low Levels Of Cortisol
Having lower-than-normal cortisol levels is considered adrenal insufficiency. There are two types of adrenal insufficiency: primary and secondary. The causes of adrenal insufficiency include:
- Primary adrenal insufficiency: Primary adrenal insufficiency is most commonly caused by an autoimmune reaction in which your immune system attacks healthy cells in your adrenal glands for no known reason. This is called Addisons disease. Your adrenal glands can also become damaged from an infection or blood loss to the tissues . All of these situations limit cortisol production.
- Secondary adrenal insufficiency: If you have an underactive pituitary gland or a pituitary tumor, it can limit ACTH production. ACTH signals your adrenal glands to make cortisol, so limited ACTH results in limited cortisol production.
You can also have lower-than-normal cortisol levels after stopping treatment with corticosteroid medications, especially if you stop taking them very quickly after a long period of use.
What are the symptoms of low cortisol levels?
Symptoms of lower-than-normal cortisol levels, or adrenal insufficiency, include:
Addisons Disease And Adrenal Insufficiency
Addisons disease, also called primary adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder. It occurs when your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. This disease can be caused by:
Secondary adrenal insufficiency is more common than Addisons disease. If your pituitary gland is functioning as it should, it releases ACTH, which in turn signals your adrenal glands to make cortisol when your body needs it.
But with secondary adrenal insufficiency, theres a problem with your pituitary gland. As a result, your adrenal glands dont receive the signal to make cortisol when you need it. If your adrenal glands dont get that message, they may eventually shrink.
Disrupted cortisol levels dont only impact your ability to sleep. They can also affect other aspects of your health. For instance, disrupted cortisol levels can cause:
- changes in your metabolism
Balancing your cortisol levels can take time. While youre working on it, here are some ways you can aim for a better nights rest:
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Get Consistently Good Sleep
This tip can be a tricky one to implement since, as Dr. Gottfried explained, there is often a vicious cycle of poor sleep-high cortisol levels-repeat that needs to be broken. But she maintains that doing what you can on the sleep front is crucial. Establish an evening routine, invest in blackout shades, find a mattress you lovewhatever will help you get those eight hours a night will help break the high cortisol-perpetually tired cycle.
How Cortisol Works In The Body
Before diving into the signs that your cortisol levels are too high, its helpful to understand the way this hormone should be working.
Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It fluctuates naturally during the day and night for example, most people tend to hit their highest cortisol level in the morningwhich helps get you going after waking upand the level gradually tapers through the day until it reaches its lowest level right before bed. Thats when de-stress hormones like melatonin surge to help you fall asleep.
So what does cortisol actually do? According to Cleveland Clinic, cortisol affects almost every organ and tissue in your body, playing a major role in helping control your metabolism, , reducing inflammation, and keeping blood sugar levels steady.
Although cortisol follows a natural pattern of peaks and dips, external factors can cause cortisol to surge. If you need to leap out of the way of an oncoming car, for example, your body will spike your cortisol level to provide an energy jolt for that action, part of your fight or flight response. But stressors that are ongoing can keep your cortisol high, and that is often a problem.