What is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a type of corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is secreted and produced by the body for a variety of reasons. Cortisol is said to help in blood sugar metabolism and blood pressure regulation. It also assists the body’s immune functions and has anti-inflammatory properties. Cortisol also plays an important role in the release of insulin to the blood to maintain normal glucose levels.
Cortisol levels in the blood are known to increase during stressful situations. That is why this hormone is commonly called as the “stress hormone”. As a natural response to stress, the adrenal glands produce this hormone to prepare the body for a “fight or flight” reaction. An increased level in cortisol will allow the body to have quick bursts of energy for possible survival needs. During this time, there is also a boost in brain function and immunity. Pain thresholds will also be elevated as a result of more cortisol circulating in the blood.
But after a particular stressful situation, our bodies need to return to its original or relaxed state. Some people may be able to do this effortlessly while others need to employ relaxation techniques to allow the body to return to its normal function. But since stress is more and more part of people’s daily lives, our body’s response is always to activate the secretion of cortisol. When cortisol levels are high and at prolonged periods, it could have negative effects to the body. These negative effects include increased blood sugar levels, impaired brain functions, decreased bone and muscle mass, elevated blood pressure and lower immunity to many illnesses. Many studies also found out that too much cortisol circulating in the bloodstream could lead to fat deposition in abdominal area. This is an extremely negative effect because such fat deposition could lead to dreaded diseases like strokes and heart attacks.
To maintain healthy levels of cortisol in the blood, one must employ relaxation techniques to combat stress and to allow the body to return to its normal function. Relaxation techniques may be in the form of exercises, breathing techniques, listening to one’s favorite music, or keeping diaries and notes of day to day activities.