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What Does Cortisol Do to Your Body? Cortisol, the Stress Hormone.

Updated on November 17, 2017
Bishop55 profile image

Rebecca loves sharing what she knows about alternative medicine, health, frugal living, fun, animals, and how to live a better life!

Stress is bad for your health!


First of all, what is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a hormone in the body that has many important roles, it is secreted by the adrenal glands and helps regulate a lot of various bodily functions;

  • Proper glucose metabolism
  • Regulating blood pressure
  • Insulin release from the pancreas for blood sugar maintenance
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response


When cortisol levels are good, your body functions normally. Levels of this hormone are usually higher in the morning and lower at night. But cortisol levels go up during the "fight or flight" response, or during high times of stress. This is why it's often referred to as the "stress hormone" Small levels of cortisone in the bloodstream have positive effects, such as increased immunity, increase pain tolerance, improve memory, provide more energy, and maintain homeostasis in the body.

Homeostasis helps to regulate the body temperature and keeps your internal body environment stable.

When cortisol is too high within the body

During times of stress (which we are all constantly bombarded with) cortisol levels rise, and this usually happens during times when you are in no immediate danger when cortisol would normally be beneficial. We don't live in a time where we have to run from predators, our stress comes in the form of work, family, finances, and health problems.

One of the biggest complaints of high cortisol levels in the body is an increase in mid-section body fat, or...simply...a gut. But the inside of your body is experiencing a lot more trouble. When these levels are high, and your body does not get adequate time to relax your cognitive performance becomes impaired, blood sugar becomes imbalanced which can cause hyperglycemia, suppressed thyroid function, a decrease in bone density, lowered immunity, increased blood pressure, and that dreaded stomach fat. The cortisol gut causes a lot of additional problems besides looking unattractive. Increased belly fat has been linked to strokes, heart attacks, and increases of HDL cholesterol.

How do you react to stress?

Everyone reacts differently to stress. We are all biologically wired in our own unique way and react differently to stress, just like anything else introduced to your bodies. Food, medications, environments, no one reacts the same. Because of this, levels of cortisol vary for everyone. One study shows that people that typically have higher levels of this hormone, also tend to over-eat, especially foods that are higher in carbohydrate content.

Because stress affects everyone differently, it's very important that we actively seek a lifestyle that promotes health balance, stress management, and most importantly, low-stress lifestyles.

What can you do to lower your cortisol levels?

First of all, you need to drink plenty of water, eat well, take vitamins that support adrenal fatigue, and give yourself chances to relax after experiencing a "fight or flight" response to stress. Learning to relax your body and mind may take some practice, but the benefits to your health and body will quickly appear once you start.

Here are suggestions to get started right away;

  • Guided Imagery
  • Music (my favorite is something called Hemi-sync)
  • Keep a journal
  • Exercise-Yoga, Thai Chi, Pilates, running, and cardio are extremely beneficial
  • Learn breathing techniques and meditation
  • Draw, paint, or sketch
  • Get a pet-pets are very therapeutic, especially cats
  • Have more sex
  • Take adrenal supplements such as licorice root, Tusli, and Ashwagandha.

© 2013 Rebecca


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    • Gurpinder Vir Singh Rai profile image


      16 months ago

      Thanks for sharing those very useful tips. Stress management is something I am looking to get better at.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      I'm just starting to learn Denise. I'm starting Thai Chi in a week. I do not manage my stress at all, which shows up in the form of headaches, belly fat, weight loss, muscle pain, and skin rashes! Thank you for your comment.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      7 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I have to really be careful with my stress level, as I am especially sensitive to cortisol levels in my body. I easily get stress headaches, upset stomach, and other physical symptoms when my stress level is too high. I work hard to keep things on an even keel in my world, and use many of the suggestions listed here to help me relax.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks for your comment! My current life stress inspired this hub. I need to get my stress sorted out. Figured it may help others. I hope.

    • Gratitude Journal profile image

      Gratitude Journal 

      7 years ago

      Great information here. It's good for people to become aware of what is happening at a molecular level. Then we can look at what practices, foods, etc can combat the negative effects of hormones like Cortisol.


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