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4 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Cortisol

credit: iStock Photo

Meet the hormone that responds to physical and mental stress, is highest in the morning and typically decreases throughout the day, and increases during times of starvation: Cortisol.

Because healthy cortisol levels are key to living a healthy life, here are four facts you should know about cortisol and how it impacts your body.

4 Basic Facts Everyone Should Know About Cortisol

Fact 1:  Your body produces cortisol

Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” Your adrenal glands, perched right atop your kidneys, make cortisol in an attempt to help your body handle stressful situations, which is a response to signals from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in the brain. You can read more about the cool process here.

Fact 2: Your body has an ideal range for cortisol

Your optimal range is between 2.3 mcg/dL and 19.5 mcg/dL.

If your cortisol is out of range (≥19.5 mcg/dL or < 2.3 mcg/dL), you might experience greater benefit from reducing stress.

Here’s a snapshot of cortisol levels tracked over time, as shown in any WellnessFX member’s personal, secure dashboard:

WellnessFX

Cortisol tests are usually taken in the form of a blood test. As detailed by MedlinePlus, cortisol levels change throughout the day, so the timing of a cortisol test is important. “A cortisol blood test is usually done twice a day–once in the morning when cortisol levels are at their highest, and again around 4 p.m., when levels are much lower.”

Fact 3: Your body requires a balance of cortisol

Overall you are aiming for the general range mentioned above.

While a little spike of cortisol is good – and natural – in response to short-term stressors, it starts to become a problem when the body starts making too much, too often.

High cortisol is an overreaction to chronic stress. Chronic stress, as detailed by the Mayo Clinic, can wreak havoc on your mind and body. If you’re used to spending your days worrying, overworking, or just generally freaking out, your adrenals try to help out by hitting you with frequent doses of fight-or-flight energy. Why is this an issue? Keep reading.

Fact 4: An imbalance of cortisol can interrupt other normal processes in your body.

When stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on, giving you a subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones. Constantly present stressors could include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Chronic stress (as mentioned above)
  • Daily morning/evening commute anger
  • Regularly arguing with a friend or family member
  • A lion chasing you once a week 

Many of your body’s normal processes can get interrupted by these bursts of cortisol —they’re placed on the back-burner while you tend to your “dangerous” situation. This can lead to a number of unhealthy issues, such as:

  • Systemic damage to the circulatory system. Cortisol tells your blood vessels to narrow, which increases your blood pressure and puts constant stress on your heart, veins, and arteries. It also can lead to high blood sugar, which can interfere with proper circulation and increase the buildup of cholesterol.
  • Low immune response. Cortisol reduces the immune response, leaving your body vulnerable to invading pathogens that can make you sick and the body more susceptible to infection.
  • Weakened bones/osteoporosis. Cortisol inhibits bone growth, leading to a greater chance of issues down the road.
  • Weight Gain and Belly Fat: Cortisol plays a central role in glucose metabolism and in the body’s response to stress. As detailed by Dr. Mark Hyman, “Stress creates hormonal responses that cause weight gain and insulin resistance. Cortisol is an adrenal hormone that helps you to run faster, see further, hear better and pump fuel into your bloodstream for quick energy. It is the hormone that helps us survive in the face of true danger.  It also shuts down digestion and slows your metabolism. All of this is perfectly normal in the short term, yet if left unchecked, prolonged stress and high levels of cortisol cause high blood sugar, increased belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and muscle loss.”

3 Suggestions to Help Lower High Cortisol

  1. Get adequate sleep and avoid caffeinated products. Learn how to make the most of your sleep time with these tips from WellnessFX and WellnessFX Practitioner, Ben Greenfield.
  2. Decrease stress and increase relaxation, such as meditation in the am when cortisol levels are highest. Don’t underestimate the power of a moment alone. Taking 10 minutes to yourself can help hit the “reset” on all the troubles of the day. Check out 6 Ways Busy People Who Have No Time Can Unwind & Relax.
  3. Avoid over-training, not eating to meet your body’s basic caloric needs, and other states of body depletion.

How WellnessFX Can Help

WellnessFX Performance, Premium and Women’s Health can test cortisol, the key biomarker mentioned in this post. Or you can create a custom package and add it to a testing panel of your choice. We recommend checking out the full testing menu to see what package fits your needs best.

Everything from energy levels to fat metabolism, to focus and memory, to skin quality and ability to stay asleep at night are affected by hormones. Read more about about them in 4 Reasons That Could Explain Why You’re Tired All the Time.

We believe in the power in a drop of blood. Regularly testing your biomarkers gives you the data you need to make informed decisions, which can put you on track to anything from higher energy, better sleep, and even better weight management. Rather than play defense and wait to find an issue you need to then react to, why not play offense and work toward being the healthiest you can be?

Show me the tests

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Ask the Practitioner: 3 Habits That Can Mess With Women’s Hormones–and how to better balance them

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Courtney Jonson L.Ac., FM Practitioner

What do TSH, vitamin D (yup) and estrogen have in common? These hormones and many others play an important role in how you function and go about your day. Did you know that an imbalance of hormones could impact your weight loss, longevity, sleep, and even mood? We asked WellnessFX practitioner, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and Licensed Acupuncturist, Courtney Jonson to weigh in. Continue reading

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Sugar vs. Salt: Which One is Worse For You?

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, urbanfoodie33

If you’ve explored various nutrition plans and diets, you’ll see a common theme of eliminating various things. Maybe you’ve even tried some of them yourself or know someone who did (andcan’tstoptalkingaboutit)? Some examples of elimination: Continue reading

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Ben Greenfield on the 4 Dangers of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet

Credit: Flickr Commons, Adam Wyles

Credit: Flickr Commons, Adam Wyles

I personally have experimented with very low carbohydrate diets combined with extreme amounts of exercise and have certainly noticed issues on my biomarkers of which I would have never been aware if I weren’t testing and tracking – and these were serious issues that threatened Continue reading

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

It’s World Diabetes Day. Have You Been Tested Recently?

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Carol Browne

Credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Carol Browne

November 14th is World Diabetes Day,* created to spread awareness of type 2 diabetes and to bring attention to promising medical advancements that can help people avoid or manage the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disease, and its prevalence is growing around the world. Hundreds of millions of people have the condition, and what’s worse, nearly half of them have no idea. The damage the disease does to the body puts these people at risk of developing a number of other serious issues like cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, blindness, and loss of limbs.

In the US, more than 5,000 people per day learn that that they have this life-threatening, life-long disease. But fortunately, like many diseases, it doesn’t happen overnight. Early detection and lifestyle changes often allow people to bring their blood glucose levels back into the normal range before permanent effects settle in. Continue reading

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.

Biomarker Series: The Wrap-Up

credit: blog – John’s Consciousness

Over the last several weeks, our Medical Director Doctor Murdoc Khaleghi has walked us through the ins and outs of WellnessFX Baseline. From the latest and greatest predictor of heart disease to the connection between the sunshine vitamin and chronic ailments, we’ve given you the tools to interpret your personal numbers even beyond the consultation that comes with Baseline.

However, we know it can be a lot of information. Don’t worry, though. This isn’t college, and there won’t be any tests or examinations. So here’s a cheat sheet with all the biomarkers tested in WellnessFX Baseline, and why they’re important. So in case you missed the Biomarker Series, or just want everything in one digestible package, this is for you:

Continue reading

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.