What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone produced mainly by the adrenal gland. Cortisol is produced in response to exercising, acute emotional distress, eating, smoking, and overstimulation of inflammatory substances. 

Cortisol's primary function is to elevate the heart rate, elevate blood pressure, and increase the glucose (sugar) in the blood to enhance brain functioning. It can alter immune system responses, and suppress the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes. It also communicates with the brain that controls mood, fear, and motivation. Cortisol also curbs functions the body deems the be "non-essential" during a fight-or-flight situation. 

When your hair sample is analyzed, our biotechnology can assess the Cortisol levels found in the body and then look for the "in range" markers to understand if your levels fall within normal range or outside of the normal range.

There are many different reasons why some people may have imbalanced levels in the body. By becoming aware of your current levels, there are various treatments and ways you can help address your stress levels to help you reach your wellness goals. 

Cortisol is an essential hormone that affects almost every organ and tissue in your body. It plays many important rules, including:
  • Regulating your body's stress response
  • Helping control your body's use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, or your metabolism
  • Suppressing inflammation
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Regulating blood sugar
  • Helping control your sleep-wake cycle

What does cortisol do to my body?

Almost all tissues in your body have glucocorticoid receptors. Because of this, cortisol can affect nearly every organ system in your body, including:

  • Nervous system
  • Immune system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory system
  • Reproductive systems (male and female)
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Integumentary system (skin, hair, nails, glands and nerves)

More specifically, cortisol affects your body in the following ways:

  • Regulating your body's stress response: During times of stress, your body can release cortisol after releasing its "fight or flight" hormones, such as adrenaline, so you continue to stay on high alert. In addition, cortisol triggers the release of glucose (sugar) from your liver for fast energy during times of stress. 
  • Regulating metabolism: Cortisol helps control how your body uses fats, proteins and carbohydrates for energy. 
  • Suppressing inflammation: In short spurts, cortisol can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. However, if you have consistently high levels of cortisol, your body can get used to having too much cortisol in your blood, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system. 
  • Regulating blood pressure: The exact way in which cortisol regulates blood pressure in humans is unclear. However, elevated levels of cortisol can cause high blood pressure, and lower-than-normal levels of cortisol can cause low blood pressure. 
  • Increasing and regulating blood sugar: Under normal circumstances, cortisol counterbalances the effect of insulin, a hormone your pancreas makes, the regulate your blood sugar. Cortisol raises blood sugar by releasing stored glucose, while insulin lowers blood sugar. Having chronically high cortisol levels can lead to persistent high blood sugar (hyperglycemia). This can cause Type 2 diabetes.
  • Helping control your sleep-wake cycle: Under regular circumstances, you have lower cortisol levels in the evening when you go to sleep and peak levels in the morning right before you wake up. This suggests that cortisol plays a significant role in the initiation of wakefulness and plays a part in your body's circadian rhythm. 

What causes high levels of cortisol?

  • Taking large amounts of corticosteroid medications, such as prednisone, prednisolone r dexamethasone, for treatment of other conditions. 
  • Tumors that produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). These are usually found in your pituitary gland. More rarely, neuroendocrine tumors in other parts of your body such as your lungs can cause high cortisol levels. 
  • Adrenal gland tumors or excessive growth of adrenal tissue (hyperplasia), which cause excess production of cortisol.