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Cortisol Hormone

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MVSAT 2024

What is cortisol? Many call it an in-built alarm system of the body. Simply put, it is the stress hormone. Cortisone hormone function is to control your fear, motivation and mood. The next time you are asked what is the stress hormone called or what does cortisol mean, you would know the answer. As to the question of what is cortisol hormone, it’s a steroid hormone regulating many vital processes of the body, including the immune response and the metabolism. And as mentioned before, it is best known in the role it plays in the body’s response to stress. Your adrenal glands placed on the top of your kidneys are what produces cortisol. They are responsible for various bodily functions, and an imbalance of that hormone can result in potentially fatal conditions if not treated.

Cortisol Function

Cortisol what is it? Cortisol is most known for the ‘fight-or-flight instinct in an emergency, but the functions of cortisol hormone are much more. Let’s look at what does cortisol do in the body.

  • It regulates blood pressure.

  • It increases blood sugar

  • It keeps inflammation down

  • It controls the sleep cycle

  • It manages the usage of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

  • It boosts energy to handle stress and also restores balance after that.

We hope that this list answers the question of cortisol, what does it do, and what is cortisol used for. This means that it does a lot more than just regulating stress levels. And an imbalance in the levels of these hormones can result in various physical problems.

Now that we’ve looked at what is the function of cortisol let’s talk about how it works.

The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus are both in the brain, and they can tell if your blood has the right levels of cortisol in it. If low, the brain will adjust how many hormones it makes and then the adrenal gland fine-tines how much is to be released. Most of the cells in your body have cortisol receptors, and they receive as well as use cortisol in different ways. If a person is on high alert, cortisol can alter or even shut down any functions that can get in the way, like the reproductive and digestive systems, the immune system, and even the body’s growth process. This is another addition to the cortisol function in the body. But sometimes, these levels can be unstable, and this can be dangerous as cortisol, what is it, is a hormone.

Too Much Cortisol

Let us look at what does high cortisol mean. If someone has too much cortisol in their bodies for a more extended amount of time, it can lead to Cushing’s Syndrome. This is an indication of the cortisol hormone function being essential and how it needs to be stable. What causes high cortisol levels? This syndrome can be caused by various factors, including but not limited to a tumour that produces adrenocorticotropic. Other factors could be the intake of certain drugs. 

The symptoms of this are:

  • High blood pressure

  • Muscle weakness

  • Changes in the skin

  • Osteoporosis

  • Rapid weight gain (abdomen and face)

  • Round and flushed face

  • Mood swings

  • Acne

  • Increased thirst

  • Higher frequency of urination

High cortisol levels can also result in the lack of a sex drive and even cause irregular periods or even stop them. There is also an association between impaired cortisol levels and psychiatric conditions. Clear evidence of this is the bodily changes you would see in someone who has been in a highly stressful environment for a more extended period of time as compared to when their stress levels were normal.

Too Little Cortisol

Now let us take a look at what lowers cortisol and what are the consequences of that. Too little cortisol in the body can be due to an issue in the adrenal or the pituitary gland. The former is called Addison’s disease. The symptoms can be very gradual and include:

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle weakness

  • Dizziness

  • Mood changes

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Weight loss

  • Darkening of the skin.

Without timely treatment, this can be a fatal condition. This means that cortisol levels of the body need to be constant and stable, being neither too low nor too high as both can result in various physical and even mental conditions as this is a hormone that we’re talking about.

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FAQs on Cortisol Hormone

1. What is Cortisol?

Ans: Cortisol is a hormone that is in charge of various bodily functions like the immune response and metabolism. But it is best known for regulating the stress levels of a person’s body. It is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal gland that is placed on the top of a person’s kidneys and is regulated by the brain. It is also commonly called the stress hormone and is in charge of the fight-or-flight response of the body in emergency scenarios. The body is supposed to regulate the amount of cortisol that is in the blood. But sometimes, due to various reasons, cortisol levels in a person’s blood can fluctuate. Too much of it can result in Cushing’s Syndrome, and too little can result in Addison’s Syndrome. It can also result in emotional and mental problems like mood changes, and high levels of cortisol have been known to be linked to psychiatric illnesses like anxiety and depression.

2. Where Does Cortisol Come From, and How Does it Work?

Ans: The cortisol hormone is produced in the adrenal gland. The adrenal and the pituitary gland in the brain sense the levels of cortisol in the blood. If too little, the brain adjusts how many hormones are made to balance the cortisol levels. The cortisol receptors in the cell decide when and how much cortisol is to be used in different scenarios. There can be physical consequences in the energy levels, skin, muscles, weight, etc. For example, it can alter or shut down certain bodily systems that are unnecessary, and all your energy goes into dealing with the emergency that is at hand.

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