Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cortisol and Stress

If you've ever been stressed out – and who hasn't? – your body has experienced a flood of cortisol. When you're faced with a stressful situation, your body enters the “fight or flight” response, when cortisol is abundant in your bloodstream. The surge of this hormone, secreted by the adrenal glands, causes physical changes that help you deal with the situation at hand: lessened sensitivity to pain, a burst of energy, and heightened memory function. (Though it's popularly known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol is always present; it's responsible for several metabolic functions, including the maintenance of blood sugar; immune function; regulation of blood pressure; and inflammatory response, among other things. Cortisol levels are high in the morning and low at night.) Some people release more cortisol than others in times of stress – it's just that they're more biologically “wired” to respond to stress that way.

If you find yourself under stress quite often, you may have a prolonged increase in cortisol. While it's extremely helpful in smaller, normal doses, higher and more prolonged levels have been shown to cause negative effects, such as higher blood pressure, trouble falling/staying asleep, blood sugar imbalances, increased body fat, lower immunity, impaired brain function, slower healing of wounds and decrease inflammatory response, and weakness in both muscles and bones. In order to keep cortisol levels optimal, it's important to manage the amount of stress in your life. This can be achieved by using relaxation techniques such as journaling, doing yoga, listening to music, deep breathing, and meditation. In addition, herbs like Ginseng, Ashwaganda, Rhodiola and Licorice root can further help the body deal with stress and cortisol reduction.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Wellescent Health Blog said...

Interesting article. Another thing to watch for with constant stress is reduced immune function that often shows itself in the form of colds. Having colds to frequently is a good indicator that an otherwise healthy person may be facing too much stress.

June 19, 2009 at 10:10 AM  

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