Cortisol is an essential hormone that our body needs to survive.
When under stress, our body releases it to cope with the pressure we are subjected to that requires us to act fast—an impending deadline, a race we have to finish, being caught in a calamity or an emergency situation. This hormone also surges when we are faced with too much emotional pressure as when a loved one gets injured, sick or dies, in divorce or separation from a partner, when losing a job or in receiving news of a grave illness to yourself or a loved one.
On a healthy level, stress is good because it gives you energy and makes you more alert to protect yourself from danger or complete an urgent task. However, the pressures of a job, raising a family and fulfilling your responsibilities in the community and groups you belong to make you constantly subjected to strain, worry and stress. In the long run this takes a toll as the human body is not designed to go through these for long periods.
High cortisol levels associated with chronic stress lead to the following:
- Decreased immunity. Cortisol is a corticosteroid and inhibits the functions of white blood cells, the body’s natural defense against invading bacteria and viruses. This leads to us being more prone to infections.
- Increased abdominal fat storage. High levels of cortisol encourage the body to store adipose tissue in the midsection, upper back and neck. When this happens, losing abdominal fat will not be possible unless stress is managed.
- A breakdown of muscles, bones and connective tissue. Cortisol aids in the process of gluconeogenesis, wherein sugar is created from existing tissue. Cortisol helps break down bone, muscle and connective tissue to manufacture blood sugar that will be used by the brain.
- Inhibition of thyroid hormone activation. The hormone thyroxine (T4) secreted by the thyroid gland to regulate metabolism and aid in growth is an inactive hormone, carried in the bloodstream until hits a receptor on or in a cell and converts to become the triiodothyroine (T3) hormone. This conversion must occur in order for the thyroid to do its functions as T3 is the actual active hormone. High cortisol levels inhibit this conversion.
Stress has a significant impact on the production and secretion of cortisol not only during the actual stressful event. It can also lead to cortisol surges during the night and while you sleep. In fact, an elevated cortisol level in the evening is one of the major causes for insomnia, sleep interruption and having night sweats. Leaving high levels of cortisol unchecked contributes to weight gain by slowing down metabolism and inducing an increased sense of hunger when it triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response. It also contributes to fatigue, poor memory, depression, decreased concentration and other problems.
No matter how difficult it may be for us to relax and slow down in this modern pace of life that frequently stretches us to our limits, we should always make efforts to maintain a healthy body and a sound mind. Exercising regularly, eating balanced and nutritious meals, meditating, establishing deep connections with people and taking nutritional supplements, like CortiSLIM, to help maintain healthy cortisol levels are the best ways to achieve this.