Signs of Abnormal Cortisol Levels – Uplifers


We assume you’ve heard the “fight or flight” answer. But did you know that a small hormone called cortisol is responsible for this biological response? Our body needs healthy levels of cortisol production in order to properly respond to potential stressors. Similarly, it is equally important that these levels drop when it is time to relax. If this delicate balance is not achieved, it can end up causing a number of health problems. Read on to find out what you can do to help control your own stress response and the signs that your cortisol levels are out of whack.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When someone is stressed, their cortisol levels rise in direct proportion. Experts define cortisol as “a hormone that helps us adapt to stressful stimuli in our lives.” The main function of cortisol is to convert protein into glucose, a form of energy. Cortisol does this by breaking down protein in the liver and muscles. Glucocorticoid receptors are found in almost all body tissues. Therefore, cortisol can affect almost all organ systems (nervous, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and skin).

This important hormone regulates blood pressure, heart rate, energy levels and metabolism. It is released by our adrenal glands when stimulated by stressors resulting from physical illness, psychological disorders, mental problems, and even insomnia.

As we mentioned above, cortisol levels that are too high or too low can cause unpleasant symptoms in the body.

Symptoms of High Cortisol

Producing too much cortisol over a long period of time, also known as Cushing’s syndrome, can cause the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain, especially around the face and abdomen
  • “Hump of a buffalo between the shoulders”
  • Cracks in the abdomen
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Weak bones and muscles
  • acne
  • osteoporosis
  • Anxiety, depression, panic disorder
  • insomnia

Symptoms of low cortisol

The inability to produce enough cortisol, also known as Addison’s disease, is caused by an autoimmune reaction that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the adrenal cells, suppressing cortisol production. Symptoms of low cortisol may include:

  • burn out
  • weight loss
  • Anorexia
  • low blood pressure
  • craving for salt
  • Decreased consciousness or delirium if severe enough.
  • Skin hyperpigmentation

Treatment for these conditions depends on the cause, among other factors. You should definitely discuss your individual treatment plan with your doctor.

Why is it important to control cortisol levels?

Or another question: do I need to check the level of cortisol? In most cases, the answer is yes. Cortisol levels are most often checked for circadian rhythm disturbances. Tests may also be done to look for a tumor in the patient’s pituitary gland or cancer of the adrenal glands.

If you’re feeling hyperactive, it could mean that your stress levels are affecting your brain. Also, if you have a history of heart disease or suffer from chronic pain, you should have your cortisol levels checked to make sure they are normal. Experts say you should measure your cortisol levels if you feel stressed, have trouble sleeping, or have low energy.

What should be the normal level of cortisol?

Normal cortisol levels are determined by the time of day. Cortisol levels peak in the early morning and gradually decrease throughout the day; reaches its lowest point in the middle of the night. Therefore, when elevated cortisol levels or Cushing’s syndrome are suspected, cortisol levels are usually measured at night. If cortisol levels are low or Addison’s disease is suspected, cortisol levels are usually measured in the early morning, as this is the time when cortisol levels would naturally be highest.

Baseline cortisol levels vary from person to person, but the Cleveland Clinic defines normal cortisol levels as:

  • Morning: 10-20 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL)
  • Afternoon: 3-10 mcg/dl

If you have high cortisol levels, recommended foods and supplements can help. To determine the level of cortisol, we usually go to the hospital and get help from specialist doctors. Likewise, you should discuss any abnormal findings with your healthcare provider in order to develop a treatment plan for your individual situation.

How is cortisol levels checked?

Three different methods can be used to check cortisol levels:

  • Blood test: The first thing I do in the morning; that is, this blood test before eating or drinking gives you the most accurate, but limited, cortisol result; This will give you when cortisol should be at its highest.
  • Urinalysis for cortisol: It measures how your body produces cortisol levels many times throughout the day.
  • Saliva sample: This method provides detailed results of cortisol levels throughout the day.

The best testing method is determined by both your personal preference and expert opinion. However, for the most accurate results, it is best to use a blood test; however, this does not provide any insight into how your body produces cortisol throughout the day.

Finally, stress is a normal part of everyday life. However, chronic stress can cause cortisol levels to rise over a long period of time, which can be detrimental to your health. If you think you are experiencing various symptoms due to stress, you may want to see a specialist and ask for a cortisol test; you can see potential anomalies. If you’re concerned about your cortisol levels, be sure to talk to your doctor about how to control it.

You may be interested in: Stress management techniques you can apply throughout the day.

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