Stress and Elevated Cortisol

Here is what happens when we live in a constant stress state and our endocrine system is imbalanced because of the constantly elevated cortisol:

The endocrine system is responsible for regulating a range of bodily functions through the release of hormones. Hormones are secreted by the glands of the endocrine system, traveling through the bloodstream to various organs and tissues in the body. The hormones then tell these organs and tissues what to do or how to function. Some examples of bodily functions that are controlled by the endocrine system include: metabolism, growth and development, sexual function and reproduction, heart rate, blood pressure, appetite, sleeping and waking cycles and body temperature. The body creates more than 100 hormones that all need to work together to achieve harmony. One of these hormones is cortisol. 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. Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones. Most cells within the body have cortisol receptors. Secretion of the hormone is controlled by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland.

So, what happens when we are under stressed? Our cortisol goes up and we release adrenaline for energy. Constantly elevated cortisol can lead to adrenal exhaustion which can lead to insulin resistance, low DHEA, low T3, depression, obesity, intestine dysbiosis and the list goes on. The liver gets effected as well since too many hormones means that the liver must work harder to clear them out of the body. The pancreas is taxed by the constant high levels of insulin. Chronic high insulin level can result in diabetes and obesity. Dr. Mark Hyman writes in his book The Blood Sugar Solution: “Stress plays a dramatic role in the blood sugar imbalance. It triggers insulin resistance, promotes weight gain around the middle, increases inflammation and may ultimately cause full-blown diabetes”. He also states that chronically elevated cortisol causes depression and even dementia.

Normal cortisol levels should be the highest in the morning and decline by the evening to help us fall asleep. Unfortunately, many times those numbers can be flip flopped due to the lifestyle/diet factors making it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep at the normal hours. This also means below normal cortisol levels in the morning resulting in extreme fatigue. Most likely, coffee is the only source of quick energy to help us start the day. Lack of sleep also means carbohydrates cravings, more sugar etc. It is a vicious cycle and it is all dependent on each other. It is a domino effect.

In conclusion, the endocrine system is very complex system. It is all about communication between our hormones and organs. Unfortunately, this communication can be very easily interrupted which can result in many, many issues.