Oct 11 2017

LCKL 110 – ANJ Series – Hormones – Cortisol

Are you currently dealing with high cortisol levels? Are you not sure whether you are suffering from excessive cortisol or not? Are you feeling constantly stressed and are concerned about what it is doing to your body? If so, fear no more. In this podcast episode I will go through not only what cortisol is and how to know if you have high or low cortisol but I will also explain what testing you need to do and 10 strategies to naturally decrease your cortisol levels.

  • Introduction to Cortisol;
  • Symptoms of Excess Cortisol;
  • Symptoms of Low Cortisol;
  • Testing Cortisol Levels;
  • Causes of High Cortisol Levels;
  • Common Medications Used To Increase Cortisol Levels;
  • 8 Major Effects of High Cortisol Levels;
  • 10 Tips To Naturally Decrease Cortisol Levels; and
  • Where You Can Go To Get Further Information.
Introduction to CortisolSymptoms of Excess CortisolSymptoms of Low CortisolTesting Cortisol LevelsCauses of High CortisolCommon Medications Used to Increase Cortisol LevelsEffects of Excess Cortisol10 Tips To Naturally Decrease Cortisol LevelsTo Get Further Information
  • Cortisol is a hormone that is released during times of stress and anxiety that plays a myriad of functions in the body.
  • It is produced by the adrenal glands and when it is released into the bloodstream it helps:
    • Your body respond to stress and/or danger;
    • Increases your body’s metabolism of glucose;
    • Controls Your Blood Pressure; and
    • Reduces Inflammation.
  • Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands and regulated by the pituitary gland and is stimulated when you wake up, when you exercise and when you are facing a stressful event.
  • Cortisol is responsible for preparing the body for a fight or flight response by flooding it with glucose, therefore supplying an energy source to the large muscles of the body.
  • It is important to note that cortisol is highest in the morning and then decreases as the day goes on. In fact, it is the spike in cortisol that wakes you up in the morning.
  • Weight Gain – especially around the abdomen and face;
  • Slow Healing, Thin and Fragile Skin;
  • Acne;
  • High Blood Pressure;
  • Skin Changes such as bruises and purple stretch marks;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Mood Swings, manifesting as anxiety, depression or irritability;
  • Lack of Libido;
  • Excessive Thirst;
  • Increased Urination;
  • Greater number of infections;
  • Facial Hair in Women; and
  • Irregular Menstrual Periods in Women.

Caused from addisons disease or damage to the adrenal glands.

  • Excessive and Continuous Tiredness;
  • Dizziness upon standing;
  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Weight Loss;
  • Muscle Weakness; and
  • Abdominal Pain.
  • Serum
    • It is important to test your cortisol levels at 8am in the morning as that is about the time when your cortisol levels should be most accurate.
    • Optimal range is 10-15 mcg/dL.
    • Although this is one of the most medically recognised ways of testing for cortisol it is not actually the most accurate. You have a very small window of detecting the cortisol (while the blood is being drawn) and also if you have a fear of needles your cortisol levels will naturally increase, therefore giving a false reading.
  • Saliva
    • When testing using saliva it is important that you test at the same time each day as your cortisol fluctuates throughout the day.
    • To test your cortisol slope it is a good idea to test 4 times a day – morning, lunch, dinner and before bed. This will determine how your levels are going up and down. Cortisol should ideally be highest when you wake up and then lowest just before going to bed (which is what will allow you to go to sleep).
    • Although this is another common test done there are a couple of disadvantages. Firstly, the cortisol in your saliva accounts for about 1% of the total cortisol in your body but it does give an indication over time.
  • Urine
    • Dried urine hormone testing is a relatively new test that is done as it combines the advantages of saliva testing (diurnal testing) with 24 hour urine testing.
    • Urine testing is one of the most accurate forms of testing for cortisol as long as it is done at the same time every day – preferably first void in the morning.
  • Hair
    • This is a pretty stable test as it is able to measure the last 90 days of cortisol load, therefore indicating what your level of stress is.
  • It is important that no matter what method you choose that you see your medical practitioner (either alternative or allopathic) to determine what is best for you.
  • There are a number of causes of high cortisol levels with the major one being an inability to handle stress and possible adrenal fatigue. However, some other causes of high cortisol levels include:
    • Depression;
    • Over Exercising;
    • Obesity;
    • Thyroid Issues;
    • Malnutrition;
    • High Estrogen Levels;
    • Pregnancy; and/or
    • Systemic Inflammation.
  • Corticosteroids are common prescription medications given to increase cortisol levels.
  • They are often used for inflammatory conditions like asthma, addisons disease and skin conditions like psoriasis.
  • However, there are side effects of corticosteroids including:
    • Thinning Skin;
    • Osteoporosis;
    • Weight Gain, Especially around the face;
    • Rapid mood changes;
    • Hypertension; and


Blood Sugar Issues and/or Diabetes

  • When the body is in a state of stress it breaks down protein into glucose through a process known as gluconeogenesis.
  • Although this is helpful during times of extreme stress, when produced in excess over a long period of time it causes production of glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.
  • When cortisol levels are chronically elevated it keeps the body in an insulin resistant state.

