What is cortisol?
Cortisol is a stimulating, alerting hormone produced in the adrenal glands, and the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in the brain. It’s often called the “stress hormone” as it drives the body’s fight-or-flight response in the presence of a threat or stressor. However, cortisol plays other essential roles, including:
- Regulating blood pressure
- Balancing blood sugar
- Influencing inflammation
- Regulating energy levels
- Contributing to cardiac system function, and
- Helping to control the sleep-wake cycle
- Managing the use of key nutrients like fats, proteins and carbohydrates
Cortisol is produced in your adrenal glands, small organs at the top of your kidneys. The rate of cortisol production and release is carefully controlled by three different parts of the body communicating together. These are the pituitary gland, adrenal gland and the hypothalamus.
Cortisone is a synthetic version of cortisol, a steroid produced by the body’s adrenal glands. In large quantities, cortisol suppresses the immune system’s inflammatory and allergic responses. Cortisone medications mimic the action of cortisol but tend to be more powerful. One of the side effects of cortisone is disrupted sleep.
Doctors prescribe cortisone medications—often simply called steroids—to treat a wide variety of inflammatory such as arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, eczema, skin conditions, allergies and more.
What are the symptoms of high cortisol?
Cortisol is important for your health, but too much of it for too long can wreak havoc on your body and produce symptoms including:
- Chronic illnesses, e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
- Weight gain (both by stimulating appetite and by encouraging the body to store fat more aggressively) – especially in the face, upper back and belly
- Severe fatigue
- Irritability, difficulty concentrating, headaches
- Muscle weakness
- Compromises to the immune system, increased inflammation and greater vulnerability to illness, disease, and other effects of ageing
- Problems with digestion
- Mood disorders, including depression and anxiety
- Poor skin
- Sleep problems
Unmanaged high cortisol levels can have serious consequences on your health. Left untreated, high cortisol can increase your risk of serious health conditions, including:
- cardiovascular disease
- insulin resistance and diabetes
- anxiety and depression
- Cushing’s syndrome
What causes high cortisol?
Several things can contribute to the development of high cortisol:
- Stress. Stress triggers a combination of signals from both hormones and nerves. These signals cause your adrenal glands to release hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
- Medication side effects. Corticosteroid medications used to treat asthma, arthritis, certain cancers, and other conditions can also cause high cortisol levels when taken in high doses or for a long period of time. Oral contraceptives can also increase cortisol levels.
- Oestrogen. Oestrogen can increase cortisol levels in your blood. This can be caused by oestrogen therapy and pregnancy. A high circulating concentration of oestrogen is the most common cause of high cortisol levels in women.
- Pituitary gland issues. The pituitary gland is a tiny organ at the base of your brain that controls the secretion of various hormones. Issues with the pituitary gland can cause it to under- or over-produce hormones. One of these hormones triggers the adrenal glands to release cortisol.
- Adrenal gland tumours. Your adrenal glands are located above each kidney. Adrenal gland tumours can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) and range in size. Both types can secrete high levels of hormones, including cortisol.
Order a Stress (Cortisol) Home Test Kit
Order a Stress (Cortisol) Home Test Kit. This Stress (Cortisol) test kit checks your cortisol levels, the main hormone involved in stress which can be affected by physical stress, emotional stress, and illness. Measuring cortisol allows you to assess whether your body is under too much stress or if you have been over training.
Get the convenience of home testing with the reassurance of professional clinical analysis. Your results are delivered quickly and securely online.
This Stress (Cortisol) Test is advised if you:
- have a low sex drive & loss of libido
- feel tired all the time with low energy
- have Addison’s disease
- have been taking testosterone as part of hormone replacement therapy
- have Cushing’s syndrome
- have erectile dysfunction
- have excessive body hair (in women)
- have experienced rapid weight gain, particularly around the waist
What’s included in the test kit?
- Gentle fingerprick blood testing kit
- FREE post & packaging
- Results usually within 24 Hours
- Accredited laboratory testing by clinical professionals
- Personalised report with detailed guidance in your online, secure dashboard
- The same accuracy and quality as your GP or hospital
What is tested?
Should you see a doctor?
If your test indicates high levels of cortisol. it’s important to go see your doctor. Your doctor can help to narrow down the underlying cause and help you get your cortisol level back to a safe level.
Everyone has high cortisol from time to time. It’s part of your body’s natural response to threats of harm or danger. But having high cortisol over a longer period of time can have lasting effects on your health.