What is cortisol?

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that plays a key role in the body’s stress response.Although it is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because of its most famous effects, it also contributes to many processes in the body. It is secreted by the adrenal glands and participates in the regulation of the following functions and more:

  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Immune Function
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin release

As part of the body’s fight or flight response, the adrenal glands release cortisol in response to stress or fear.When your environment encounters a certain type of threat, your body will experience a series of near-instant responses, preparing you to either stay to deal with the problem or escape to a safe place.

The brain structure called the amygdala sends an alarm to the hypothalamus, which then sends out a series of response signals, including the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Cortisol is important for the normal functioning of your body, but too much cortisol may be detrimental to your health.

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Signs of high cortisol

When cortisol levels are too high, you may experience a series of undesirable symptoms. Cortisol levels in the blood (such as those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

  • Blood sugar imbalance, such as high blood sugar
  • Decreased bone density
  • Muscle tissue loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Increased belly fat
  • Reduce the body’s immunity and inflammation, slow down wound healing, and other health consequences
  • Suppress thyroid function

These negative effects often have consequences. For example, increased belly fat is associated with more health problems than fat deposited in other parts of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat include increased risk of heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, increased levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), and decreased levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL).

Chronic high cortisol levels can also cause a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. Reasons may include adrenal tumors or long-term use of glucocorticoids.Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome also include high blood sugar, increased thirst and urination, osteoporosis, depression, and more frequent infections.

The effects of cortisol

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate at different times of the day. For example, under normal circumstances, cortisol is present in the body at higher levels in the morning and lowest in the evening. The cycle repeats every day.

Cortisol levels also fluctuate based on a person’s experience. For example, although stress is not the only reason for the secretion of cortisol into the blood, it is called the “stress hormone” because it is secreted at a higher level during the body’s stress response process, and it is responsible for many kinds of stress. Reasons for related changes. Body.

A small increase in cortisol has some positive effects:

  • Rapid burst of energy for survival reasons
  • Improve alertness
  • A burst of enhanced immunity
  • Help maintain homeostasis

Some people experience greater cortisol spikes when under stress than others. It can also minimize the amount of cortisol you secrete in response to stressors. Stress management techniques are a way for you to manage stress and may reduce cortisol levels in the body.

Techniques for controlling cortisol

In order to maintain healthy and controlled cortisol levels, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs.You can learn to use various stress management techniques to relax your body, and you can change your lifestyle to prevent your body from responding to stress in the first place.

Many people find that the following methods are very helpful for relaxation and help the body maintain healthy cortisol levels:

Getting more information about stress and resources to help you manage stress can help you develop habits that can help you cope with stress when you trigger a stress response.

If you are more sensitive to stress, it is especially important for you to learn stress management techniques and maintain a low-stress lifestyle. This is a great way to control the secretion of cortisol while maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Unfortunately, it may not always be possible to control cortisol levels. Some other possible problems:

  • Cortisol secretion varies from person to person. People are biologically “wired” and respond differently to stress. Under the same circumstances, one person may secrete higher levels of cortisol than another. This tendency will change at different times in a person’s life.
  • Research has also shown that people who secrete higher levels of cortisol under stress also tend to eat more foods and foods with higher carbohydrate content than those who secrete less cortisol.
  • Cortisol levels in the blood of people with depression may also be elevated. Stress management techniques that help reduce these levels can be an important coping tool for people experiencing symptoms of depression.

Although cortisol is an important and useful part of the body’s response to stress, it is important to activate the body’s relaxation response so that the body’s functions can return to normal after a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is often activated, so that the body does not always have a chance to return to normal, which leads to a chronic stress state.

If you are struggling to manage stress or show signs of chronic high cortisol, please do not hesitate to seek help from your doctor.