Promotes Visceral Fat Storage

  • Cortisol mobilizes triglycerides from storage and relocates them to the visceral fat cells.
  • It also helps the adipocytes develop into mature fat cells.
  • Within the visceral fat cells there is an enzyme called 11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase which converts cortisone into cortisol. This means the more visceral fat you have the more cortisol you are producing.

Promotes an increase in Appetite

  • Because cortisol is responsible for suppressing insulin it leads to consistently high blood glucose levels.
  • This means the cells are not getting the glucose they crave so they send out hunger signals to try to get the energy that it needs.
  • This may lead to overeating.
  • Cortisol also plays a part in modulating other hormones and stress responsive factors which are all known to stimulate appetite.

Fertility Issues

  • Cortisol and epinephrine are both produced in the same gland as the androgenic sex hormones.
  • Therefore if there is consistently high cortisol levels, the production of these sex hormones may be hampered.
  • They have also found that elevated cortisol over an extended period of time can lead to erectile dysfunction and disruption of the menstrual cycle.

GI Issues

  • When cortisol is secreted it activated the sympathetic nervous system, which means the parasympathetic nervous system is deactivated.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system is very important for optimising digestion and for absorption of nutrients.
  • Therefore if you do not have this parasympathetic activation, digestion will be compromised and indigestion will develop. This causes the mucosal lining to become irritated and inflamed.
  • This inflammation then leads to more cortisol production and the cycle continues.
  • This is why you should refrain from eating while stressed and it is why the condition IBS tends to appear during stressful times in someones life. I know my IBS showed up during the time when I was preparing for my wedding and then it disappeared when I moved to Germany and that stress had disappeared.

Suppresses The Immune System

  • One of cortisols functions is to lower inflammation in the body. However this lowering of inflammation also causes a suppression of the immune system.
  • Chronic inflammation then causes constant production of cortisol, which leads to a chronically suppressed immune system.
  • This can then lead to colds and flus, an increase in cancer risk, increase in allergies, a myriad of GI issues and even autoimmune disease.

Increases Cardiovascular Disease Risk

  • Cortisol is responsible for raising blood pressure and constricting blood vessels which is important when it comes to activating the fight or flight response.
  • However, chronically elevated cortisol leads to constant hypertension and blood vessel constriction which can proceed to plaque buildup and vessel issues over time. These are the perfect grounds for heart attacks and heart failure.
  • This can be seen by the fact that chronically stressed people are at a greater risk of heart failure than those who are not stressed.

Increases Bone Loss

  • Elevated levels of cortisol has been found to cause calcium depletion in the bones.
  • High levels of cortisol have also been found to increase collagen breakdown, inhibit osteoblast formation and inhibit cell proliferation.
  • Manage your stress levels by incorporating meditation and/or self hypnosis.
  • Follow a Low Carb, Ketogenic or Blood Sugar Stabilising plan which will allow you to normalise your blood sugars.
  • Avoid any known food allergens which cause stress on the body (i.e. gluten, dairy etc).
  • Focus nutrition on quality by eating plenty of leafy green vegetables, good quality fats (i.e. coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, ghee, homemade tallow etc) and free range proteins wherever possible.
  • Practice intermittent fasting, water fasting and other detoxification strategies to help reduce toxicity and boost detoxification pathways.
  • Ensure you are getting plenty of good quality sleep as sleep deprivation contributes to excess cortisol.
  • Exercise on a regular basis (especially resistance and HIIT).
  • Incorporate movement into your daily routine as much as possible.
  • Drink plenty of good quality water which will help decrease the stress on the body.
  • Use adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha (which we actually use daily), rhodiola, ginseng and astragalus. More will be covered in the book/course regarding these herbs.

There is so much more to discuss regarding cortisol and all of this will be covered in my upcoming book/course on the topic. Be sure to sign up for my hormones 101 course by going to http://www.lowcarbketoliving.com/hormones101 and you will not only get yourself a free course but you will be notified as soon as the premium products are available.

DisclaimerTranscript PDFResources

Please note that this information is not intended for medical purposes or to replace the advice of your medical practitioner. It is for informational purposes only to help guide you on your journey towards optimal wellness.


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