Cortisol The Stress Hormone

The body's response to stress is aided by the cortisol steroid hormone. It is occasionally referred to as the "stress hormone." This is due to the fact that times of extreme stress raise cortisol levels in the body.

The body produces a class of hormones known as steroids from cholesterol. They perform a variety of bodily activities collectively.

Know about cortisol and metabolism

Mainly, cortisol contributes to metabolism. The liver is prompted to produce more blood sugar as a result. It also aids the body's process of transforming carbs, proteins, and lipids into useful energy. Cortisol is released under stressful situations to provide your body with a natural energy boost as part of the body's fight-or-flight reaction. This boost is intended to provide your muscles the energy they need to react to a dangerous scenario. However, these same effects may lead to type 2 diabetes if cortisol levels are chronically elevated as a result of stress. Hyperglycemia is characterized by persistently high blood sugar.

Additionally, cortisol aids the body in controlling blood pressure and reducing inflammation

The two tiny, triangular-shaped adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney, are responsible for producing this hormone. Cortisol can enter the bloodstream directly from the adrenal glands.

The pituitary gland is a gland with a shape of a pea and is present at the base of the brain, and the area of the brain known as the hypothalamus is responsible for regulating and coordinating pituitary gland activity and determining whether the blood has the right amount of cortisol. Together, these two brain areas control the adrenal glands' ability to create more or less cortisol, serving as the body's primary regulator of cortisol production. The hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands work together to create the core of the body's stress response system.

How does my body respond to cortisol?

Glucocorticoid receptors can be found in all of your body's tissues. Thus, practically every organ system in your body can be impacted by cortisol, including −

  • Neurological system.

  • Defense mechanism.

  • Circulatory system.

  • Respiratory apparatus.

  • Reproductive systems (female and male).

  • Muscles and bones.

  • Vegetative system (skin, hair, nails, glands, and nerves).

Cortisol in further detail, has the following effects on your body −

Managing your body's stress response − Human body has the tendency to release cortisol in response to the production of "fight or flight" chemicals like adrenaline, which keeps you alert, while you are under stress. Additionally, cortisol drives your liver to release glucose (sugar) for rapid energy during stressful situations.

Controlling metabolism − Your body's utilisation of carbs, proteins, and lipids as fuel is controlled by cortisol.

Cortisol can boost your immune system by lowering inflammation in brief bursts.

Blood pressure control − The precise mechanism by which cortisol influences people's blood pressure is uncertain. However, both high and low cortisol levels can lead to high blood pressure and low blood pressure, respectively.

Blood sugar Irregularities and its maintenance − Under normal circumstances, cortisol counteracts the effects of the hormone insulin, which your pancreas secretes to regulate your blood sugar.

Regulating your sleep-wake cycle − When you go to bed at night, your cortisol levels are typically lower than they are in the morning, shortly before you wake up.

Is cortisol a hormone of stress?

A lot of people refer to this hormone as the "stress hormone." It has a wide range of important actions and functions in addition to regulating your body's stress response.

Additionally, it's crucial to keep in mind that, medically speaking, there are various types of stress that includes −

Acute stress occurs when you are suddenly and suddenly in danger. Examples of scenarios that result in acute stress include narrowly missing a car accident or being chased by a ferocious animal.

Chronic (long-term) stress is brought on by persistent circumstances that make you feel frustrated or anxious. Chronic stress can be brought on by, among other things, having a challenging or tedious job or a long-term sickness.

Traumatic stress occurs mostly when you go through a life-threatening incident that makes you feel scared and powerless. Traumatic stress can be brought on by, among other things, enduring a war, a sexual assault, or an extreme meteorological event like a tornado. These incidents may occasionally result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Any of these forms of stress cause your body to release cortisol.

What Do Cortisol Levels Mean?

The cortisol hormone naturally fluctuates in levels throughout the day.

Cortisol levels are at their lowest in the late evening, often around midnight. Then, levels start to rise. The body's cortisol levels peak in the morning before gradually declining the remainder of the day.

The pattern may modify or change if individuals work erratic shifts or sleep excessively during the day. Disorders of the adrenal glands, particularly diseases that impact cortisol production or utilization, can also throw off the regular cycle.

When the adrenal glands generate too much or too little cortisol, adrenal gland diseases may develop. Cortisol production is excessive in Cushing's syndrome, whereas it is insufficient in adrenal insufficiency (AI).

How can my cortisol levels be lowered?

You will require medical treatment to lessen your levels if you have the Cushing's syndrome (very high levels). Cortisol levels are at their lowest in the late evening, often around midnight. Then, levels start to rise. The body's cortisol levels peak in the morning before gradually declining the remainder of the day.

However, there are a number of routine actions you may take to attempt to reduce your cortisol levels and maintain them within healthy ranges, such as −

  • Rest well at night.

  • Regular physical activity

  • Learn to control your stress levels and negative thought habits.

  • Exercise your deep breathing.

  • Take pleasure and laugh.

  • Keep up good relationships.

How soon should I visit the doctor to discuss my cortisol levels?

Contact your healthcare practitioner if you have signs of Cushing's syndrome or adrenal insufficiency.

You can always enquire your health physician regarding stress and maintain your health if you're worried about your daily stress levels.


Cortisol is a crucial hormone that affects several bodily functions. While there are a number of things you can do to try to regulate your stress and cortisol levels, it is occasionally unavoidable to have excessively high or low cortisol levels.

It's crucial to get in touch with your doctor if you see any indications of elevated or decreased cortisol, such as weight gain or loss, or high or low blood pressure. They can do a few quick tests to determine if your pituitary or adrenal glands are the source of your symptoms.

Updated on: 03-Feb-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started