The Link Between Cortisol, the Main Stress Hormone, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and Other Ailments

(Sara Gottfried, M.D. – Huffington Post) — Have you heard of the “cortisol switch”?

The Good

Here’s the scenario. When you’re stressed, you feel the positive vibe of cortisol — the rise of energy, the focus, the charge, the ascent. Cortisol is the main stress hormone made in your adrenal glands and it’s designed to get you out of danger. Cortisol has three main jobs: raise blood sugar (to feed muscles so you can run or fight), raise blood pressure, and modulate immune function.

The Bad (aka, the Switch)

But here’s the rub (as Shakespeare puts it)… “the cortisol switch.” Your body ceases to register the positive aspects of cortisol, and you switch to the negative aspects of cortisol. It takes about 18 minutes.

It’s like when you drink regular coffee and feel like a rockstar, for 18 minutes to be precise. Then you get hit the wall, get all jittery and anxious. Thoughts erode. Blood sugar rises, then precipitously drops. Acidity increases. You get heavy and dumb.

The Long-Term Badness: From Muffin Top to Insomnia

Over time, high cortisol, when sustained, is linked to high blood pressure, prediabetes and diabetes, increased belly fat, brain changes such as atrophy of the hippocampus (where memory is synthesized), depression, suicide, insomnia, and poor wound healing. In fact, fat cells in the belly have four times more cortisol receptors compared to fat cells elsewhere, so you just keep reinforcing the muffin top as your cortisol climbs and stays high. It’s not pretty.

The best end game? Prevent the cortisol switch.

Cortisol is like that. It’s an impulsive little hormone that makes you feel smart and on your game one moment, and then turns on you. And the positive side of cortisol, prior to the switch, can be addictive.


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