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Basics: What Is Cortisol And How Is It Affecting My Energy Levels?


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What is cortisol?

Cortisol is an essential hormone that your body produces naturally. It comes from two adrenal glands above the kidneys, controlled by the pituitary gland that regulates your body’s reaction to fight-or-flight. 

Many consider the pituitary gland the master gland for regulating development, reproduction and blood pressure. During stressful times, the pituitary gland signals the adrenals to release the right amount of cortisol into your bloodstream.

There are other ways cortisol supports healthy bodily functions, such as boosting metabolism, decreasing inflammation and regulating the sleep-wake cycle. It’s when the adrenal glands produce too much or too little cortisol that problems arise. 

Signs of high cortisol in the body

You may be experiencing high cortisol levels if you’re holding onto weight in your belly or face or have noticed fat deposits in your shoulder or stretch marks on your stomach. Muscle weakness, blood sugar spikes, high blood pressure and hirsutism (unwanted hair growth) may be other red flags.

Sometimes, irregular periods also indicate a hormonal imbalance. Women with infrequent periods and high stress, weight gain, acne and excessive body hair could have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). In this scenario, an endocrinologist can prescribe hormone-balancing medications and suggest lifestyle changes to regulate your body’s function.

You should always be proactive about your health, regardless of the situation, and managing your cortisol is no different. Among other issues, having too-high cortisol levels for too long could put you at risk of type 2 diabetes because cortisol spikes your glucose levels for an extended time. 

How does cortisol affect energy levels?


Irritability, depression, muscle pains and reduced libido are also possible effects of low cortisol production. 

Five ways to achieve hormonal balance

Remember how I mentioned the importance of being proactive about your health? These five tips can help you achieve balanced cortisol and improve your energy levels.

Check-in with a specialist

If you suspect your cortisol is wonky, call your doctor. They may be able to run labs or prescribe treatment to help you regulate the hormones. It’s especially important to check in with a specialist to rule out reproductive issues, diabetes or other serious conditions (like Cushing's!).

Take medication

Different medications can help control cortisol imbalance symptoms. Nearly 150 million women worldwide use birth control to prevent pregnancy or tend to other female reproductive and hormonal problems. Doctors may also recommend medicines that tackle your cortisol issue directly.

Additionally, you could ask for sleep medication or antidepressants to deal with daytime fatigue, irritability and mood swings. Although the right dose can make a significant difference in your daily life, some people find that antidepressants make them groggy. However, taking them before bedtime can improve your sleep cycle and concentration.

Practise relaxation techniques

Considering cortisol is known as the ‘stress hormone’, it only makes sense to keep your anxiety and stress to a minimum. Helpful relaxation techniques include yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.

Creative hobbies like painting, journaling and scrapbooking are other ways to distract yourself from whatever’s stressing you out. If there was ever a time to invest in an adult colouring book or new yoga pants, it’s now.

Diet and exercise

Exercising and eating healthy can also regulate your hormones and give you a much-needed energy boost during the day. Exercise can reduce cortisol levels and increase endorphins which can provide pain relief and improve your mood.

Studies have shown that anti-inflammatory foods rich in omega-3s are excellent for combatting excess or low cortisol. Snack on nuts, seeds, yogurt and eggs to keep your energy up. You could also start getting excited about trying new seafood recipes for dinner.

Sleep well

Cortisol is a stimulant so if you have a cortisol imbalance, there’s a good chance you’re tossing and turning at night. Your body starts producing cortisol during the second part of your sleep hours and reaches its peak about mid-morning.

It then begins to dip in the evening, allowing sleep hormones like melatonin and adenosine to take over. A healthy sleep cycle can vastly improve your body’s natural cortisol production and adrenal function.

Balance your cortisol for more energy

Regulating your cortisol can make a dramatic difference in your energy levels and it can also help you sleep better through the night. So if you’re encountering any of the above issues, head to your doctor and get control of your body’s hormones to feel better and more alive throughout the day.

Adapted from https://fashionjournal.com.au/life/cortisol-energy-levels/


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