What Is Cortisol?

What is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands (which sit above each kidney). It is often referred to as the ‘stress hormone’, because it’s produced in response to stress (physical or emotional) or fear.


What does it do?

Without a healthy level of cortisol we wouldn’t be able to do much- as without it we wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning! Our levels rise in the morning and drop as the day goes on.

As mentioned above, it also plays a huge part in the body’s response to stress. When it is produced, it represses unnecessary functions such as reproduction, the digestive system, and the immune system so our body can completely focus on dealing with the stress.


What happens if I produce too much or too little Cortisol?

Being under constant stress can cause continually elevated levels of cortisol, which leads to many problems such as weight gain, high cholesterol, lower immune function, issues with memory, trouble sleeping, and even mental illness.


When your body produces too much cortisol for a long time, this may lead to Cushing’s Syndrome. The symptoms of this disease are usually:

  • Weight gain or more body fat, particularly on the face, chest, tummy, or back of neck/shoulders.
  • Skin that bruises easily.
  • Large purple stretch marks.
  • Weakness in upper arms/thighs.
  • Depression/mood swings.
  • Slow healing of cuts/bites/infections.


When your body isn’t producing enough cortisol, you may feel overly tired, experience weight loss, nausea/vomiting, muscle weakness, and pain in the abdomen.


If you think you may have issues with your cortisol levels, seek medical advice from your GP.  


How can I regulate my Cortisol levels?

As you can see above, the symptoms for too much or too little cortisol are very similar, so it’s important to try to maintain healthy levels.

In my last blog post, I listed 7 natural and simple things you can do to relieve stress (and lower your cortisol levels). Check it out here!