General Practice 2022

Cortisol (stress hormone&circle of stress): what é and what is it for

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Cortisol (stress hormone&circle of stress): what é and what is it for
Cortisol (stress hormone&circle of stress): what é and what is it for

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys. Cortisol's role is to help the body control stress, reduce inflammation, contribute to the functioning of the immune system and maintain constant blood sugar levels, as well as blood pressure.

The levels of cortisol in the blood vary during the day because they are related to daily activity and serotonin, which is responsible for the feeling of pleasure and well-being. Thus, basal blood cortisol levels are generally higher in the morning upon waking, from 5 to 25 µg/dL, and then decrease throughout the day to values ​​below 10 µg/dL, and in people who work at night the levels are reversed.

High high cortisol in the blood can cause symptoms such as muscle loss, weight gain or decrease in testosterone or be indicative of problems such as Cushing's Syndrome, for example.

On the other hand, low cortisol can cause symptoms of depression, tiredness or weakness or be indicative of problems, such as Addison's Disease, for example.

High Cortisol: What Happens

High cortisol can cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Loss of muscle mass;
  • Increase in weight;
  • Increased chances of osteoporosis;
  • Difficulty in learning;
  • Low growth;
  • Decreased testosterone;
  • Memory lapses;
  • Increased thirst and frequency of urinating;
  • Decreased sexual appetite;
  • Irregular menstruation.

High cortisol can also indicate a disease called Cushing's Syndrome, which generates symptoms such as rapid weight gain, with accumulation of fat in the abdominal region, hair loss and oily skin. Learn more about Cushing's Syndrome.

How to treat high cortisol

Treatment to lower cortisol can be done with medication prescribed by a doctor, in addition to other ways to naturally control excess cortisol in the blood, which are regular physical exercise, having a he althy diet and increasing the consumption of vitamin C and decreasing caffeine consumption. See the main causes of high cortisol and how to treat it.

Low cortisol: what happens

Low cortisol can cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Depression;
  • Fatigue;
  • Tiredness;
  • Weakness;
  • Sudden craving for sweets.

Low cortisol can also indicate that the person has Addison's disease, which generates symptoms such as abdominal pain, weakness, weight loss, skin spots and dizziness, especially when standing up. Learn more about Addison's disease.

How to measure cortisol levels

The cortisol test is indicated to assess cortisol levels and can be done using a blood, urine or saliva sample. The reference values ​​for blood cortisol levels are:

  • Morning: 5 to 25 µg/dL;
  • End of day: less than 10 µg/dL.

If the cortisol test result is abnormal, it is recommended to consult an endocrinologist to identify the cause and start treatment as soon as possible, if necessary, because high or low cortisol levels are not always indicative of diseases, as they may be altered due to heat or the presence of infections, for example.Learn more about the cortisol test.

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