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Cortisol is often called the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response, however, cortisol is much more than just a hormone released during stress. Understanding cortisol and its affect on the body will help you balance your hormones and achieve good health.
Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones and is made in the adrenal glands. Most cells within the body have cortisol receptors. Secretion of the hormone is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland, a combination glands often referred to as the HPA axis. Because most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, it affects many different functions in the body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. In women, cortisol also supports the developing fetus during pregnancy. All of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.
Common symptoms of elevated cortisol
- Weight Gain
- Hair Loss
- Memory Loss
Cortisol Levels Increase With Stress or Danger
Cortisol is regulated by the hypothalamic axis. Normal levels of cortisol are released when you wake up in the morning or exercise. These levels can help regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and even strengthen your heart muscle. In small doses, the hormone can heighten memory, increase your immune system and lower sensitivity to pain. Cortisol is normally released by the adrenal glands in response to stress or danger. Levels of cortisol are measured by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain. If the levels are too high, the brain will send a signal back to the adrenal glands to decrease its production of cortisol. In contrast, if the levels are too low, the brain will send a signal back top increase the production of cortisol.
How Does Cortisol Work?
The danger of a fast-paced culture, however, is that many of us are constantly in high-stress mode. If your body experiences chronic stress, you may begin to feel unpleasant and even dangerous effects. After the adrenal glands release cortisol into your bloodstream, the body will respond by supplying immediate energy to your muscles by both releasing glucose into the bloodstream while also inhibiting its reabsorption and storage by increasing the release of insulin. Cortisol will also increase the efficiency of the heart by constricting the blood vessels and increasing the heart rate. Once the apparent danger is over, the hypothalamic feedback loop that senses high cortisol levels will decrease its production.
Effects of High Cortisol Levels
- Increased blood sugar ( diabetes )- due to increase glucose release and decreased glucose storage
- Weight gain- due to increased hunger and increased fat storage
- Immune system suppression – due to altered immune system feedback
- High blood pressure – due to blood vessel constriction
- Heart damage – due to blood vessel injury and fat deposition
Common symptoms of low testosterone
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low sex drive
- Memory loss
- Muscle loss
The Jeckyll and Hyde Hormone
While your body needs some cortisol to function well, too much is toxic. It can destroy healthy cells, cause premature aging, and result in chronic illness. What causes excess cortisol production? Stress.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Cortisol is often referred to as the “fight or flight” hormone because it triggers the release of adrenalin. This important hormone evolved in the body hundreds of thousands of years ago as a mechanism to help humankind deal with threats of one sort or another.
The difficulty with modern day life is that rather than being faced with the occasional big hairy animal that wants to eat us, we’re bombarded with numerous threats on a persistent and daily basis. Whether it’s at work or at home, too many of us feel threatened, overwhelmed, anxious, or like we don’t have control over what’s going on in our lives. The result is excess cortisol production. If this goes on for too long, it can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
During adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal levels of cortisol. Most adrenal fatigue is the consequence of ongoing daily stress. However, there are other factors that can cause you to become even more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These include poor diet, inadequate sleep and rest, chronic illness, and hormone imbalance.
Treatment for High Cortisol and Adrenal Fatigue
Our approach to treating too much or too little cortisol is the same. Supporting the adrenal glands is essential, and we have numerous strategies for doing just that. Our doctors can check your cortisol levels, and prescribe a treatment plan uniquely suited to your needs. When it comes to better aging, we leave no stone unturned.
Get info on other female symptoms
Low Sex Drive
Percentage of women experiencing menopause symptoms by age
Frequently Asked Questions
Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) has actually been used in the United States since 1938. Bio-identical Hormones are all natural plant based products made from yams and a small amount of soy. These hormones have the same molecular structure as the hormones produced within our own bodies. There are numerous studies worldwide that document the benefits and safety of BHRT. These studies also report a lower incidence of side effects when compared with prescription drugs. BHRT should not be confused with “synthetic hormones which are typically found in many creams, gels and injectables used for hormone replacement.
BHRT is a short, simple in-office procedure using local anesthesia. Your doctor will insert the pellets into the fatty layer just beneath your skin. In men and women, a small incision is made in the buttocks or in the lower abdomen. The process is painless and takes just a few minutes.
One of greatest advantages of pellet therapy is the low incidence of side effects. Although extremely rare, side effects may include: slight bruising, minor bleeding, infection or extrusion of the pellets.
Your doctor will interpret your blood tests and determine an appropriate dosage specifically designed for your body. Women who receive estrogen can feel significantly better in 24-36 hours. Men and women who receive testosterone will start to feel relief of symptoms in 10-14 days. After your pellet insertion, you should avoid vigorous exercise for a few days as directed by your physician. Your doctor will evaluate your hormone levels on an ongoing basis and monitor any future changes needed.
You can obtain BHRT Pellets by scheduling an appointment with a trained, certified physician who specializes in hormonal therapy. In order to obtain the correct dosage and proper placement of the pellets, the doctor should be knowledgeable and specifically trained in pellet therapy!
To find out if BHRT is the right solution for you, speak with an HTCA physician today!
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