The hormone cortisol

Long-term stress and strain on the body, due to factors such as excessive worrying, lack of sleep, and overworking for extended periods of time, can impair your immune system. The body experiences prolonged cortisol release to cope with the stress, which can be detrimental in the long run. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands that, together with the stress hormone adrenaline, helps cope with acute stress situations. It acutely enhances both mental and physical performance. However, when cortisol is produced in elevated levels for extended periods, it becomes destructive to the body.

Cortisol is necessary and vital as it regulates the body’s water, salt, fat, carbohydrate, and protein balance. It affects blood glucose levels and maintains blood pressure. Its levels vary in a circadian rhythm, with the highest levels in the morning to help us wake up and the lowest around 4 am. Cortisol also plays a vital, natural role in regulating the immune system, helping to dampen inflammatory processes, fight infections, and promote healing.

During periods of stress, the body produces extra cortisol to help cope with the situation. Cortisol breaks down proteins, fats, and sugars, breaking down tissues to raise blood sugar levels and increase the supply to the brain and muscles. If this process continues for a long time, it can have negative consequences and cause damage to our bodies. We may experience:

  • Sleep problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle wasting
  • Hair loss
  • Fragile skin and mucous membranes
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Increased abdominal fat
  • Impaired thyroid function
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Most importantly, a weakened immune system which can lead to high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

Cortisone is a synthetic drug that is similar to cortisol and has the same effects. High and prolonged doses of cortisone treatment have negative effects on the body, just like cortisol. Depending on where the treatment is applied, it often affects the tissue locally. Cortisone is usually used to suppress inflammation.