What Happens When Cortisol Is High
Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as :
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as brain fog, some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushings syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushings syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects .
Further, existing chronic disease may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a chicken or the egg type of scenario .
Therefore, its best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations:
What Does Cortisol Do To My Body
Almost all tissues in your body have glucocorticoid receptors. Because of this, cortisol can affect nearly every organ system in your body, including:
- Integumentary system .
More specifically, cortisol affects your body in the following ways:
Optimum cortisol levels are necessary for life and for maintaining several bodily functions. If you have consistently high or low cortisol levels, it can have negative impacts on your overall health.
What Are Cortisol Levels
Cortisol levels are affected by the amount of stress you are under. Cortisol levels are generally highest in the morning, and lowest at night. Stress tends to be higher during the day. Cortisol levels are higher in the morning in preparation for the day. Cortisol levels are also higher during stressful events such as exams, work, or if you havent been able to sleep well. Cortisol levels are much lower when you are resting or sleeping, or during the night. In a healthy person, cortisol levels should go up during the day, peak in the morning, and fall throughout the day. People with low cortisol levels may be more likely to experience anxiety or depression.
Also Check: Is Melatonin Safe Every Night
Understanding The Causes Of Stress
Weekly, I balance this brilliant – but busy – day job with a plethora of extra-curricular activities: my @wellness_ed side hustle monthly talks and fitness festivals oh, and some semblance of a social life.
Most days this is how it goes:
- 5.40am SAD alarm starts to light my bedroom
- 5.51am jump out of bed
- 5.52am pull on Lycra, brush teeth, wash face
- 6.01am make protein coffee
- 8.01am check emails
- 8.45am get to work
You get the gist and Im sure you recognise the feeling of rushing from one activity to the next, often beginning the next task before youve finished the last. For me, replying to emails with one hand, while using the other to blast dry my hair is the norm. You, too?
However, spinning this many plates is nothing to be proud of where your health is concerned as I came to learn.
On the advice of nutritional therapist Eve Kalinin , who I visited complaining of gas, stomach cramps and general gut woes, I booked a cortisol test.
Common Symptoms Of Elevated Stress And Sleep Deprivation:
- Can’t get to sleep or stay asleep
- Frequent or early waking
- Feeling âtired but wiredâ
If you are having issues related to sleep or stress, taking an at-home cortisol test may be helpful for you to understand what may be causing your symptoms.
Cortisol regulates how much sugar and fat gets stored in your body and how much is released to use for fuel. Thatâs why a cortisol imbalance can lead to changes in weight, energy, and other symptoms.
Cortisol is also your bodyâs main stress hormone. When your body is stressed, your adrenal glands release a burst of cortisol, sending blood flow into your muscles and increasing your blood sugarâ âgiving you a boost of energy. Stressors can be psychological or physiological , and various activities of day-to-day living all cause physiological stress that results in spikes of cortisol.
But lots of stress for a prolonged amount of time can lead to chronically elevated cortisol levels. This may increase your risk of health issues including:
- Increased weight
- Difficulty remembering
Cortisol testing can be useful because it can help you see if your cortisol levels are very high -potentially causing symptoms-so you can discuss possible next steps with your healthcare provider.
Don’t Miss: Zarbee’s Melatonin Gummies Side Effects
What Is Cortisol And The Cortisol Am & Pm Test
Cortisol is your natural built-in alarm system that works in parallel with many parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation and fear. When you are in a stressful situation, such as having a dog barking at you, your body produces cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is produced and secreted by the adrenal glands that are triangular organs located on our kidney. It is transported through the blood and is regulated by the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands . When the levels of cortisol decrease in your blood, the hypothalamus secretes a corticotropin releasing hormone that pushes the pituitary gland to produce the adrenocorticotropic hormone . This latter stimulates the secretion of cortisol. When you are healthy and have the right amounts of cortisol in your system, this indicates that your hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands are functioning as they should.
The level of cortisol in our body is very significant. When levels are either too low or too high, health issues may arise that can range from mild to serious. When your cortisol levels are too high, your body will show symptoms such as gaining weight fast, having high blood pressure and muscle weakness, as well as witnessing severe mood swings that are caused by anxiety and depression. If your cortisol levels are too low then, you may experience dizziness, fatigue, weight loss, and darkening spots in specific areas of your skin.
