Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands. It’s important for helping your body deal with stressful situations, as your brain triggers its release in response to many different kinds of stress.
However, when cortisol levels are too high for too long, this hormone can hurt you more than it helps. Over time, high levels may cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels and contribute to diabetes.
What Happens When Cortisol Is High?
Over the last 15 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderately high cortisol levels can cause problems. These include:
- Chronic complications: Including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
- Weight gain: Cortisol increases appetite and signals the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Tiredness: It interferes with daily cycles of other hormones, disrupting sleep patterns and causing fatigue.
- Impaired brain function: Cortisol interferes with memory, contributing to mental cloudiness or “brain fog”.
- Infections: It hampers the immune system, making you more prone to infections.
In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushing’s syndrome, a rare but serious disease. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your levels. Here are 11 lifestyle, diet and relaxation tips to lower cortisol levels.