What is Cortisol?

Cortisol, also known as glucocorticoid, is produced from cholesterol in adrenal glands on top of each kidney. This steroid hormone is released in response to events and circumstances during our daily life, such as exercising and reaction to outside environment. It is known to help fuel body’s “fight-or-flight” natural response in a crisis.  

Cortisol manages how your body utilize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Its function helps to keep inflammation down and regulates blood pressure and blood sugar level. It increases the amount of energy in stressful situations so that you can handle stress.

The hypothalamus and pituitary gland that are located in the brain, determine if your blood contains enough cortisol. If the level of cortisol is too low or too high then the brain adjusts the amount of hormones it produces. Then the adrenal glands get the signal from the brain and adjust the amount of cortisol it releases.

In an emergency situation, cortisol can alter or shut down functions that are not vital for survival, such as digestive, immune, or reproductive system. When emergency situation is over, then cortisol level normalizes, and heart rate, blood pressure, and other body functions normalize.

Unfortunately, if individual is under constant stress, and thought alone can be a cause, then some of the functions listed above related to immune or digestive system might not work properly. Common health problems in this case are depression, anxiety, digestive issues, and trouble sleeping.

Too much cortisol can lead to weight gain, muscle weakness, diabetes, and other health issues. On the other hand, too little cortisol can lead to low blood pressure, being tired all the time, muscle weakness, loss of weight, diarrhea, nausea, and loss of appetite.  

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