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What is the Role of Cortisol?

Your mood, energy, thyroid function, immunity and sleep all depend on optimal functioning of the adrenal glands and cortisol.

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Cortisol, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It simply needs to be present in the right amounts at the right times. In other words, there’s a natural, healthy rhythm to its release.

What are adrenal glands?

Your adrenals are a pair of crescent-shaped glands that sit on top of each kidney like a cap. Despite their small size (about 2.5 inches x 1 inch), these glands have a big job: secreting chemical messengers that communicate with your brain, immune system, and metabolism.

What is cortisol?

The adrenals regulate a lot of things, but one of the most critical is your body’s primary stress hormone: cortisol. The most important thing to remember is that stress hormones are all about survival—and survival ultimately trumps everything else!

What does cortisol do?

Cortisol is the primary adrenal stress hormone. It has many functions, such as:

  • Influencing carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism.
  • Increasing fatty acids in the bloodstream, so they can be used as fuel for energy.
  • Counteracting inflammation.
  • Maintaining energy, mood, and emotional stability.
  • Maintaining resistance to stress.
  • Increasing your blood-sugar level to help you cope with an emergency.

In chronic excess, cortisol can lead to metabolic disorders. This is because it can affect how certain tissues use glucose, and may sometimes have an anti-insulin effect. Cortisol can also lead to immunosuppression due to its anti-inflammatory effect.

What are normal cortisol levels?

Cortisol is largely catabolic in nature, meaning it generally breaks things down. However, it’s important to note that we also need a minimum amount of cortisol for certain anabolic or building functions, such as gut repair.

Cortisol, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It simply needs to be present in the right amounts at the right times. In other words, there’s a natural, healthy rhythm to its release.

Your cortisol level is normally highest in the morning when you first wake up. Over the course of the day, cortisol secretion eases, reaching its lowest point about the time you should be falling asleep.

As your blood-sugar level drops throughout the night, cortisol secretion increases so that come morning, you have the energy to get out of bed and do what you need to do.

The problem is that many people have cortisol that’s either too high or too low. This impairs many body systems and functions, as described above.

Elevated cortisol symptoms

The stress response was designed for times of extreme danger, but the pace of modern life means that we’re using this ancient mechanism all day, every day. Remember, we are essentially cavemen in suits!

We often see clients whose cortisol levels are affecting their thyroid, especially in cases of Hashimoto’s. It’s also worth noting that leaky gut can be caused completely or in part by adrenal fatigue.

The good news is that we temper these responses by adopting healthier dietary and lifestyle habits, along with using certain herbs to nourish the adrenals.

 

For further information on how to improve your energy and mood, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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