Cortisol, Stress, And Your Health

Cortisol, Stress, And Your Health

Our bodies are truly remarkable. Every little thing has its function and place; a role to play, in a much bigger show called “keeping your Human alive and well”. So, it’s not at all surprising that one thing leads to the other - stress triggers cortisol who responds the best it can. However, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol can lead to a series of health issues. 

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone, meaning that it is a steroid that acts as a hormone, and is produced in the adrenal glands. 

It is involved in many of the body’s functions, such as body’s metabolic response (metabolism of glucose, proteins, and lipids), immune response (prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation), metabolism, electrolyte balance, stomach and kidneys, memory, diurnal cycles, stress, and mood.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol & Stress

What is stress?

Let’s start by saying what stress is. Stress can be described as “anything that can pose a potential or actual threat to homeostasis. Your first association to stress may be feelings of anxiety, being stressed over a deadline or, simply, being stressed about day-to-day life. 

While this is definitely a stressor, your body can feel physiological stress as well as psychological stress. And whenever we’re feeling any type of stress it culminates on this one hormon: cortisol. 

Quick learning: Homeostasis

All the functions in our body - blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood glucose - have a range that they want to sit within. The body always tries to maintain the levels within that range. That is homeostasis. 

Sometimes, there are external or internal triggers that try and push the body out of this state; however, the body will then respond to it. If the levels go too high, it will try to reduce them - too low, it will try to bring them up. As mentioned previously, everything that tries to kick the body out of homeostasis is called a stressor.

Quick learning: Homeostasis

So...what does cortisol do to your body under stress?

Cortisol has a broad effect on our bodies. We could break it into behavioral and physiological.

Behavioral effects are increasing awareness, arousal, cognition, and even analgesia (help relieve pain). 

So, when we’re under a stressful situation - be it internal or external - adrenal glands start releasing cortisol, making us more aware of the situation. If we’re more aware, we have a better understanding of the stressor and we can deal with it more effectively. 

Same goes with increasing our cognition - it helps us deal with a situation in a better way.

Cortisol having an analgesic effect can happen usually when we have to engage physically with something or something that might result in physical pain. That’s when cortisol can help with analgesia, and help mitigate pain.

Physiological responses are very broad. Cortisol can increase respiratory rate, cardiovascular tone, metabolic intermediates; it decreases digestion, growth signals, need for reproduction, and immune function.

While some of these effects are immediate, some of them only happen 20 minutes after the stressor has passed. Meaning that cortisol not only helps us deal with stress immediately, it also helps us deal with it in the immediate aftermath.

So...what does cortisol do to your body under stress?

What happens to your body if you have too much cortisol?

This could be an example of when too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While cortisol is essential in helping us deal with stress, being exposed to chronic stress (or prolonged stress) and thus higher levels of cortisol, may result in some health issues.

Knowing what we know about how cortisol may help us fight stress, we can also see how it can affect our health, and what some of the high cortisol levels symptoms can be.

If cortisol flowers our immune system, we’re more susceptible to colds and diseases. Lowered immunity also means that our bodies won’t get enough energy. If our cells are not getting enough energy, our bodies may send us fake hunger signals, resulting in us eating (or craving) a lot of calorie-dense foods that we then don’t have anywhere to spend. This can result in weight gain, which then, in itself, can lead to health issues.

Being exposed to high levels of cortisol can increase your blood sugar levels, cause digestive problems, and even heart disease that may result in a stroke or a heart attack.

Sometimes, having high levels of cortisol can point to a condition called the Cushing syndrome.  People with Cushing syndrome experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest; having slender arms and legs compared to the weight in the core of the body. Cushing syndrome also causes a flushed face, high blood pressure, and changes in the skin, osteoporosis, and mood swings - are also factors considered with Cushing disease.

What happens to your body if you have low levels of cortisol?

If your body doesn’t make enough of this hormone, you could have a condition called Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency. While this is rare, it’s still an autoimmune disease where symptoms appear over time.

Some of the low cortisol symptoms are changes on the skin, feeling tired all the time, muscle weakness that progresses, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, low blood pressure.

How to deal with stress?

How to deal with stress?

Dealing with stress is, unfortunately, unavoidable. But there are a few stress management strategies that you can try out in order to deal with it more effectively.

  • Eat a healthy diet, with lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.  
  • Try to incorporate regular exercise - this can even be a 45 minute walk, it doesn’t have to be intense.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Try to sleep between 7-9 hours a night, and try to maintain a similar sleeping schedule if you can.
  • Allow yourself to relax - do yoga, include some deep breathing,  get a massage or try meditation.
  • Take time for your hobbies. If you don’t have some, try reading, listening to music, or watching your favorite show or a movie.
  • Maintain or build healthy relationships with your friends and family. If you notice that some of them cause you stress, try to understand why.
  • Include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or comedians. 
  • Organize and prioritize - not everything is urgent, and not everything is a must. Look at what you need to accomplish at home and work and remove tasks that aren't necessary.
  • Seek professional counseling, as this can help you develop specific coping strategies to manage stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy ways of managing your stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food. 

