How Does Cortisol Affect Our Body?

3 min read

cortisol effect on body
Simran Lakhina
A content writer with a specialization in journalism and mass communication. Being a post-graduate in English, I aspire to write a work of fiction one day. I enjoy interacting with new people and like to be in a positive aura.

Nature has created our bodies in a very interesting way. Everything in our body is connected. Slowly as science is making progress each day many interesting facts about the human body get unveiled.

Stress is a big issue in today’s fast pacing world. You’ll be fascinated to know that a hormone called Cortisol is released when an individual is stressed. 

Cortisol hormone has many roles to play in our body like with our stress levels, sleep imbalances, anger, and anxiety. Further in this article, you will know more about cortisol effect on body.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol can also be called the stress hormone as it is released in our body when we are stressed. It functions in a certain part of the brain and manages our behaviors, motivation, and fear. 

It is like nature’s alarm clock inserted within the human system. Understanding the cortisol effect on body will help you balance your hormones and also to release stress.

Cortisol effect on body

Cortisol is responsible for many different functions of the body. It is a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well being. Here is how:

  • It manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. 
  • Keeps inflammation down.
  • Regulates the blood pressure
  • Regulates blood sugar levels in the blood.
  • Regulates your sleep and wake-up cycle.
  • Manages your moods.

What is higher cortisol and what does it do?

A mass in the adrenaline gland or a tumor in the brain’s pituitary gland triggers the body to make too much cortisol. This is a condition called Cushing syndrome. Higher cortisol is not good for the body. It can cause mild to severe damages. 

Following are a few symptoms due to a higher cortisol levels in the body:

  • High blood pressure
  • Flushed face
  • Muscles weakness
  • Increased thirst
  • More than usual urination
  • Mood changes- irritability, anxiety, anger, depression, etc.
  • Rapid weight gain in the face and abdomen
  • Bruises or stretch marks start to appear on the skin
  • Decreased sex drive

Following are some of the extra symptoms in women:

  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Cramps
  • Miscarriage
cortisol effect on body
cortisol effect on body

What is lower cortisol and what does it do?

Lower cortisol is a condition known as primary adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease. The primary symptom is that it can damage the adrenal glands but the symptoms can get a bit serious in the later stage. Following are the symptoms of lower levels of cortisol:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Mood swings
  • Skin darkening
  • Lower blood pressure

How to maintain cortisol levels in the body?

It is very important for the body to increase or decrease cortisol production as necessary. Here are a few natural ways to maintain cortisol levels in the body:

  • Lowering stress: Stress management is the key to maintaining the cortisol hormone. People with higher levels of cortisol aiming to lower it down must stay away from stressful situations. They must not indulge in those activities that make them tensed or stressed. These people must also adopt stress-relieving activities like yoga, meditation, dance, laughter therapy, etc. Positive self-talk has also proved to be very effective in managing stress. 
  • Healthy diet: As famously said, what you eat is what you become. A person trying to lower his/her cortisol levels must be careful about the diet. One must also cut down sugary foods. Following are a few food items that must be included in the diet:
  • Dark chocolate
  • Bananas and pears
  • Black or green tea
  • Curd
  • Probiotics in foods containing soluble fiber
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Sleep pattern: Adequate sleep plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body and mind. A good amount of sleep will help in lowering the cortisol levels in the body. Make sure to get a good amount of uninterrupted sleep. Create a dark and calm atmosphere in your bedroom so you get enough sleep.
  • Indulging in activities: Doing something you love has a good impact on the body. Take up any hobby you like and spend at least half an hour doing it. Take any activity you like such as gardening, reading, listening to music, or dance. Doing what you like has a positive impact on the cortisol levels of the body.
  • Exercise: Exercising is very important for the body. Dedicatedly work out for about an hour every day. That not only makes your body fit but also has a positive effect on the mind. Exercising is very important to maintain a healthy mind and body.
  • Getting a pet: A pet can play a vital role in your life. Having a pet at home not only makes you happy but also creates a positive environment. Studies have shown that people who have a pet at home have lower cortisol levels. 
  • Having good relationships: Having a loving and caring partner, parents, sibling, and kids can have a very positive impact on your cortisol levels. Our relationships play a major role in our lives. Good relationships mean happier you. Having disturbing unhappy relationships can cause a lot of stress in life. 
cortisol effect on sleep

Cortisol effect on sleep

Cortisol has a direct connection with our quality and quantity of sleep. Cortisol follows a daily 24-hours biorhythm. When that rhythm gets disrupted, sleep does too. For most biotypes, cortisol levels are on the highest usually around 9 am in the morning. 

The cortisol level on average starts to rise in the second half of the night’s sleep. After you wake up cortisol starts to make a gradual decline during the day and reaches the lowest level by midnights. 

In this way, cortisol plays its role in the sleep and wake up pattern of an individual. Imbalance in this biotype of cortisol can cause health and anxiety issues that may need special attention. 

Now you know how this internal hormone of our body regulates the way it functions. Cortisol levels must be maintained by making simple lifestyle changes. The knowledge of cortisol effect on body is a must you know better how to take care of your mind and health.