Your Body on Cortisol


Did you know that wild animals don't have the same stress-related illnesses that we humans have? Why is that? 

It's mostly due to the nature of the human brain. We can ruminate about our past and fret about the future. Psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the mind influences the immune system), has shown that what we think IS our reality - whether it's real or not!

We were designed to experience acute stress - stressors that are short in nature and infrequent. When we are in danger, our amazing bodies do what they do to keep us safe. 

Modern stressors are different - they are constant and unrelenting. Think about coping with a demanding boss, difficult relationships with your adolescent children, traffic, your mother-in-law - I think you get it! Chronic, unrelenting stress causes a downward spiral in factors related to our health. Here's how it happens:

A major factor is cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that releases glucose and fatty acids into your blood stream. This is a good thing when you need that extra energy to react to immediate danger in your environment.

There is a "normal" cycle for the release of cortisol in our bodies. Cortisol is high in the morning, helping us to wake up alert and energized. It causes the release of glucose from the liver which provides us with the energy we need to start the day. In the evening, when we should be preparing for sleep, cortisol should drop.

When we are chronically stressed, the body releases cortisol much more frequently than it should. What's the big deal about that? 

The more stressed we get, the worse our ability to deal with stress becomes. Our sleep is disturbed and this makes us subject to even more daily stress, which raises cortisol - keeping us in a downward spiral.

Too much cortisol leads to a suppressed immune system, elevated blood sugar levels, and decreased insulin sensitivity. This downward spiral leads to the "perfect storm" conditions for the developing of T2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, dementia, and even cancer. 


Let's assess your stress factors. Answer these questions:

  1. How many hours of sleep do you get each night? Less than 9 hours might be a problem.
  2. Do you have problems falling asleep? Staying asleep?
  3. Do you wake up exhausted?
  4. Do you get a "second wind" in the evening? Do you feel awake about the time you should go to bed?
  5. Are you tired and achy all the time?
  6. Do you suffer from frequent colds or other infections?
  7. Do you work out until you are exhausted? Are you "addicted" to exercise for the boost of energy it provides?
  8. Do you need stimulants, like coffee, to function?
  9. Have you gained fat in the midsection, even though you're eating healthy?
  10. Do you experience memory problems?
  11. Do you feel depressed?

Need guidance on getting and staying on track? I can help you:

  • Get a handle on your sleep.
  • Get active
  • Cut back on the alcohol
  • Get rid of foods that might be keeping you down
  • Assess your life purpose.

I'd love to be a part of your wellness team. You can contact me at

Photo credits: Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash  


There are no comments yet. Be the first one to leave a comment!