How the Stress Hormone Cortisol Affects You

The stress hormone cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. Once it gets into the bloodstream, it sends stress messages to all parts of the body and mind.

It is cortisol that triggers the "fight or flight" response to stress. This allows you to spring into action when you sense danger. However, this emergency-alert response places a considerable burden on your body and mind. Frequent exposure to high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones exhausts your body's physical reserves, reduces your ability to learn and remember things and makes you more likely to suffer from depression.

Cortisol isn't all bad. In fact, without any circulating through your body you would feel low on energy and unmotivated. Low levels of cortisol have the following positive effects:

* Providing fast energy to get you out of dangerous situations
* Temporarily improved memory
* A short period of heightened immune function
* Reduced pain sensitivity

It is the continued presence of high levels of cortisol that can cause you problems. Especially when you have no periods of relaxation in between. Continual high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can:

* Exhaust your adrenals which can cause fatigue

* Induce resistance to hormones such as thyroid, insulin, estrogen, etc.

* Upset your ability to think
* Cause hyperglycemia (this means high blood sugar)
* Reduce the amount of muscle tissue you have
* Cause high blood pressure
* Cause osteoporosis
* Reduce your immune function and ability to heal
* It is also associated with laying down more fat around your middle which is connected to many other health problems.

Therefore, you can see that keeping your cortisol levels low is very beneficial to your physical health. It will also help you to feel better emotionally. To reduce your cortisol levels you need to learn to keep your stress under control. You can do this by making the use of stress relief techniques a part of your everyday life.

Also taking Vitamin C has been shown to prevent an increase in your cortisol levels even when you are under a lot of stress. Studies with rats have shown that Vitamin C not only prevented the expected increase in cortisol levels, it also prevented the animals from showing the usual effects of physical and emotional stress, such as loss of body weight. The rats not given any vitamin C had three times as many stress hormones.

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