If you feel like you might be dealing with chronic stress, or you think you might be having low levels of cortisol, consult your doctor. They will know if you need to have some tests done, or what you should do next. Take care of yourself, always.

 


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Our bodies are truly remarkable. Every little thing has its function and place; a role to play, in a much bigger show called “keeping your Human alive and well”. So, it’s not at all surprising that one thing leads to the other - stress triggers cortisol who responds the best it can. However, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol can lead to a series of health issues.  What is Cortisol? Cortisol is a steroid hormone, meaning that it is a steroid that acts as a hormone, and is produced in the adrenal glands.  It is involved in many of the body’s functions, such as body’s metabolic response (metabolism of glucose, proteins, and lipids), immune response (prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation), metabolism, electrolyte balance, stomach and kidneys, memory, diurnal cycles, stress, and mood. Cortisol & Stress What is stress? Let’s start by saying what stress is. Stress can be described as “anything that can pose a potential or actual threat to homeostasis. Your first association to stress may be feelings of anxiety, being stressed over a deadline or, simply, being stressed about day-to-day life.  While this is definitely a stressor, your body can feel physiological stress as well as psychological stress. And whenever we’re feeling any type of stress it culminates on this one hormon: cortisol.  Quick learning: Homeostasis All the functions in our body - blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood glucose - have a range that they want to sit within. The body always tries to maintain the levels within that range. That is homeostasis.  Sometimes, there are external or internal triggers that try and push the body out of this state; however, the body will then respond to it. If the levels go too high, it will try to reduce them - too low, it will try to bring them up. As mentioned previously, everything that tries to kick the body out of homeostasis is called a stressor. So...what does cortisol do to your body under stress? Cortisol has a broad effect on our bodies. We could break it into behavioral and physiological. Behavioral effects are increasing awareness, arousal, cognition, and even analgesia (help relieve pain).  So, when we’re under a stressful situation - be it internal or external - adrenal glands start releasing cortisol, making us more aware of the situation. If we’re more aware, we have a better understanding of the stressor and we can deal with it more effectively.  Same goes with increasing our cognition - it helps us deal with a situation in a better way. Cortisol having an analgesic effect can happen usually when we have to engage physically with something or something that might result in physical pain. That’s when cortisol can help with analgesia, and help mitigate pain. Physiological responses are very broad. Cortisol can increase respiratory rate, cardiovascular tone, metabolic intermediates; it decreases digestion, growth signals, need for reproduction, and immune function. While some of these effects are immediate, some of them only happen 20 minutes after the stressor has passed. Meaning that cortisol not only helps us deal with stress immediately, it also helps us deal with it in the immediate aftermath. What happens to your body if you have too much cortisol? This could be an example of when too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While cortisol is essential in helping us deal with stress, being exposed to chronic stress (or prolonged stress) and thus higher levels of cortisol, may result in some health issues. Knowing what we know about how cortisol may help us fight stress, we can also see how it can affect our health, and what some of the high cortisol levels symptoms can be. If cortisol flowers our immune system, we’re more susceptible to colds and diseases. Lowered immunity also means that our bodies won’t get enough energy. If our cells are not getting enough energy, our bodies may send us fake hunger signals, resulting in us eating (or craving) a lot of calorie-dense foods that we then don’t have anywhere to spend. This can result in weight gain, which then, in itself, can lead to health issues. Being exposed to high levels of cortisol can increase your blood sugar levels, cause digestive problems, and even heart disease that may result in a stroke or a heart attack. Sometimes, having high levels of cortisol can point to a condition called the Cushing syndrome.  People with Cushing syndrome experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest; having slender arms and legs compared to the weight in the core of the body. Cushing syndrome also causes a flushed face, high blood pressure, and changes in the skin, osteoporosis, and mood swings - are also factors considered with Cushing disease. What happens to your body if you have low levels of cortisol? If your body doesn’t make enough of this hormone, you could have a condition called Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency. While this is rare, it’s still an autoimmune disease where symptoms appear over time. Some of the low cortisol symptoms are changes on the skin, feeling tired all the time, muscle weakness that progresses, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, low blood pressure. How to deal with stress? Dealing with stress is, unfortunately, unavoidable. But there are a few stress management strategies that you can try out in order to deal with it more effectively. Eat a healthy diet, with lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.   Try to incorporate regular exercise - this can even be a 45 minute walk, it doesn’t have to be intense. Get plenty of sleep. Try to sleep between 7-9 hours a night, and try to maintain a similar sleeping schedule if you can. Allow yourself to relax - do yoga, include some deep breathing,  get a massage or try meditation. Take time for your hobbies. If you don’t have some, try reading, listening to music, or watching your favorite show or a movie. Maintain or build healthy relationships with your friends and family. If you notice that some of them cause you stress, try to understand why. Include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or comedians.  Organize and prioritize - not everything is urgent, and not everything is a must. Look at what you need to accomplish at home and work and remove tasks that aren't necessary. Seek professional counseling, as this can help you develop specific coping strategies to manage stress. Avoid unhealthy ways of managing your stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food.  If you feel like you might be dealing with chronic stress, or you think you might be having low levels of cortisol, consult your doctor. They will know if you need to have some tests done, or what you should do next. Take care of yourself, always.  
