2020 was a stressful year. That goes without saying.
Most people I’ve talked to have had increased levels of stress, and less ways to cope with that stress. Even if you aren’t feeling “stressed out”, there is a high likelihood that your body may be! I’m going to share with you everything you need to know about the hormone cortisol, how it relates to stress, and what happens when it is out of balance.
Your body’s adrenal glands produce hydrocortisone (cortisol), a hormone known as a glucocorticoid. Glucocorticoids are critical for life and are key to your body’s physical and emotional stress response. The “glu-“ in glucocorticoid comes from glucose, as these steroids hormones play a vital role in blood sugar metabolism.
Among its functions, cortisol stimulates bodily activities on awakening: It influences carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism, helps regulate blood pressure, and improves the stability of blood vessels. Cortisol is also vital for immune function (it fends off bacteria and viruses) and helps mobilize your body against inflammation. However, cortisol levels can actually suppress immune function if too high.
Symptoms of high cortisol include the following:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune response
A cortisol imbalance may result in:
- Weight gain
- Bone and muscle loss
- Foggy thinking
Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol protects your body when emotional stressors or emergencies arise. When the stress subsides, the brain sends a message to slow down cortisol production to normalize levels. But if you’re under chronic stress, elevated cortisol levels may saturate your body. Over time, these elevated cortisol levels lead to fat accumulation, blood sugar problems, fatigue, bone loss and immune system impairment. Chronic stress (physical or emotional) can also eventually exhaust the adrenal glands, resulting in abnormally low cortisol production – an insidious cycle that can cause premature aging of tissues and total body burnout.
High stress levels and poor nutrition may both contribute to an imbalance in the levels of cortisol. As elevated or lowered levels of cortisol may lead to a host of health problems, it is imperative to be evaluated to determine how you may be affected. Corrective measures for abnormal cortisol levels include balancing hormones, stress management, eating an appropriate anti-inflammatory diet, and the correct physical activity.
So how do you know if you have a cortisol imbalance? Schedule an evaluation with Age Management / Hormonal Optimization expert Dr. Mike Carragher. We care for patients from all over the world, without you needing to leave the comfort of your home. Call (323) 874-9355 to book an evaluation, or for more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org