Understanding Cortisol in Women
Cortisol is the hormone responsible for releasing adrenalin when you’re under stress. In small doses, that’s good. But as the saying goes, too much of a good thing can kill you. Such is the case with cortisol.
The Facts about Cortisol
- Too much cortisol over an extended period of time will age the body, including your skin, unlike anything else.
- Neurons in the brain are particularly vulnerable to the effects of cortisol. Research suggests that extended periods of exposure can increase risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.
- In times of stress, your body marshals its resources to cope with excess cortisol production. As a result, nutrients are leached from your body’s cells.
- Excess cortisol increases blood pressure and risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.
- Excess cortisol compromises your immune system. Viruses are the short-term result of a lowered immune system. Susceptibility to more chronic illnesses can be the long-term result.
- When too much cortisol is released, your body thinks there’s an emergency, and it responds to that emergency by storing every calorie it can. The result is weight gain.
- Pressure on the adrenal glands to continually produce cortisol can result in adrenal fatigue. When the adrenal glands become exhausted, they lose their ability to produce the small amounts of cortisol your body needs to function well. The result is persistent fatigue, and feeling like it’s a struggle to get through the day.
The Jekyll & Hyde Hormone
While your body needs some cortisol to function well, too much is toxic. It can destroy healthy cells, cause premature aging, and result in chronic illness. What causes excess cortisol production? Stress.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Cortisol is often referred to as the “fight or flight” hormone because it triggers the release of adrenalin. This important hormone evolved in the body hundreds of thousands of years ago as a mechanism to help humankind deal with threats of one sort or another.
The difficulty with modern-day life is that rather than being faced with the occasional big hairy animal that wants to eat us, we’re bombarded with numerous threats on a persistent and daily basis. Whether it’s at work or at home, too many of us feel threatened, overwhelmed, anxious, or like we don’t have control over what’s going on in our lives. The result is excess cortisol production. If this goes on for too long, it can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
During adrenal fatigue, your adrenal glands function, but not well enough to maintain optimal levels of cortisol. Most adrenal fatigue is the consequence of ongoing daily stress. However, there are other factors that can cause you to become even more susceptible to adrenal fatigue. These include a poor diet, inadequate sleep and rest, chronic illness, and hormone imbalance.
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