What Are Normal Cortisol Levels
The level of cortisol in your blood, urine and saliva normally peaks in the early morning and declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest level around midnight. This pattern can change if you work a night shift and sleep at different times of the day.
For most tests that measure cortisol levels in your blood, the normal ranges are:
- 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.: 10 to 20 micrograms per deciliter .
- Around 4 p.m.: 3 to 10 mcg/dL.
Normal ranges can vary from lab to lab, time to time and person to person. If you need to get a cortisol level test, your healthcare provider will interpret your results and let you know if you need to get further testing.
Recommended Reading: Natural Supplements For Hormonal Imbalance
Tend To Your Spirituality
If you consider yourself spiritual, developing your faith can also help improve cortisol levels.
Studies show that adults who expressed spiritual faith experienced lower cortisol levels in the face of life stressors such as illness (
If you do not consider yourself spiritual, these benefits may also be available through meditation, developing a social support group, and performing acts of kindness .
For those with spiritual inclinations, developing faith and participating in prayer can help manage cortisol. Whether youre spiritual or not, performing acts of kindness can also improve your cortisol levels.
Best For Rapid Results: Mylab Box
Not available outside the United States
No subscription service available
MyLAB Box offers the quickest test results without leaving your home. Even better? Its available in every state except New York. Since 2014, MyLAB Box has been providing home testing services in the area of sexual health and has expanded to include a wide variety of tests.
The adrenal stress test uses a saliva sample to check your cortisol and DHEA levels. DHEA is a steroid hormone that converts to estrogen and testosterone in your body.
You can order your test online and once you receive it, activate it online and youll be asked to create an ID number to make sure your sample matches your account. Youll test your saliva four times a day for a full day testing takes about five minutes, and instructions are included. Youll return your kit after your fourth saliva sample and mail it back with the prepaid shipping label. You can expect to review your results in two to five days from your secure account.
If your test results come back out of range, you have the opportunity to have a telemedicine consultation to help you interpret your values.
The adrenal stress test costs about $150 with free, three to five day shipping. While not covered by insurance, you are able to use your FSA/HSA account. It takes one to three days to receive your test kit.
The company states its tests are as accurate as the ones in health care facilities and are CAP-accredited and CLIA-certified.
Recommended Reading: When Should I Take Melatonin To Help Me Sleep
Best Cortisol Test For Am And Pm Testing: Rx Hometest Cortisol Am
- Sample type: This test requires two saliva samples.
- Results time: People receive their results in 5 business days.
- Pro: A person takes two samples throughout the day to allow for fluctuations.
- Con: People must remember to take the sample within the appropriate time window.
This Rx HomeTest Cortisol AM/PM Test requires a person to take two saliva samples: one 3060 minutes after waking in the morning, before eating breakfast or brushing teeth, and the other before bed.
The company states that collecting two samples can help provide insight into a persons 24-hour cortisol cycle.
Once a person collects the sample, they can ship it to the Rx HomeTest CLIA lab for free. The company claims it sends test results within 5 business days and that they are easy to understand.
This test may be best suited to people who to understand their 24-hour cortisol cycle, but do not want to take an invasive sample.
The RxHomeTest Cortisol AM/PM Test is available across the United States, except in the following states:
usually take a persons blood sample and analyze their cortisol levels. They may also provide a saliva test kit for analyzing a persons cortisol levels.
With home cortisol tests, a person takes a sample of their blood, urine, or saliva. There are currently no studies investigating the accuracy of these results.
However, home cortisol tests may be faster and more convenient than undergoing testing in a clinic or hospital setting.
Do I Need Both Tests Or Is One Better Than The Other
If your healthcare provider suspects Cushing syndrome, usually both blood and urine are tested as they offer complementary information. Blood cortisol is easier to collect but is affected more by stress than is the 24-hour urine test. Salivary cortisol may sometimes be tested instead of blood cortisol.
Don’t Miss: How To Have More Testosterone
Eat A Nutritious Diet
Nutrition can influence cortisol for better or for worse.
