Cortisol is one of the many hormones naturally produced within your body. It’s made in the adrenal glands, which are small triangular-shaped glands located above the kidneys. Keeping your adrenals healthy as well as maintaining a strong hormone balance are key aspects of staying healthy overall.
There are many different hormones that are released when you undergo stress, but cortisol is arguably one of the most important. It helps to control blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and regulate metabolism. This is what makes cortisol so essential to protecting your health, so both irregularly high or low levels can be detrimental.
High cortisol levels can result from many things but prolonged exposure could cause something called Cushing syndrome, often characterized by symptoms of weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, thin bones, or muscle loss. These symptoms, along with changes in the mind, such as depression, anxiety, or irritability can all indicate abnormally high cortisol levels.
Likewise, irregularly low levels of cortisol could also cause many health problems. When the body doesn’t produce enough of the hormones it needs, it brings on something called Addison’s disease or primary adrenal insufficiency. Since the adrenal glands are what produce essential hormones, it can cause many mental and physical problems as a result. Symptoms of this may include muscle or joint pain, tiredness, dizziness, or depression. While this condition is rare (only 1 in 100,000 diagnosed) the symptoms of it can still help to suggest low cortisol levels in the body.
Looking out for your hormone health is something many people overlook, especially since it seems like hormone levels can go up and down sporadically over time. While this may be true, keeping an eye on any prolonged changes, especially with cortisol, can help to prevent greater health problems down the line. The best tip for staying healthy is to understand your body so you can tell when something is wrong, and hormone health is no different.