Causes Of High Cortisol Levels
Wondering what underlying conditions could be contributing to your high cortisol levels? Cortisol tends to go up as perceived stress goes up, so anything that triggers a negative mind states things like anxiety, worry, anger or frustration contributes to high cortisol levels. Medication use, inflammation, poor sleep and a poor diet can also trigger high cortisol levels by altering hormonal balances and negatively affecting the immune system.
Corticosteroid medications like hydrocortisone, prednisone pills or other medications used to treat inflammatory-related diseases or symptoms are common causes of high cortisol levels. Aside from corticosteroids, other major factors contributing to higher than usual cortisol production include:
- recent surgery, illness, injury or whole-body infections
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.
What Does Cortisol Do
The stress hormone cortisol is a steroid hormone and belongs to the group of glucocorticoids . When the body feels stress, more cortisol is secreted. The adrenal cortex produces cortisol and otherwise has a wide variety of functions in the body. These include, among others, its influence on carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, blood pressure and blood sugar. When it comes to our immune system, it also plays an important role.
You May Like: Is 6 Mg Of Melatonin Too Much
Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Can Ibs Flare Up Due To Stress
Some studies have shown, for example, that long-term stress can increase the pain of irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis. In general, chronic stress seems to influence the perception of pain. People who are constantly under stress perceive more pain in conditions like IBS in some cases, stress may even be a trigger for chronic pain syndromes.
Have you also heard that people get stomach ulcers from stress? Its actually not that simple. Stomach ulcers are usually caused by infections with bacteria like Helicobacter pylori or by taking too many painkillers. However, stress and other lifestyle factors, such as alcohol consumption, can possibly increase the risk of ulcers and make the symptoms worse.
What Do The Results Mean
A cortisol test alone can’t diagnose the cause of abnormal cortisol levels. If your cortisol level isn’t normal, you will usually have more tests to find out what is causing the problem.
High levels of cortisol may be a sign that you have Cushing’s syndrome. It may be caused by:
- Taking high doses of certain steroid medicines for a long time to treat conditions, such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus
- Tumors in your pituitary gland or other parts of your body that make too much of the hormone that tells your adrenal glands to make cortisol
- Tumors in your adrenal glands that make extra cortisol
Low levels of cortisol may mean you have Addison disease or secondary adrenal insufficiency:
- Common causes of Addison’s disease include damage to the adrenal glands from conditions, such as:
- Certain infections, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS
The most common cause of low cortisol levels is suddenly stopping steroid medicines after using them for a long time.
If your cortisol results aren’t normal, it doesn’t always mean you have a medical condition that needs treatment. Cortisol levels can be affected by:
- Certain medicines, such as birth control pills
To learn what your test results mean, talk with your health care provider.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
Don’t Miss: Can I Give My 10 Month Old Melatonin
What About Low Cortisol Levels
Itâs also possible to have extremely low cortisol levels, which can be caused by a dysfunction of the pituitary or adrenal gland. This is referred to as Addisonâs disease, and the lower cortisol levels associated with this condition can lead to symptoms like dizziness upon standing, fatigue, weight loss, mood changes, muscle weakness, and darkening areas of the skin.
What Are Typical Signs Of Stress
Commonly observed stress symptoms include:
- Stomach pain, diarrhoea and other digestive problems
- Skin rash and other skin problems for example, acne
- Headaches and back, neck and joint pain
- Palpitations and dizziness
- Tiredness, fatigue and sleep problems
In addition to these relatively immediate symptoms, there are also long-term consequences that chronic stress can trigger. The best-researched are the connections with the cardiovascular system stress has an effect on blood pressure and pulse rate, among other things, and many studies confirm that there is an obvious connection.
Other possible long-term consequences of long-term stress are:
- Mental illnesses such as depression, burnout, anxiety disorders
- Poor concentration and chronic fatigue
- Obesity and diabetes
- Susceptibility to infection
Besides some evidence that suggests stress is related to ringing in the ears and tinnitus, other studies additionally found that people who are under chronic stress are likely to have more upper respiratory infections, such as flu or colds. Researchers therefore suspect that stress can weaken the immune system in the long run.
In women, high cortisol levels can also lead to thicker or more visible body and facial hair , irregular or absent menstrual periods and in men to impotence and loss of libido and fertility.
Read Also: Dosage For Melatonin For Adults
What Is The Best Definition Of Stress
Just over one-fifth of people declare themselves to be very happy. The ratio is more than twice as high as for stressed people. Everybody knows the term stress and most people have already experienced stressful times. Stress is the human bodys reaction to a stressful situation, and this reaction is triggered by a stressor. A stressor can be any external stimulus or event which causes stress to an organism. Situations that are regarded as threatening or unpleasant can also be stressors. Disappointment, fears of failure and low self-confidence are the most severe stressors.