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As mentioned previously, everything that tries to kick the body out of homeostasis is called a stressor. So...what does cortisol do to your body under stress? Cortisol has a broad effect on our bodies. We could break it into behavioral and physiological. Behavioral effects are increasing awareness, arousal, cognition, and even analgesia (help relieve pain).  So, when we’re under a stressful situation - be it internal or external - adrenal glands start releasing cortisol, making us more aware of the situation. If we’re more aware, we have a better understanding of the stressor and we can deal with it more effectively.  Same goes with increasing our cognition - it helps us deal with a situation in a better way. Cortisol having an analgesic effect can happen usually when we have to engage physically with something or something that might result in physical pain. That’s when cortisol can help with analgesia, and help mitigate pain. Physiological responses are very broad. Cortisol can increase respiratory rate, cardiovascular tone, metabolic intermediates; it decreases digestion, growth signals, need for reproduction, and immune function. While some of these effects are immediate, some of them only happen 20 minutes after the stressor has passed. Meaning that cortisol not only helps us deal with stress immediately, it also helps us deal with it in the immediate aftermath. What happens to your body if you have too much cortisol? This could be an example of when too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While cortisol is essential in helping us deal with stress, being exposed to chronic stress (or prolonged stress) and thus higher levels of cortisol, may result in some health issues. Knowing what we know about how cortisol may help us fight stress, we can also see how it can affect our health, and what some of the high cortisol levels symptoms can be. If cortisol flowers our immune system, we’re more susceptible to colds and diseases. Lowered immunity also means that our bodies won’t get enough energy. If our cells are not getting enough energy, our bodies may send us fake hunger signals, resulting in us eating (or craving) a lot of calorie-dense foods that we then don’t have anywhere to spend. This can result in weight gain, which then, in itself, can lead to health issues. Being exposed to high levels of cortisol can increase your blood sugar levels, cause digestive problems, and even heart disease that may result in a stroke or a heart attack. Sometimes, having high levels of cortisol can point to a condition called the Cushing syndrome.  People with Cushing syndrome experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest; having slender arms and legs compared to the weight in the core of the body. Cushing syndrome also causes a flushed face, high blood pressure, and changes in the skin, osteoporosis, and mood swings - are also factors considered with Cushing disease. What happens to your body if you have low levels of cortisol? If your body doesn’t make enough of this hormone, you could have a condition called Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency. While this is rare, it’s still an autoimmune disease where symptoms appear over time. Some of the low cortisol symptoms are changes on the skin, feeling tired all the time, muscle weakness that progresses, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, low blood pressure. How to deal with stress? Dealing with stress is, unfortunately, unavoidable. But there are a few stress management strategies that you can try out in order to deal with it more effectively. Eat a healthy diet, with lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.   Try to incorporate regular exercise - this can even be a 45 minute walk, it doesn’t have to be intense. Get plenty of sleep. Try to sleep between 7-9 hours a night, and try to maintain a similar sleeping schedule if you can. Allow yourself to relax - do yoga, include some deep breathing,  get a massage or try meditation. Take time for your hobbies. If you don’t have some, try reading, listening to music, or watching your favorite show or a movie. Maintain or build healthy relationships with your friends and family. If you notice that some of them cause you stress, try to understand why. Include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or comedians.  Organize and prioritize - not everything is urgent, and not everything is a must. Look at what you need to accomplish at home and work and remove tasks that aren't necessary. Seek professional counseling, as this can help you develop specific coping strategies to manage stress. Avoid unhealthy ways of managing your stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food.  If you feel like you might be dealing with chronic stress, or you think you might be having low levels of cortisol, consult your doctor. 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Our bodies are truly remarkable. Every little thing has its function and place; a role to play, in a much bigger show called “keeping your Human alive and well”. So, it’s not at all surprising that one thing leads to the other - stress triggers cortisol who responds the best it can. However, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol can lead to a series of health issues.  What is Cortisol? Cortisol is a steroid hormone, meaning that it is a steroid that acts as a hormone, and is produced in the adrenal glands.  