How Does It Work
Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland — both located in your brain — can sense if your blood contains the right level of cortisol. If the level is too low, your brain adjusts the amount of hormones it makes. Your adrenal glands pick up on these signals. Then, they fine-tune the amount of cortisol they release.
Cortisol receptors — which are in most cells in your body — receive and use the hormone in different ways. Your needs will differ from day to day. For instance, when your body is on high alert, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that get in the way. These might include your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes.
Sometimes, your cortisol levels can get out of whack.
Is Cortisol Good Or Bad
Because of its reputation and connections with stress, cortisol is often seen as the bad hormone. But thats not strictly fair.
Thing is, it plays that many roles, some of which we are still learning about and researching, that cortisol has its work cut out in terms of popularity.
But put it this way, without cortisol you would be slower to react to stressful situation, we may not recognise fearful or dangerous situations in the same way without it.
So, its probably unfair to say its bad. Its probably more the managing of your levels that can cause the problem.
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Weve all felt that surge of energy as we confront something threatening or startling. A barely avoided car accident. A call that your child has been hurt. The pressure to meet a deadline.
As your body perceives stress, your adrenal glands make and release the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. Often called the stress hormone, cortisol causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. Its your natural flight or fight response that has kept humans alive for thousands of years.
Normal levels of cortisol also are released when you wake up in the morning or exercise. These levels can help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even strengthen your heart muscle. In small doses, the hormone can heighten memory, increase your immune system and lower sensitivity to pain.
If your body experiences chronic stress, you may begin to feel unpleasant and even dangerous effects, such as:
- Muscle pain or tension in the head, neck, jaw, or back
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Natural Ways To Lower Cortisol
In many cases, the brain and adrenal glands can regulate cortisol on their own. When stress has gone away, the body will stop making cortisol and the levels will return to normal.
However, people with chronic stress, certain medical conditions, or who take certain medications can have cortisol levels that are higher than usual. They may want to try some techniques for lowering cortisol, such as:
How To Lower Cortisol And Relieve Adrenal Fatigue
In our experience, women with mild to moderate adrenal imbalance have several options that can help them feel significantly better while keeping symptoms from becoming more severe.
The key is taking the right steps to normalize cortisol levels and restore healthy adrenal function. You can take immediate action by asking yourself these simple questions:
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Signs Of High Cortisol Levels In Your Body
11 June, 2022
Cortisol or hydrocortisone is a hormone that the adrenal gland produces. It increases blood sugar levels and can decrease bone formation and can cause some diseases such as excess overweight. Increased cortisol levels are known as hypercortisolism or Cushings syndrome.This syndrome leads to body stress and a concentration of fat and elevated blood pressure levels and heart rate. In addition, recent research demonstrates that the incidence of acute myocardial infarction in the morning due to the joint action of endogenous factors because of an increase in cortisol.
As you can see, there are various signals that the body emits when it has a hormonal imbalance like this. Keep reading and discover other symptoms that well talk about below.
Reset Your Circadian Rhythms
We all know good sleep is paramount to good health. One reason sleep matters so much is that it involves the fluctuation of and connection between melatonin and cortisol, two hormones directly related to stress and overall bodily health. Practice healthy sleep habits by sleeping and waking at the same time each day, striving for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted rest, and limiting electronics use in the hour before bedtime. Also try to get plenty of sunshine in the morning and at midday to further stabilize your bodys circadian rhythms.
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Testing For High Cortisol Levels
To determine whether you have high cortisol levels, your healthcare practitioner would first do a physical exam to look for any of the signs and symptoms discussed. They would also rule out the use of corticosteroids. From there, they might look at doing various diagnostic tests.
The tests can help your healthcare practitioner find the cause of your high cortisol levels and rule out other health issues like polycystic ovary syndrome that mimic the condition. Consuming substantial amounts of alcohol and depression could also mimic the symptoms associated with high cortisol.
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.
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Medications To Control Cortisol Production
Your healthcare provider may also suggest the use of medication to modify the excessive production of cortisol. Those undergoing surgery may also be prescribed medications beforehand to improve their symptoms beforehand and also minimize any possible risks during the procedure. These medications may have side effects, however. These include headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, high blood pressure, and swelling. Some medications may have more serious side effects that include liver toxicity and neurological issues.
How Can I Test My Cortisol Levels At Home
There is a simple at-home test that can be done known as the saliva cortisol test. The test kit has to be ordered.
Saliva for cortisol testing is usually collected by inserting a swab into the mouth and waiting a few minutes while the swab becomes saturated with saliva.
Obtaining more than one sample allows the health practitioner to evaluate the daily pattern of cortisol secretion.
Most results take 1-2 days, but some take longer. See the test description for an estimate on how long your results might take.
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 Balance Cortisol Levels And Relieve Your Symptoms Of Chronic Stress
Cortisol is essential to health. Our bodies normally produce cortisol throughout the day in a cyclemore in the morning as we wake, less in the evening to prepare us for sleepto support our daily physical and emotional well-being. But when cortisol levels become higher or lower than normal for prolonged periods, that wellbeing can be severely compromised.
When were chronically stressed, our bodies maintain excessive levels of cortisol throughout the day. After months or years, elevated cortisol can cause serious problems across the bodys many systems. It can also lead to a suppressed HPA axis, formerly known as adrenal fatigue, where one can produce too little cortisol, which brings its own set of challenges and may require a variety of therapies to resolve. But by learning how to balance cortisol levels naturally and seeking the right care when needed, you can enjoy a calmer and healthier life.
