Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands that are situated above the kidneys. It’s released mostly as a response to physical and mental stresses; also known as the ‘fight or flight’ or the stress hormone, it’s also responsible for reducing inflammation and raising the blood sugar levels. Prolonged stress can cause high amounts of cortisol in blood for an extended period of time, eventually wreaking havoc on the body.

Causes of too much cortisol

Barring certain diseases that can cause high cortisol levels in the blood, we’ll see some common issues responsible for high cortisol levels.

Mental stress

Stressors like work, exams, toxic relations, loss of a loved one, divorce, financial issues, etc. may lead to higher than average cortisol levels in the blood.

Physical stress

Working out for prolonged periods of time increases physical stress on the body and may increase cortisol levels in the blood. E.g. Doing heavy cardio for more than 30 minutes at a stretch can increase cortisol and in turn, make one retain more weight than lose it.

Caffeine

Caffeine in moderation can be a good thing, but it also leads to the secretion of cortisol. Too much caffeine may give you an unhealthy dose of cortisol leading to jitters, elevated heart rate and anxiety.

Effects of too much cortisol

Muscle wasting:

Cortisol is responsible for gluconeogenesis i.e. generation of sugar from breaking down proteins. Too much cortisol will eat your muscles up.

Frequent infections:

Since cortisol suppresses the immune system, higher levels of it open up the body for a variety of infections.

Premature aging:

Elevated cortisol puts the body into a catabolic state i.e. there’s more loss of muscle, bone and tissue in this state. Collagen which is essential in forming skin and hair is lost at a higher rate and isn’t absorbed as effectively. This leads to loss of elasticity of the skin, wrinkles and thinning of hair.

Fat retention:

Chronically high levels of cortisol make you retain fat near your gut. Since this condition also makes you lose muscle, it gives one a typical skinny fat look; with thin limbs and a fat belly.

Management

Homeopathy:

A competent practitioner will recognize the underlying causes of stress or anxiety experienced by the individual to administer a fitting remedy.

Homeopathic medications have been shown in clinical trials to reduce stress. It improves the quality of sleep. Improvement of sleep quality was associated with a normalized stress response when acutely stressed.

Many homeopathic remedies are designed for specific symptoms of anxiety and the beliefs associated with them.

Magnesium rich foods and supplements:

Adequate levels of magnesium help to regulate cortisol levels. Magnesium rich foods like spinach and other green vegetables, nuts like almonds, etc. peanuts and fresh fruits will help to reduce the cortisol levels in the body.

Omega 3 rich foods:

Fish, fish oils, nuts like walnuts, etc. will help reduce cortisol levels.

Sleep:

Having an average sleep of 7 to 8 hours is extremely essential for reducing stress and cortisol levels.

Exercise:

Exercise in the form of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) will give you maximum gains in growth hormones and release a lesser amount of cortisol as compared to lengthy cardio sessions.

Walks, Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga:

They are very effective destressors and will help in cortisol reduction.

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