Cortisol: The Stress Hormone


Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolic and immune responses. There is also a very important role in helping the body respond to stress.

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone, one of glucocorticoids, which is made in the cortex of adrenal glands and then released into the blood, which transmits it to the whole body. Almost every cell has receptors for cortisol and therefore there are various types of actions in cortisol, depending on which type of cells it is working on. These effects control the body’s blood glucose levels and thus controlling metabolism, acting as anti-inflammatory, affecting memory production, controlling salt and water balance, affecting blood pressure and fetal development Includes assisting in Cortisol is also responsible for triggering the processes involved in giving birth.

A similar version of this hormone, known as corticosterone, is produced by rodents, birds and reptiles.

How is Cortisol Controlled?

The blood level of Cortisol is dramatically different, but when we wake up, it is usually high in the morning, and then falls all day. This is called a daily rhythm. In people working in the night, this pattern is reversed, so the time of cortisol release is clearly linked to the daily activity pattern. In addition, in response to stress, additional cortisol is released to help the body respond properly.

The secretion of cortisol is predominantly controlled by the three inter-communication areas of the body, the hypothalamus in the brain, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. It is called the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. When the level of cortisol in the blood is low, in a region of the brain, a group of cells called hypothalamus releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone, causing the pituitary gland to sprinkle another hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone in the blood stream is. High levels of adrenocorticotropic hormones are found in the adrenal glands and stimulate the secretion of cortisol, thereby increasing the blood level of cortisol. As the level of cortisol increases, they begin to block the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormones from the pituitary by the hypothalamus and adrenocorticotropic hormones. Consequently, the level of adrenocorticotropic hormone begins to fall, after which the level of cortisol falls. This is called a negative feedback loop.

What if I Have too Much Cortisol?

For a long time, too much cortisol can cause a condition called Cushing’s  syndrome. This can be due to a wide range of factors, such as tumors that produce adrenocorticotropic hormones (and therefore increases cortisol secretion), or takes some types of medicines. Symptoms include:
•  Increasingly increasing weight in the face, chest and stomach is contrary to thin arms and legs
•  A flush and round face
•  High blood pressure
•  Osteoporosis
•  Changes in skin (injury and purple stretch marks)
•  Muscle weakness
•  Mood swings, which show in the form of anxiety, depression or irritability
•  Increased thirst and frequency of urination

Longer high cortisol levels can cause a lack of sex drive and in women, periods can be irregular, frequent or completely discontinued (amenorrhoea).

Apart from this, there has been a long-term relationship between many raised psychological conditions such as increased levels of cortisol or poor regulation and anxiety and depression. However, its importance has not yet been clearly understood.

What if I have very little Cortisol?

Very few cortisol may be due to a condition called Addison’s disease. There are several causes including damage to adrenal glands by autoimmune disease, which are rare. The symptoms start often very slowly. Symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness (especially standing), weight loss, muscular weakness, changes in mood and dark areas of skin. On diagnosing Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease, an expert hormone doctor needs immediate assessment when called endocrinologist.

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