Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is our primary stress hormone and responsible for activating the body’s “fight or flight” response in stressful situations. When your body is under chronic stress, your cortisol levels remain high and you can be more susceptible to disease and weight gain. Below are 10 signs that your cortisol levels may be elevated:
1. You’re not sleeping well.
Cortisol levels are supposed to drop at nighttime, allowing your body to relax and recharge. But if your cortisol levels are too high, you might notice that, even if you’ve been tired all day, you get a second wind right around bedtime. Then you toss and turn all night – and feel tired again the next day.
2. Even when you sleep well, you’re still tired.
Over time, high levels of cortisol deplete the adrenal glands and predispose you to chronic fatigue. So if you feel like your get up and go got up and went, you’re probably stressed.
3. You’re gaining weight, especially around your abdomen, even when you eat well and exercise.
Cortisol tends to make you thick around the middle, even when you’re doing everything “right.”
4. You catch colds and other infections easily.
Cortisol deactivates your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms, which means that your immune system which is perfectly designed by nature to keep you healthy goes caput, leaving you vulnerable to every cootie you encounter.
5. You crave unhealthy foods.
Cortisol raises your blood sugar, putting you at risk of diabetes. High glucose levels then bump up your insulin levels, which then drop your blood sugar – and all of a sudden – yes, you guessed it – you’re struck with wild cravings for Twinkies.
6. You experience backaches and headaches.
When your cortisol levels are high over a long period of time, your adrenal glands start to get depleted. This raises prolactin levels, increasing the body’s sensitivity to pain, such as backaches and muscle aches. Excessive cortisol also hypersensitizes the brain to pain, such that even the slightest twinge can excite the nerves of the brain, causing headaches.
7. Your sex drive is in the crapper.
Consider cortisol the anti-Viagra. When stress hormones are high, libido-inducing hormones like testosterone drop and voila… nothing.
8. Your gut acts up.
Your gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to stress hormones like cortisol. You might experience nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or constipation as a result of too many stress hormones.
9. You feel anxious.
Cortisol and epinephrine can lead to jitters, nervous stomach, feelings of panic, even paranoia.
10. You feel blue.
High levels of cortisol suppress production of serotonin, and next thing you know, you’re awash in doom and gloom.