Steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol and produced by the adrenal gland, testes and ovaries. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by your adrenal glands. It is commonly referred to as the “fight-or-flight” hormone because it is released by your adrenal glands when you are under stress, and without it you would not be able to respond appropriately to sudden changes in your environment.
At the correct level cortisol is essential, and along with helping us respond to stress and dangerous situations, it also assists us with many other functions including:
- Helping us stay awake and alert
- Helping us maintain balanced blood sugar levels
- Assisting with maintaining proper blood pressure
- Helping maintain our metabolism by breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates
- Helping maintain the immune system
- Reducing inflammation and helps with healing
- Helping us maintain our cognitive function and prevents brain fog
- Helping the fetus develop during pregnancy
In response to a perceived threat your body will increase its secretion of cortisol giving you a burst of energy and strength; however, constant stress can keep cortisol levels too high for extended periods of time. Studies have shown that even moderately high levels of cortisol over extended periods can negatively affect our health and well-being.
Normal cortisol secretion follows a rhythm with levels being highest in the morning and lowest at night, helping us maintain proper sleep patterns. Individuals who secrete too much or too little cortisol can experience sleep disturbances and start feeling tired all day and then anxious, or amped up at night. Too much cortisol can cause symptoms including:
- Weight gain
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night
- Feelings of anxiety
- Hormone imbalances
- Mood swings
- Frequent urination
- Irregular periods
- High blood pressure
- Muscles and or joints ache
- Decreased sex drive
- Excessive thirst
- Vertical lines in the finger nails
- Increased number of infections or illnesses
- Puffy face
What can cause your body to produce too much cortisol?
- Corticosteroid medications (i.e. prednisone, hydrocortisone)
- Over exercising
- Alcohol or drug use
- Eating disorders
- Sugar and processed foods
- Kidney or liver disease
- Illness or injury
- A benign tumor
Hormonal balance is vital to a healthy mind and body. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, helps control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, maintain a proper salt and water balance, control blood pressure, and assist with cognitive function. Elevated cortisol levels can lead to chronic illness. When people talk about cortisol they frequently discuss the negative effects however, we all need cortisol to live. The physicians at the Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic will test your levels of cortisol to establish if your levels are normal, high or low.
Based on your lab results, medical history, current lifestyle, and personal goals, we will develop a health plan tailored to your individual needs. At the Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic we will help you develop a health plan that will optimize your physical health, slow the signs of aging and reduce the risk of chronic, age related diseases such as; heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.