The Famous Hormone Cortisol
By Pat News, RNC, NP, MSN
The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, are responsible for the body’s production of cortisol. Normally, cortisol levels increase through a chain reaction of hormones made in the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, both located in the brain.
Cortisol affects almost every organ in the body and is necessary for the body to cope with stress from illness, injury, surgery, childbirth and all other activities of daily living.
Cortisol mobilizes and increases amino acids, the building blocks of protein; it stimulates the liver to convert amino acids to glucose, fuel for energy production; it stimulates glycogen, the storage form of glucose, in the liver; it increases fatty acids in the blood to be used as fuel for energy production; it counteracts inflammation and allergies; it maintains blood volume and blood pressure; it maintains resistance to stresses such as infections, physical trauma, temperature extremes and emotional trauma; and it maintains personality and emotional stability.
While it is simple to see the importance of cortisol to our bodies, it is also imperative to realize the effects of too much cortisol. Excess cortisol will diminish the utilization of glucose by the cell and increase blood sugar levels placing you at risk for diabetes; it can stimulate appetite and, along with high insulin levels, will promote excessive abdominal fat; it increases protein breakdown leading to muscle wasting and osteoporosis; it causes an increase in blood pressure and heart rate which, if allowed to persist, places you at risk for chronic high blood pressure and heart disease; and excess cortisol can weaken the immune system which may result in increased susceptibility to infections, allergies and cancer.
On the other hand, too little cortisol can have devastating effects on one’s body and daily life activities. Without adequate levels of cortisol everything is too much trouble; it seems impossible to get out of bed in the morning; the joy for life is gone; it is difficult to concentrate and stay focused on the simplest of tasks; it takes longer to recover from illness or stress; even with adequate sleep, you never feel rested; you notice your memory is failing; and you have no sex drive what-so-ever.
The good news is there is a way to determine your cortisol levels and ways to improve your adrenal health. Next month I will write about some of these healthy tips with the hope that you will incorporate them into your everyday life.
To schedule an appointment for an evaluation of your adrenal status and your cortisol levels, please call Pat News Health Care at 661-799-7000.
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