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How Does Cortisol Affect Female Hormones
Aside from affecting the menstrual cycle, abnormal levels of CRH in reproductive tissue have been associated with negative pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth. .
Cortisol actually increases the cravings for sweets.
High cortisol lowers oestrogen levels, which can result in the deposition of fat, often in the middle section of the body. When oestrogen is lowered from continuous stress and cortisol production, all the female hormone imbalance symptoms such as night sweats, sleep problems, and mood swings can get worse.
If not managed, high cortisol can cause many other important hormones to become out of balance.
Heart Disease And High Blood Pressure
Hypertension and heart disease are both conditions that can be brought on or exacerbated by cortisol. The hormone causes your body to retain sodium and contracting your blood vessels. These actions all contribute to an increase in blood pressure which may lead to heart disease.6
So if your blood pressure is too high, the culprit may in part be excessively elevated cortisol levels.
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What Causes High Levels Of Cortisol
Experiencing abnormally high levels of cortisol for an extended period of time is usually considered Cushings syndrome, which is a rare condition. Causes of higher-than-normal cortisol levels and Cushings syndrome include:
- Taking large amounts of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, prednisolone or dexamethasone, for treatment of other conditions.
- Tumors that produce adrenocorticotropic hormone . These are usually found in your pituitary gland. More rarely, neuroendocrine tumors in other parts of your body such as your lungs can cause high cortisol levels.
- Adrenal gland tumors or excessive growth of adrenal tissue , which cause excess production of cortisol.
What are the symptoms of high cortisol levels?
The symptoms of Cushings syndrome depend on how elevated your cortisol levels are. Common signs and symptoms of higher-than-normal cortisol levels include:
- Weight gain, especially in your face and abdomen.
- Fatty deposits between your shoulder blades.
- Wide, purple stretch marks on your abdomen .
- Muscle weakness in your upper arms and thighs.
- High blood sugar, which often turns into Type 2 diabetes.
- Weak bones and fractures.
Ashwagandha: An Incredible Natural Cortisol Regulator
Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used in the traditional Indian Ayurvedic medical practice for thousands of years. Also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, the name ashwagandha literally translates to smell of horse, due to the plants distinctive aroma.
This medicinal herb is classified in Western medicine as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are compounds that help an organism adapt to stress, normalizing the physiological imbalances that stress triggers in the body. Ashwagandha is a particularly effective and safe adaptogen that reduces stress-induced damage and doesnt have negative side-effects nor withdrawal symptoms.
Scientists at the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at Asha Hospital in India conducted a study, the title of which effectively communicates the subject and high-quality methodology of the research: A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults.12
After 60 days, the same assessments were performed. Here are the results, as published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine:
These are remarkably clear and definitive results that only build on both a long history of Ashwagandha use, and other scientific research confirming the stress-reducing, cortisol-lowering benefits of Ashwagandha extracts.
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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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How Do You Know If Your Cortisol Levels Are Low
Your body has a mechanism we know as the fight or flight instinct. Youve felt it. When a situation becomes alarming, your body readies for action and your focus turns solely to coping with the threat, shutting out everything else. You react quickly run or fight, take action or get to safety. Time seems to slow down, your brain quiets, and instinct takes over.
That powerful instinct is largely driven by a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is also known as the stress hormone because it is released in high doses when you encounter a stressful situation and helps to regulate your reaction to that situation. However, cortisol doesnt only affect your immediate response to acute stress. Rather, it plays a critical role in overall wellbeing.
Many people are aware that chronically elevated cortisol can have significant health consequences. But having cortisol levels that are too low can be just as bad, potentially impacting your mood, cognitive abilities, energy levels, and appetite. In some cases, it may even lead to serious health issues.
So how do you know if your cortisol levels are low? You need to understand the symptoms. You need to get tested. And you may need to take steps to get back into balance. By recognizing when things are out of balance, you can help make sure that cortisol fights for you.
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Should I See A Doctor
If you think you might have high cortisol, its important to see a doctor for a blood test. High cortisol causes common signs and symptoms that can be caused by many other diseases, so its important to confirm whats causing your symptoms.
If youre experiencing symptoms that may be caused by high cortisol levels, your doctor may recommend the following tests:
- Cortisol urine and blood tests. These tests measure the levels of cortisol in your blood and urine. The blood test uses a sample of blood drawn from your vein. A test called the 24-hours urinary free cortisol excretion test is used to check your urine. This entails collecting urine over a 24-hour period. Blood and urine samples are then analyzed in a laboratory for cortisol levels.
- Cortisol saliva test. This test is used to check for Cushing syndrome. A sample of saliva collected at night is analyzed to see if your cortisol levels are high. Cortisol levels rise and fall throughout the day and drop significantly at night in people without Cushing syndrome. High cortisol levels at night would indicate you may have Cushing syndrome.
- Imaging tests. CT scans or an MRI may be used to obtain images of your pituitary gland and adrenal glands to check for tumors or other abnormalities.
Unmanaged high cortisol levels can have serious consequences on your health. Left untreated, high cortisol can your risk of serious health conditions, including:
- cardiovascular disease
Keep Your Sugar Levels Stable
Keep a balanced diet, rich in nutritious food, and avoid fizzy and sugary drinks, and processed and frozen foods. Eat fruit daily, and prepare complete meals comprised of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, in order to control your sugar levels.
Its also recommended that you take supplements like vitamin B, calcium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamin C, and alpha-lipoic acid .
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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.