In this month’s Endocrine Health Spotlight: Cortisol aka “The Stress Hormone"
By Jennifer Kohler, MS, FNP-BC, CLC
Cortisol is made in your adrenal glands and is often referred to as “the stress hormone.” It elevates in times of stress and illness and is necessary to live. When stress decreases or you are not ill, it should decrease. Unfortunately, in today’s world, our stress seems to be more chronic and persistent as we are now always available, constantly stimulated, trying to get ahead, and multitasking to name a few. These constant stimuli can lead to persistent elevations of cortisol long-term and can manifest various symptoms. People will often have cognitive symptoms of anxiety, forgetfulness, memory issues, or confusion. Other common symptoms are insomnia, fatigue, palpitations, weight gain, dizziness, and headaches.
Cortisol is necessary in order to live, and too low cortisol can be associated with many negative symptoms as well and can otherwise be known as “adrenal fatigue.” Some common findings are fatigue, feeling “unwell,” lack of stamina, lack of motivation, delayed wound healing, low blood sugar, and increased PMS/perimenopausal/menopausal symptoms.
Cortisol has many necessary functions in your body, and does not deserve the bad rep it tends to get. Cortisol itself is not the issue, but the lack of balance or extreme of too much or too little is the problem. You can work with your provider to evaluate cortisol levels, and discuss supplements or lifestyle changes to help achieve healthy cortisol release and balance.