Cortisol is a hormone produced by cholesterol and belongs to the glucocorticoid group. It is detached from the adrenal glands after a signal from the pituitary gland.
Cortisol is called a hormone of stress and this is by no means accidental – the main factor that stimulates its synthesis is a variety of stresses that can be of a different nature – consumption of harmful foods, hard workouts, traumas, strong emotions, malnutrition, inadequate sleep, illness, pain testing.
When cortisol is in normal levels, it only brings benefits to the body. Its normal secretion is important for a number of important processes. It reduces the sensitivity to pain, increases the body’s resistance, improves memory and the ability to concentrate.
High levels of cortisol for a long period of time carry a number of negatives. Gradually decreases immunity, decreases the secretion of hormones testosterone and somatotropin, suppresses thyroid function, blood sugar imbalance, blood pressure increases, cognitive abilities decrease.
It constantly reduces muscle tissue, increases fat tissue, speeds up cell aging. High levels of cortisol cause ulcers, diabetes and stretch marks, bone density is reduced, which is a major contributor to osteoporosis.
Symptoms of high cortisol
Symptoms of tall cortisol are different. A person suffering from a similar problem starts experiencing different mood swings – anxiety, depression and increased irritability. This is due to the fact that cortisol affects the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin.
As it became clear, the synthesis of cortisol is highest early in the morning when one has to wake up and be fresh and energetic. People who have high cortisol in the morning feel tired, and at the same time they are bored.
Weight is gradually increasing because cortisol not only stimulates appetite but also increases the desire for a meal. High levels of the hormone cause [skin dehydration], which in turn leads to premature wrinkles and aging.
High cortisol caused by constant stress can cause a rise in blood pressure and thus increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Investigation of cortisol
The cortisol study is assigned to determine its blood levels. Two blood samples are usually taken – one morning and one evening because the levels are different. Most commonly, such a study is designed to diagnose pituitary or adrenal gland problems.
Prior to the appointment, one must prepare. For that purpose, the day before it avoids physical activity, and half an hour before the sample itself lies. Taking some medications may change the results, so if you are taking a pill, you should tell your doctor about them.
The study should not be conducted after experiencing mental or physical stress during pregnancy or low blood sugar when taking certain medications.
Deviations from norms may be due to certain illnesses and problems. High levels may be due to kidney, liver, obesity, depression, hyperthyroidism. The most common cause is Cushing’s syndrome.
Low cortisol levels may be caused by bleeding in any internal organ or Addison’s disease.
Avoiding persistently elevated levels of cortisol is an important prerequisite for good health. To prevent the negative consequences, each person should try to observe several basic rules. First of all, it is necessary to reduce stress as much as possible.
It is the main culprit for high cortisol and needs to be adjusted. Full sleep is important, too heavy workouts should be replaced with moderate. Drastic diets are avoided, and food should be quality and complete. Coffee and energy drinks should be reduced to avoid cigarette smoke.
Everyday stress caused by engagements, immobilization, taking caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes, lack of sleep and imbalance in nutrition should be replaced by exercise, practicing yoga and meditation, a complete change in lifestyle.
Foods and cortisol
As with many other hormones, nutrition is also one of the most important factors in maintaining normal levels of cortisol.
In order to maintain cortisol levels, especially in the case of active trained people, a proper diet should be developed which includes about 6 meals a day, divided into small portions. Strongly reduced calorie intake may increase cortisol levels by up to 40%.