Cortisol: what it is and how it influences our body

The word cortisol it is on all our minds, since we live with a high level of stress and it is known as the “stress hormone”. Our daily life is non-stop, and we continually experience situations that put us to the limit, and surely where we are accompanied by the beloved cortisol. In this article, we tell you what it is and how it can influence our body.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress and other situations that trigger a “fight or flight” response in the body.

Cortisol is a hormone that allows the body to regulate everything from metabolism to sleep to immune function and inflammation, but it is arguably best known for helping the body respond to perceived threats, a role that has earned it the nickname “stress hormone.”

It reaches its lowest levels late at night, usually around midnight. From those hours onwards, it begins to increase until reaching the maximum level 2-4 hours after getting up, to gradually decrease throughout the day.

What function does cortisol play in our body?

One of the main functions that cortisol has is to increase blood glucose, in order to provide the body with the energy necessary to cope with all tasks throughout the day. Cortisol is important for the sleep-wake cycle, as it plays a fundamental role in waking us up in the morning. It helps reduce inflammation when kept within its optimal levels and cope with the physical and emotional stress of everyday life. That is, it fulfills multiple functions and benefits, although it is known as the “stress hormone”, it helps to have good health and well-being.

Symptoms of excess cortisol

  • Suppression of the immune system
  • Increased histamine
  • General pain in the body
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased bone formation
  • Symptoms in other hormones: in the case of men it can affect the male sex hormone, testosterone, causing the body to prioritize the production of cortisol before testosterone. While in women, the symptoms of high cortisol would cause changes in fertility or abortion.

How to measure our cortisol level

There is a cortisol test that measures the level of cortisol in the blood, urine or saliva, to know if your levels are normal.

  • Urine test: all urine produced during 24 hours is collected.
  • Blood test: Blood samples are taken at two different times of the day, in the morning when cortisol levels are highest, and in the afternoon when they have dropped.
  • Saliva test: Saliva will be collected late at night, when cortisol levels are typically lower. A swab is rubbed for two minutes inside the mouth to collect as much saliva as possible and stored in a container given to you by the doctor or the laboratory.

What are the consequences of excess cortisol?

Increased blood pressure

When cortisol level is high, adrenaline and noradenaline are produced, two hormones that are released in response to stress, and both can cause blood vessels to constrict, increasing the resistance and pressure of the arteries. When cortisol levels are high for a long period of time it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Changes in body weight

High levels of cortisol can cause abdominal fat to be stored, therefore, there will be weight gain. Therefore, there will be a risk of developing metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, increasing insulin resistance and making it more difficult for the body to lose weight.

Sleep disturbances

It can influence sleep and cause insomnia. Cortisol is naturally released in the morning to help provide energy to the body during the day and cortisol levels decrease as night falls to allow for a restful sleep. But, when cortisol levels are high at night, due to stress or anxiety, it can make it difficult to fall asleep. Therefore, if we do not rest well at night, it can cause us to feel fatigued during the day, with problems concentrating and negatively affecting daily tasks.

Digestive problems

When cortisol levels increase in the body, it can affect digestion and the balance of the intestinal microbiota . Additionally, it can reduce blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract, causing digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome and reducing the body’s ability to digest food properly. All of this can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal distension.

Immune system

When there is a high level of cortisol in the body for a prolonged period of time, it can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections and autoimmune diseases or worsen existing ones.

Memory and cognitive problems

When stress is prolonged over time, it can negatively affect memory and learning. This is because blood flow to the hippocampus (memory area of the brain) can cause damage. There may also be damage to the body’s executive function, the brain’s ability to carry out complex tasks, plan and organize effectively. Anyone who suffers from this will end up decreasing their overall quality of life.

Changes in mood

High levels of cortisol in the body can alter brain levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are vital for regulating mood and emotions. Cortisol can affect the production of other hormones that influence mood and anxiety, such as melatonin and thyroid hormone, therefore, leading to symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and depression.

How to lower cortisol

There are several signals that the body can give you to let you know that you have a high cortisol level, such as change in mood, digestive problems, fatigue, low energy, weight changes for no reason, changes in libido, low concentration… A Below we discuss some things that should be taken into account in order to reduce cortisol naturally:

  • Exercise regularly
  • To rest well
  • Balanced and varied diet
  • Perform relaxation techniques
  • Maintain healthy social relationships
  • Manage time well
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Supplementation

Food supplements to lower cortisol

ReConnect is a food supplement formulated with a combination of ingredients such as NADH, coenzyme Q10, serine and vitamin C, which, thanks to the synergy of its components, helps improve physical and cognitive performance. It helps increase the ability to manage stress, regulates the sleep-wake cycle, reduces fatigue, improves mood, improves cognitive functions (learning ability, concentration, memory and mental agility). It has no exciting effects and does not generate habituation or dependence.

CalmTu is a food supplement based on standardized and titled extracts of Valeriana officinalis (Valeriana), Passiflora incarnata (Pasiflora) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) which helps facilitate relaxation, improve stress management and has calming effects.

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