Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cortisol Control

There’s a lot to be said for the hormone cortisol. Secreted by the adrenal glands, it’s involved in many important bodily functions, including metabolism of glucose, release of insulin for blood sugar maintenance, immune function, regulation of blood pressure, and inflammatory response. Cortisol is responsible for the burst of energy, heightened awareness, and lower sensitivity to pain that is part of the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress; because of this, it is sometimes referred to as “the stress hormone.”

Naturally, your cortisol level is highest in the morning, when your body needs an extra boost of energy to begin the day. By evening time, the level drops about 90% - or at least, it should. But you can have too much of a good thing, and though cortisol is crucial for your body, levels that remain elevated for long periods of time can negatively impact your health. Chronically elevated cortisol has been shown to cause exhaustion, fat accumulation, insulin resistance, loss of memory, high blood pressure, and more.

In order to keep cortisol levels under control, thereby reducing the risk of prolonged elevated exposure, it’s important to activate the body’s relaxation response. This can be especially effective in the evenings, when cortisol levels are naturally supposed to be lower. By learning to relax through stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, journaling, or guided imagery, you can help make sure your body is releasing only enough cortisol to be beneficial.


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