The term stress has gained increasing popularity in recent years. According to a Forsa study, around 80 per cent of 36- to 45-year-olds suffer from stress, in school or at university and also from financial worries. Such stress is closely linked to symptoms such as headaches, back problems, neck tension as well as gut health problems and can, in the long run, also trigger other health conditions.
Dont worry: stressful times inevitably belong to our everyday lives, and success involves overcoming obstacles. Even though it is not realistic to live and work in a stress-free world, humans are able to control what they perceive as stressful and how to react to this.
The balance of our metabolism and of our hormones is restored by the secretion of dopamine once the dangerous situation is over. Dopamine rewards our brains for mastering the challenge.
Other Effects Of Cortisol
Some physical effects of cortisol unrelated to fight or flight include:
Controlling salt and water balance.
Acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Helping you wake up in the morning.
Regulating immune system function.
Cortisol release is controlled by a feedback system between your brains hypothalamus gland, the , and the adrenal gland, which together constitute the HPA axis . The hypothalamus and pituitary glands are responsible for ensuring that your blood contains the correct level of cortisol. If its too low or too high, the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to make more or less.
Once a perceived threat has passed, your cortisol levels should return to normal, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to regulate and your digestion and other body systems to restart. However, in our stress-laden, fast-paced culture, cortisol can remain chronically high. This can cause a variety of health problems, as we discuss below.
You May Like: How Do They Make Testosterone Injections
Enjoy A Healthy Diet To Lower Cortisol Levels
Foods that can increase cortisol are refined sugars, unhealthy carbs, and saturated fats. Healthy food choices such as increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables help balance your hormones better.
The journal Advances in Nutrition reported that a poor diet can affect cortisol concentrations. This can have an impact on cognitive function and affect the HPA axis. Studies have shown that supplements such as magnesium can help to decrease the concentration of cortisol if its elevated.
If you have type 2 diabetes and show signs of excess cortisol, then enjoying a healthy diet is essential to control your symptoms.
As well as eating the right foods to help control cortisol, it is essential to drink plenty of fluids. Researchers have found that your levels of hydration can affect cortisol. When the body is dehydrated, cortisol levels increase.
What Are The Signs Of High Cortisol
1st Aug 2022 4 min read
Cortisol is a stress hormone thats produced by your body. Its essential for your health, but too much cortisol can cause problems, ranging from anxiety to diabetes. When high cortisol causes symptoms and conditions, its known as Cushings syndrome. Here’s how to spot the signs of high cortisol, how to test your levels, and what you can do to lower them.
Also Check: Melatonin Dosage For Cancer Treatment
Is There Any Truth To Cortisol Blocker Claims
Finding the Truth
Cortisol blockers help decrease your cortisol level. Cortisol is a hormone, sometimes called the stress hormone. Its main job is to help your body function well in times of stress.
Cortisol blockers can be effective in treating high cortisol level disorders, such as Cushings syndrome. However, theyre also marketed as a dietary supplement that can help you curb your appetite, lose weight, and build muscle.
To examine whether or not theres any truth to those claims, it helps to know what cortisol is and what role it plays in your health.
How Do You Moderate Cortisol Levels
If you are experiencing high cortisol levels over time, its important to know that there are a number of treatments available that can help lower high levels of cortisol. Of course, the treatment will depend on your individual circumstances, including the cause of Cushings syndrome. Some of the most common treatments used to moderate cortisol levels may include:
- Reducing corticosteroid use
- Specific medications
If you are experiencing signs or symptoms of Cushing syndrome, its important to know more. This can be done by taking a trip to the doctor or from home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetCheckeds at-home Cortisol Test can measure adrenal performance or stress with online results available within 2-5 days and access to our medical experts every step of the way.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You constantly feel run down
- You are body-building competitively
- You are presenting with symptoms of Cushing syndrome
- You have Cushing syndrome
- You are presenting with symptoms of Addison’s disease
- You have Addison’s disease
Don’t Miss: Does Hyaluronic Acid Increase Estrogen
Other Ways To Lower High Cortisol Levels
Depending on the underlying cause of increased levels of cortisol, it may not be possible to decrease cortisol naturally.
If you show signs of having excess cortisol, your doctor will run various tests to check for Cushings syndrome.
Some conventional methods to treat an overproduction of cortisol can include any of the following depending on your condition:
- Lowering your corticosteroid medication
- Surgery to remove tumors that cause high ACTH or elevated cortisol levels
- Medications to help regulate and normalize cortisol secretion
How Do You Relieve Stress Quickly
For some, drinking a cup of tea and reading a book already helps to come to rest. For others, a punching bag or other sports help to relax. All of these have in common that they improve our perception of stress, but they dont tackle the source of high cortisol levels in the long run. Certain targeted relaxation techniques, often paired with exercise, have been shown to lower stress levels. This has a positive influence on not only your mind but also physiological factors such as your blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate.