While all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, being mindful of the foods you eat may alleviate symptoms of stress and help you better manage your cortisol levels.
Regular high added-sugar intake may result in elevated cortisol levels. Interestingly, a high sugar diet may also suppress cortisol release during stressful events, making it more difficult for your body to handle stressful situations (
For better gut and mental health, opt for a nutrient-dense diet full of whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and foods high in prebiotics and probiotics.
Can I Test My Cortisol Levels At Home
The way cortisol works is pretty simple when you encounter a threat , your fight or flight response is triggered and your body releases a surge of hormones, one of those being cortisol. Once this threat has passed, your hormone levels typically return to normal however if youre constantly feeling stressed, levels will remain high. This overexposure to cortisol can be overwhelming for the body and can put you at risk of a number of complications such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
There are a handful of different types of cortisol tests, these include blood, saliva, and urine. The blood test involves a simple finger prick blood sample and can be taken from home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetCheckeds at-home Cortisol test checks cortisol production levels to get insights into whether the levels are too high, which could lead to Cushing syndrome, or too low which could put you at risk of developing Addisons disease.
Whether you dont have time to visit your doctor or youd simply prefer the convenience of checking your levels from home the best and most reliable way to check cortisol levels from home is with an at-home Cortisol lab test.
You May Like: Do Prenatal Vitamins Have Estrogen
What Is The Stress Level
We all know what stress feels like. Its a feeling of being overwhelmed, panicky, or anxious. And it can be mentally and emotionally draining. Its also unhealthy. However, it can be difficult to differentiate between a healthy response to stress and a dangerous one. Some people are susceptible to experiencing more stress than others, which can have health implications. In addition to negative physical effects, stress can negatively affect your productivity. So, how do you know whether you are experiencing a dangerous level of stress? There are different ways to measure your stress levels.
Getting Back To Normal Cortisol Levels
Without taking another cortisol test and comparing the results, its impossible to say if my lifestyle change has affected my cortisol levels for the better. However, without seeing those results I know I wouldnt have put the breaks on until something big happened in my body. At the risk of TMI, today I do suffer from less wind, bloating and stomach cramps and I sleep better – all markers of better gut health which suggest my body is dealing with physiological or psychological stress far better.
My parting point? Slowing down doesnt mean stopping – something I now remind myself of, on a daily basis.
Don’t Miss: Mommy’s Bliss Melatonin Gummies
The Hormonal Circuit And Adrenal Function
When you have AFS, the bodys circuits go out of balance and start to malfunction. This occurs because of imbalances in the NEM stress response. The NEM stress response encompasses six circuits, made of three organs and systems each, which undergo changes to help you cope with the stress. But if the stress isnt alleviated, then the NEM remains activated and the circuits cant return to their normal functioning. Over time, this abnormal level of functioning causes problems with the circuits as a whole and with the individual organs and systems of each circuit.
The Hormonal Circuit includes the adrenal, thyroid, and reproductive glands, which are the ovaries in women and the testes in men. Usually, these three components work together and separately to perfect their different duties and to help you cope with stress. However, when you have AFS, the balance between and within these components is lost. This will often cause a variety of symptoms such as hair loss, exercise intolerance, PMS, infertility, and fatigue.
You may also experience symptoms and problems related directly to the dysfunction of the three components in this circuit. Heres how that occurs:
How To Check Your Cortisol Levels From The Convenience Of Home
Check on your cortisol levels and other key hormones from the convenience of home with the at-home Sleep & Stress Test. Everything you need for collecting a urine sample at home and shipping it to a CLIA-certified lab for testing is included with the kit. The test results will reveal how your cortisol levels fluctuate throughout a 24-hour period and whether your levels are high or low compared to the reference range.
Also Check: How Long Does.melatonin Last
Interpreting Your Test Results
Who Should Take The Cortisol Blood Test
Check if your body is under stress or over-training using a home finger-prick blood test kit.
You get the convenience of home testing with the reassurance of professional clinical analysis. Your results are delivered quickly & securely online.
This Cortisol Test is advised if you:
- have a low sex drive & loss of libido
- feel tired all the time with low energy
- have Addison’s disease
Take a complete health check-up with Vitall.
You May Like: How To Know If Your Cortisol Levels Are High