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Cortisol: What You Need to Know. And Why!

If someone told you they knew why you’re feeling miserable, would you be buying lunch?

Well, get ready to shell-out the dough – we’re going out.

Have you heard of cortisol? Science was already aware of its functioning and power. But the emotional and mental health carnage it can cause is becoming better understood – and getting more press.

Let’s take a peek (chipur reader Ann will be pleased I spelled it correctly this time around) at some general cortisol information.

And we’ll meet again tomorrow to discuss new research regarding cortisol’s contribution to the emotional and mental health disorders.

“What is Cortisol, and What Does It Do?”

Cortisol (hydrocortisone) is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It’s released in response to stress and low levels of glucose (our numero uno source of body energy – a simple sugar). Cortisol is often referred to as the stress hormone.

Cortisol’s primary functions?

  1. Increase blood sugar
  2. Suppress the immune system
  3. Assist in metabolizing protein, fat, and carbohydrates

Of particular interest to us is the release of cortisol in response to stress. Actually, it’s pivotal in our fight/flight response and works to maintain homeostasis (balance/regulation of functioning) throughout the crisis.

Key here is an anatomical/physiological phenomenon known as the HPA axis. The letters stand for hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. Here’s a link to an article I wrote on it – necessary reading.

Wonderfully, blood cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day. Peak time is around 8 a.m., and levels bottom-out sometime between midnight and 4 a.m. And since we human-types are meant to be day-active and night-sleepers, the pattern makes perfect sense.

“Why Do I Need to Know About Cortisol?”

The negative impact of cortisol can be emotionally, mentally, and physically far-reaching. And as I always say here on chipur, how can you neutralize a potential enemy if you don’t know anything about it?

Though cortisol is vital to our survival, if it’s chronically over-secreted – say, due to chronic stress – trouble is at the front doorstep.

To name a few potential physical issues – hyperglycemia, abdominal fat production, obesity, decreased bone density, compromised immune and inflammation response, increased blood pressure, and more.

And, of course, damage to the heart is always a possibility.

Cortisol’s potential involvement with the emotional and mental health disorders? Let’s see – depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, impaired learning, inhibition of memory retrieval, and then some.

By the way, here are just some of the things that may generate cortisol problems…

  1. Caffeine consumption
  2. Sleep deprivation
  3. Prolonged physical exercise
  4. Burnout
  5. Stressful events and severe trauma
  6. A difficult commute to work or school
  7. Anorexia

All of which can be addressed…

Be Sure to Come Back Tomorrow

Stop on by tomorrow, as we’ll continue our discussion. We’ll talk about some specific cortisol-related emotional and mental health situations.

Not to be missed are the results of a new study that link the over-secretion of cortisol with bipolar disorder.

See ya’ then…

  • karen

    great article. I’m looking forward to tomorrows follow-up. I am taking cortisol already.

    • Hi Karen. Thanks for your visit and comment. Can you provide us with any info regarding the cortisol. What you’re taking? Why? How it’s working?

    • Hi Karen. Nice to hear from you again. Would you be willing to provide details regarding why you started on cortisol. How do you use it? Results?

    • I asked Karen for more details, and she was kind enough to email them to me. She gave me permission to share here…

      My Dr. told me that my blood work showed some adrenal deficiency and wanted to do a saliva test which was $250 and not covered by insurance. So I went on line and did an online test and according to it, have adrenal fatigue.

      Since it coincided with what the Dr believed, he started me on Cortisol Control. (you can buy it online, but I have had trouble with the company not sending it and charging me anyway) so I continue to get it from the Dr’s office. It’s the same price, minus tax.

      I think I started it in September or October and haven’t had any follow up blood work since then (insurance and money issues). However, my anxiety does appear to be lessened and I think I am concentrating a little better. I notice no side effects.

      I have been told that Swanson vitamin company also has a great product and to rely on them for my other supplements. When this bottle runs out, I am planning on trying that.

  • Hank

    Where can I get some cortisol?

    • Gotta’ make sure I understand where you’re going here. Where can you get cortisol, or products to manage its over-secretion? If it’s the former, help me understand why. Do you suffer from hypocortisolism, as in adrenal insufficiency? Thanks for your visit and comment, Hank…


  • One on One

    Why does one have lower cortisol throughout the day, higher at night, yet sleep reasonably well altho no vivid dreaming? High stress levels yet is hypothyroid with adrenal fatigue. Looking at non conversion or poor absorption or blocking of R3 & higher RT3 as cause of illness, do I need meds or not just diet and detox?

    • Thank you for visiting Chipur and commenting, OoO. I’ll give it to you straight. I know when I’m out of my league, and that sure is the case with your questions. I won’t insult you with an attempt at an answer. However, you never know when someone will happen-by and step-up to the task. Again, appreciate your presence…


      • One on One

        Thank you for answering. I did dream and remember my dreams when I was on NP Thyroid for 2 days but then incrementally went off of it due to side effects. I had worse side effects after I went off. I was told I had to work my way through this and stay on it even go up, but I was afraid to do that & went off. Now I get headaches I never had before, dark under eye circles, sagging skin. I am told my thyroid is crying for help but cannot get tests done, $$.

      • You’re welcome. Just wish I could have helped. Hang in there, OoO…


  • One on One

    What about low cortisol, find nothing on it.

    • Hey, One on One. Glad you stopped-by. Wondering if you’re the OoO who commented some time ago. Anyway…

      Low cortisol? How ’bout this from You and Your Hormones:

      “Too little cortisol can be due to a condition called Addison’s disease. It has a number of causes, all rare, including damage to the adrenal glands by autoimmune disease. The onset of symptoms is often very gradual. Symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness (especially upon standing), weight loss, muscle weakness, mood changes and the darkening of regions of the skin. Urgent assessment by a specialist hormone doctor called an endocrinologist is required when a diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease is suspected.”

      My reading indicates it can be caused by anything that impacts the adrenal glands. Also, pituitary gland problems that in turn affect the adrenals.

      Searching “low cortisol” brings plenty of results.

      Thank you for your visit…