These relaxation techniques include yoga, tai chi, autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation, but also other types of meditation and mindfulness training. Some of these techniques are easy and quick to learn for example via online videos. Others need some practice and coaching, but the good news is that most people can benefit from them after a short time.
Studies furthermore reveal that regular physical activity can reduce stress and lower the risk of depression and anxiety. At the same time, exercise improves your cardiovascular health and thus counteracts possible long-term consequences of chronic stress.
Don’t Miss: Do Bioidentical Hormones Cause Cancer
Feeling Tired But Wired
“The classic sign of high cortisol is feeling tired but wired,” Dr. Gottfried says. If you feel exhausted but can’t sleep for example, that’s what she’s talking about. “This is usually accompanied by a symptom of fatigue throughout the day,” she adds. Dr. Gottfried previously explained to Well+Good that cortisol levels should bottom out around midnight, while you’re asleep. If your cortisol levels are still high while you’re sleeping, your body cant do the healing it needs,” she says. “As a result, you wake up feeling fatigued, like you want coffeewhich raises cortisoland perhaps you have trouble recovering from exercise. The cruel joke of it is that she says that not getting consistently good sleepwhich she describes as between seven to eight-and-a-half hours a nightcan contribute to high cortisol levels. It’s a vicious cycle.
What Is It Used For
A cortisol test is used to help diagnose medical conditions that cause too much or too little cortisol. These conditions include disorders that affect the adrenal glands:
- Cushing’s syndrome is a disorder that happens when your body has too much cortisol over a long period of time.
- Addison disease is a condition in which your adrenal glands are damaged and can’t make enough cortisol.
- Secondary adrenal insufficiency is a condition in which your adrenal glands don’t make enough cortisol because your pituitary gland isn’t working properly.
Cortisol testing is also used to monitor treatment for these conditions.
You May Like: Estrogen Rich Food For Breast Enlargement
The Moderating Role Of Cortisol
Cortisol, like testosterone, is a steroid hormone. Cortisol is known primarily for its role in the physiological stress response via activation of the hypothalamicpituitaryadrenal axis . The HPA-axis consists of the series of communications between the hypothalamus and the pituitary and adrenal glands. When the hypothalamus receives information that there is a threat in the environment, it relays a signal via the pituitary gland to the adrenal gland, which releases cortisol, as well as other hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. The resulting stress response causes physiological changes which include increased respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. These changes are all intended to prime the organism to physically respond to the threat by facilitating fight or flight behaviors. Unlike the catecholamines , cortisol is able to pass through the bloodbrain barrier, making it the primary behavioral influence during active stress responses. As such, cortisol has been shown to have not only physiological effects, but psychological and behavioral effects as well.
R. Yehuda, in, 2007
Cortisol Levels: What Do They Mean
Levels of the hormone cortisol rise and fall naturally throughout the day.
Cortisol levels reach their lowest levels late at night usually around midnight. From there, levels begin to rise. Cortisol reaches its highest level in the body early in the morning, peaking around 9 a.m., before beginning to decline again throughout the later day.
The pattern can change or become altered if people work irregular shifts or sleep a lot during the day. Diseases, including adrenal gland disorders, that affect the production or use of cortisol also can disrupt the normal pattern.
Adrenal gland disorders may arise when the adrenal glands produce too much or too little cortisol.
In Cushings syndrome, theres too much cortisol production, while adrenal insufficiency is marked by too little cortisol production.
Recommended Reading: How To Lower Cortisol Levels
The Cortisol Rhythm Plays To Its Own Tune
Aside from intermittent stressors that trigger the fight-or-flight response , did you know that your bodyâs cortisol production follows its own circadian rhythm?
Normal individuals with a healthy functioning cortisol rhythm have cortisol levels that reach their lowest point at midnight, followed by a build up overnight to peak first thing in the morning. Cortisol volume is typically high when you wake up and surges for 50-60% in the first 30-45 minutes after youâve awakened. This is called the cortisol awakening response .
The cortisol load then drops rapidly past this early morning spike before gradually declining throughout the day to reach its minimum level around bedtime so you can wind down and go to sleep.
Scientists call this everyday phenomenon the cortisol diurnal rhythm or cortisol circadian rhythm. If youâre wondering who is the conductor of this rhythm, the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus, which is also the principal circadian clock of the brain, acts as the catalyst for cortisol production via the HPA axis.
Across 24 hours, the normal range for healthy salivary cortisol levels looks like this:
- 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.: 100-750 ng/dL
- 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.:< 401 ng/dL
- 11 p.m. to 12 a.m.:< 100 ng/dL
If your cortisol test results exceed the bracketed values above, youâre likely facing an unhealthy cortisol surplus.