Cortisol– Friend or Foe??
November 10, 2014
Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:
- Proper glucose levels
- Regulation of blood pressure
- Insulin release for blood sugar maintanence
- Immune function
- Inflammatory response
Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels in the morning, and at is lowest at night. Cortisol helps us wake up in the morning. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s “fight and flight” response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
Coping with Stress:
- A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
- Heightened memory functions
- A burst of increased immunity
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Helps maintain homeostasis (balance) in the body
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
- Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. The key is to establish a practice to build resilience so when stress occurs you have a tool to activate immediately. HeartMath ®’s simple and practical techniques have been scientifically validated to achieve balance in your nervous and hormonal systems and thus regulate cortisol to healthy levels.
In conclusion, Cortisol can be both, a friend or a foe. It is your choice. On my website is a Stress Survey you can utilize to get an idea of your stress levels. If moderate or high it behooves you to utilize a stress management technique. HeartMath ® is a superior technique because it can be utilized the moment stress occurs so you can balance your system immediately and neutralize the stress. Contact me if you have any questions. I would be happy to help you create a life where stress is easily managed.