Lower Your Cortisol Levels | High Cortisol Symptoms
Medically reviewed by Gareth James, GP, GMC, DRCOG, DFFP, MRCGP on April 02, 2023. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Check My Body Health blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because it helps the body respond to and manage stress. Cortisol plays a vital role in the body’s stress response, helping to regulate blood pressure, increase blood sugar levels, suppress the immune system, and affect the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Cortisol is also a vital component in regulating the body’s sleep-wake cycle. High cortisol levels over a long period of time can have negative effects on your health, such as weight gain, blood sugar imbalances, and a suppressed immune system. However, cortisol also plays an important role in maintaining homeostasis in the body, and it is essential for maintaining overall health.
Health conditions related to high cortisol levels
High cortisol levels over a prolonged period of time can lead to a number of health conditions, including:
Metabolic imbalances: High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area. It can also lead to high blood sugar levels and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease: High cortisol levels can increase an individuals’ blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.
Immune system suppression: High cortisol levels can suppress the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and illnesses.
Skin problems: High cortisol levels can lead to acne, skin thinning and easy bruising.
Cognitive and mood disorders: High cortisol levels can affect the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, leading to conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Osteoporosis: High cortisol levels can lead to bone loss, making them brittle and more prone to fractures.
Fertility issues: High cortisol levels can disrupt the normal functioning of the reproductive system, leading to conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and infertility.
It’s important to note that these conditions are often associated with high cortisol levels that occur over a prolonged period of time, and that cortisol is an important hormone that plays a vital role in maintaining homeostasis in the body. Should have concerns that you have ongoing high cortisol levels then you should seek the opinion of a healthcare professional, as they can evaluate your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment.
Common symptoms of high cortisol levels
Symptoms of high cortisol levels can include weight gain, particularly in the face and abdominal area, thinning skin, easy bruising, muscle weakness, and fatigue. High cortisol levels can also lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Additionally, high cortisol levels can cause psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. It can also interfere with memory and concentration. Consult with a healthcare professional if you suspect you have high cortisol levels.
Can you lower your cortisol levels?
There are several things you can do to lower your cortisol levels:
Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce cortisol levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, most days of the week.
Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help lower cortisol levels.
Get enough sleep: Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in cortisol levels. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Manage stress: Try to avoid or reduce stress as much as possible. If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to find ways to manage it, such as through therapy or counseling.
Watch your diet: Eating a healthy diet that is low in sugar and processed foods, and high in fresh fruits and vegetables, can help keep cortisol levels in check.
Supplements: Some supplements such as ashwagandha, Phosphatidylserine, and omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce cortisol levels.
It’s important to note that while making lifestyle changes can help reduce cortisol levels, it’s also important to consult with a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be contributing to high cortisol levels.
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