CortisolPosted 9 years ago under Uncategorized
Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone is a steroid hormone a glucocorticoid. It has also been nicknamed the “stress hormone”, but it is in fact, not the only stress hormone but one of many. (1)
Cortisol does a lot of good things for us, Cortisol aids in metabolism, and many other bodily functions. Cortisol is crucial for survival. Inadequate cortisol levels lead to a number of ailments both physical and psychological.
What are more common than low levels of cortisol are excessive cortisol levels. Individuals who are living under the strain of constant stress have excessive levels of cortisol.
Excessive cortisol levels impair the immune system. Cortisol is a corticosteroid with similar properties to steroids like prednisone, cortisone and beclomethasone. Like these other steroids cortisol inhibits the activity of white blood cells.
Effects of High Cortisol Levels
High cortisol leads to weight gain, especially around the abdomen, neck and upper back. Exactly how this stress related weight gain occurs is not yet fully understood, but it is known that without addressing the ongoing stress, losing this extra weight is almost impossible. (2)
High Cortisol levels also break down bone, muscle and connective tissues. Cortisol is also a gluconeogenic. Gluconeogenesis is a metabolic process that generates glucose from already existing healthy tissue. This generates extra fuel for the brain.
Under stressful situations cortisol takes a little longer than other stress hormones to kick in, it is meant to provide us with sustained energy over a longer period of time.
Healthy levels of cortisol vary throughout the day. Under ideal circumstances cortisol levels rise and fall with the circadian rhythm, the internal clock of the body. Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with sleep. When cortisol levels are naturally at their highest is when most people wake up in the morning.
Unhealthy cortisol levels can lead to insomnia, waking up frequently, and it can interfere with the most restorative deep sleep. (3)
Stress and Cortisol
Stress directly affects cortisol levels. Chronic stress invariably means harmful levels of cortisol doing damage to the body. The health problems listed above are not intended to be completely comprehensive, they are just some of the more common, problems caused by high cortisol levels.
Cortisol plays an important role in metabolism, and in the fight or flight response. Some cortisol is needed for health, but too much, especially over the long term is very harmful. It has a complex effect on the body, and not all of its affects are fully understood. (4)