The main Stress Hormone explained.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of vital processes in the body, including metabolism and immune response. It is one of the glucocorticoids that consist of the cortex and adrenal glands that are released into the blood and transport cortisol through the body. Cortisol helps the body fight inflammation, regulate the balance of salt and water in the body and regulate blood pressure.
Cortisol, also called cortisol stress hormone, is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that plays a key role in the body’s stress response. Cortisol and the connection to the stress reaction cortisol is more than just a hormone released during stress. It has a well-known role and contributes to many processes of the body.
Increased cortisol levels lead to physiological changes that help replenish the body’s energy reserves that are depleted during the stress response. Cortisol, for example, increases appetite, so people want to eat more to get extra energy. Tumors of the pituitary and adrenal glands contribute to a disease known as Cushing’s syndrome characterized by high levels of cortisol in blood.
The cortisol level in the body increases in times of high stress. As part of the fight-or-flight response of the body, cortisol is released during stressful times to give the body a natural boost in energy. If cortisol levels are too high, chronic stress can have the same effect, leading to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
The appropriate amount of exercise depends on several factors, including physical fitness of a person, and these factors play a role in how much cortisol the body releases during exercise. Intensive exercise can trigger a rise in cortisol levels, and this is how the body copes with the extra stress that exercise puts on it.
Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body and plays a role in many bodily functions including blood sugar control. Here we are considering practical ways of lowering cortisol levels to ensure that the body can deal with stress. Cortisol helps your body deal with stressful situations because your brain triggers the release of cortisol in response to many different types of stress by the sympathetic nervous system (the fight-or-flight system) (1, 2).
Over time this can lead to a number of health problems including weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, insomnia, sleep disorders, mood swings and low energy levels (1, 2). In the short term, the release of cortisol can help you escape danger, but if the cortisol level is too high, it can hurt you as much as it helps (1-2).
Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels can affect learning and memory, reduce immune function and bone density, gain weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease, and the list goes on. Two separate studies published this week in Science linked these cortisol levels to the potential to trigger mental illness and reduce resilience in adolescence. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels increase the risk of depression, mental illness and reduced life expectancy.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands as part of the fight or escape mechanism in response to anxiety and stress. Cortisol works with certain parts of the brain to control mood, motivation and anxiety.
Your hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are located in your brain, feel when the blood contains the right level of cortisol. Her adrenal gland, a triangular organ above the kidneys, also produces cortisol.
Cortisol also affects appetite by modulating other hormones and stress factors that are known to stimulate appetite. Studies have shown a direct link between cortisol levels and calorie intake in a population of women.3 Cortisol affects appetite and desire by binding to brain hypothalamus receptors.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone that increases the sugar (glucose) in the blood, increases glucose consumption in the brain and increases availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol reduces inflammation in the body at best, and this suppresses the immune system. Chronic inflammation caused by lifestyle factors such as poor diet and stress helps to prevent cortisol levels from soaring and has devastating effects on the body’s system.
When adrenaline and cortisol levels fall, heart rate and blood pressure return to their initial levels and other systems resume regular activity. Cortisol restricts the function of insignificant, harmful combat or escape situations.
As your body prepares for a fight or flight or freezing reaction, there is a physical release of cortisol and it accumulates in your blood which can have negative effects on our health. However, even a small increase in cortisol can have a positive effect on our stress response, as we get quick bursts of energy, increase our memory and are less sensitive to pain.
An increase in the cortisol levels caused by chronic stress is responsible for reduced immune function, increased weight gain and weight loss, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular disease. A sustained increase in cortisol also damages the brain and impairs thinking, memory and learning.
It is possible to minimize the amount of cortisol you release in response to a stress factor. Stress is not the only reason why cortisol is released in the bloodstream, but it is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because it can be released in high concentrations in the stress response of the body and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Some people experience a greater increase in cortisol during stress than others.
The production of cortisol is controlled by three intercommunicating parts of the body: the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. In addition, additional cortisol is released in response to stress, which helps the body respond to it. In people who work at night, this pattern reverses the time of cortisol release, which is associated with daily activity patterns.
Researchers measured cortisol levels in hair in a large study of more than 2,500 British adults. They found that people with higher cortisol levels were more likely to be obese over a four-year period and to be obese for longer than people with lower levels. The researchers behind the study said that hair cortisol is a better indicator of long-term cortisol exposure from chronic stress than cortisol concentrations measured in blood, urine or saliva.