It is involved in many of the body’s functions, such as body’s metabolic response (metabolism of glucose, proteins, and lipids), immune response (prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation), metabolism, electrolyte balance, stomach and kidneys, memory, diurnal cycles, stress, and mood. Cortisol & Stress What is stress? Let’s start by saying what stress is. Stress can be described as “anything that can pose a potential or actual threat to homeostasis. Your first association to stress may be feelings of anxiety, being stressed over a deadline or, simply, being stressed about day-to-day life.  While this is definitely a stressor, your body can feel physiological stress as well as psychological stress. And whenever we’re feeling any type of stress it culminates on this one hormon: cortisol.  Quick learning: Homeostasis All the functions in our body - blood pressure, respiratory rate, blood glucose - have a range that they want to sit within. The body always tries to maintain the levels within that range. That is homeostasis.  Sometimes, there are external or internal triggers that try and push the body out of this state; however, the body will then respond to it. If the levels go too high, it will try to reduce them - too low, it will try to bring them up. As mentioned previously, everything that tries to kick the body out of homeostasis is called a stressor. So...what does cortisol do to your body under stress? Cortisol has a broad effect on our bodies. We could break it into behavioral and physiological. Behavioral effects are increasing awareness, arousal, cognition, and even analgesia (help relieve pain).  So, when we’re under a stressful situation - be it internal or external - adrenal glands start releasing cortisol, making us more aware of the situation. If we’re more aware, we have a better understanding of the stressor and we can deal with it more effectively.  Same goes with increasing our cognition - it helps us deal with a situation in a better way. Cortisol having an analgesic effect can happen usually when we have to engage physically with something or something that might result in physical pain. That’s when cortisol can help with analgesia, and help mitigate pain. Physiological responses are very broad. Cortisol can increase respiratory rate, cardiovascular tone, metabolic intermediates; it decreases digestion, growth signals, need for reproduction, and immune function. While some of these effects are immediate, some of them only happen 20 minutes after the stressor has passed. Meaning that cortisol not only helps us deal with stress immediately, it also helps us deal with it in the immediate aftermath. What happens to your body if you have too much cortisol? This could be an example of when too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. While cortisol is essential in helping us deal with stress, being exposed to chronic stress (or prolonged stress) and thus higher levels of cortisol, may result in some health issues. Knowing what we know about how cortisol may help us fight stress, we can also see how it can affect our health, and what some of the high cortisol levels symptoms can be. If cortisol flowers our immune system, we’re more susceptible to colds and diseases. Lowered immunity also means that our bodies won’t get enough energy. If our cells are not getting enough energy, our bodies may send us fake hunger signals, resulting in us eating (or craving) a lot of calorie-dense foods that we then don’t have anywhere to spend. This can result in weight gain, which then, in itself, can lead to health issues. Being exposed to high levels of cortisol can increase your blood sugar levels, cause digestive problems, and even heart disease that may result in a stroke or a heart attack. Sometimes, having high levels of cortisol can point to a condition called the Cushing syndrome.  People with Cushing syndrome experience rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest; having slender arms and legs compared to the weight in the core of the body. Cushing syndrome also causes a flushed face, high blood pressure, and changes in the skin, osteoporosis, and mood swings - are also factors considered with Cushing disease. What happens to your body if you have low levels of cortisol? If your body doesn’t make enough of this hormone, you could have a condition called Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency. While this is rare, it’s still an autoimmune disease where symptoms appear over time. Some of the low cortisol symptoms are changes on the skin, feeling tired all the time, muscle weakness that progresses, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, loss of appetite and weight, low blood pressure. How to deal with stress? Dealing with stress is, unfortunately, unavoidable. But there are a few stress management strategies that you can try out in order to deal with it more effectively. Eat a healthy diet, with lots of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.   Try to incorporate regular exercise - this can even be a 45 minute walk, it doesn’t have to be intense. Get plenty of sleep. Try to sleep between 7-9 hours a night, and try to maintain a similar sleeping schedule if you can. Allow yourself to relax - do yoga, include some deep breathing,  get a massage or try meditation. Take time for your hobbies. If you don’t have some, try reading, listening to music, or watching your favorite show or a movie. Maintain or build healthy relationships with your friends and family. If you notice that some of them cause you stress, try to understand why. Include humor and laughter in your life, such as watching funny movies or comedians.  Organize and prioritize - not everything is urgent, and not everything is a must. Look at what you need to accomplish at home and work and remove tasks that aren't necessary. Seek professional counseling, as this can help you develop specific coping strategies to manage stress. Avoid unhealthy ways of managing your stress, such as using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess food.  If you feel like you might be dealing with chronic stress, or you think you might be having low levels of cortisol, consult your doctor. They will know if you need to have some tests done, or what you should do next. Take care of yourself, always.  
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