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What Is Cortisol?

Definition: Cortisol

Cortisol is an important hormone in the body, secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in the following functions and more:

  • Proper glucose metabolism
  • Increase the breakdown of stored adipose tissue (fat) into glycerol and fatty acidsbe used as energy
  • Regulation of blood pressure
  • Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
  • Immune function
  • Inflammatory response

Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects in stressful situations:
* A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
* Heightened memory functions
* A burst of increased immunity
* Lower sensitivity to pain
* Helps maintain homeostasis in the body

While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:

* Impaired cognitive performance
* Suppressed thyroid function
* Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
* Decreased bone density
* Decrease in muscle tissue
* Higher blood pressure
* Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, as well as other health consequences

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