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Cortisol chemical structure

What is cortisol?

Cortisol, also known as hydrocortisone, is a steroid hormone that regulates many processes in our body. It is also called a stress hormone because it works with the brain to control your moods, motivation, and fear. It is secreted by the adrenal gland and has a vital role in how your body responds to stress.

Effects due to cortisol

How cortisol is produced

Secretion of cortisol depends on three inter-communicating regions of the body; the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland. The hypothalamus and pituitary sense if your blood contains the right level of cortisol, and if it’s too low it will adjust the amount of hormones it makes. The hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone, which causes the pituitary gland to secrete another hormone,  adrenocorticotropic hormone, into the bloodstream. Picking up this signal, the adrenal gland then secretes cortisol. As the cortisol levels rise in the blood, it blocks the hypothalamus and pituitary gland from secreting their hormones. From here, cortisol travels to different parts of the body through the bloodstream. Almost all body cells have receptors for cortisol, and it is involved in a wide range of functions depending on which sort of cell it’s acting upon.

What does Cortisol do?

Cortisol is involved in many body functions like:
  • Managing how your body uses fat, carbohydrates, or protein
  • Regulates blood pressure
  • Controls sleep/wake cycles
  • Keeps inflammation low
  • Increases your blood sugar
  • Boosts your energy so that you can better respond to stress.

High Cortisol levels in the blood 

Too much cortisol in the body may be caused by a tumor in the brain that secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone and can cause Cushing’s Syndrome. There is a close association between cortisol level irregularities and psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression. High cortisol levels in the blood for a prolonged time may cause a lack of sex drive in men and irregular periods in women.

High Cortisol Symptoms
  • Rapid weight gain especially on the face, abdomen, and chest
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle weakness
  • Diabetes

Low cortisol levels in the blood

Low cortisol levels may be a sign of pituitary or adrenal gland problems that may lead to Addison’s Disease. 

Low Cortisol Symptoms
  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Bruises or change of skin tone at places
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea or vomiting


Symptoms and treatment of adrenal fatigue

Hormone Testing Available

Affordable and accurate saliva test kit

A blood test can determine high or low cortisol levels in your blood, and your doctor will decide the treatment. Alternatively, you can collect saliva to look at your cortisol profile throughout the day or get a 4 point cortisol test.  At Coast to Coast Compounding, we can provide you with an at-home testing kit. Speak with one of our knowledgeable pharmacists or your healthcare provider for more information on using one of these testing kits. Click here for more information on how to get your hormones tested.


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