What’s the Big Deal About Stress? A Look into the Stress Hormone – Cortisol

Stress can be initiated by a number of physical or emotional triggers.  Your stress level will increase if you are physically sick with a cold or just had surgery.  Not to mention, the mental and emotional stress created in a need to finish that term paper due in less than 24 hours.

How about this one, you are running from a big grizzly bear? This is least likely to happen, well, at least if you are living in the city.

 What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands.  The adrenal gland sits on top of the kidneys.   It is a hormone that modulates many functions in the body.


Why is cortisol important?

  • powerful anti-inflammatory hormone
  • modulates your immune response
  • controls metabolic functions
  • manages the “fight or flight” response

These are just a few of the functions or roles that cortisol plays in the body.

How to modulate it?

Cortisol, like other hormones, responds to external and internal situations in your body.  Factors like sleep, diet, breathing, and your thoughts play a critical role in maintaining healthy hormone levels.  When a person has elevated levels of cortisol over time, the body may not function properly.  For example, your immune system will be suppressed making it easier to catch a cold or virus.

What happens when you have too much or too little cortisol?

Toxicities, nutritional deficiencies, and other factors can cause a disruption in the communication between hormones and your body that can lead to health problems.

Addison’s Disease is a rare chronic endocrine disease where the body does not produce enough cortisol to maintain normal blood pressure and glucose levels.

Cushing’s Disease is caused by prolonged increased levels of cortisol.  A tumor located in the pituitary gland produces the precursor to cortisol, ACTH.  ACTH signals adrenals, the gland that sits on top of the kidney, to produce cortisol.

How to decrease levels of cortisol?

  • Vitamins such as B5 and B12 are great ways to support your adrenal glands.
  • Eating a healthy diet that consists of leafy green vegetables, yummy dark berries, proper water intake, and quality supplements will help the body cope with stress.
  • Herbs such as ashwaganda and rhodiola.
  • Essential oils such as lavender to calm and relax.
  • Yes, relax! Take a couple of deep breaths!
  • Smile and laugh often– seriously! Right now 🙂

Overall, stress is a necessary fact of life.  We need certain levels of physical and mental stress to survive.  The problem with stress arises when the body does not get a “break” from decreased or elevated levels of cortisol.  It is all about moderation.

Which two stress lowering tips are you willing to implement today?

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