The Truth of Cortisol Levels

Cortisol, the cyclic buzzword that continues to rear its ugly head in the health

conscious community, contributes to societies’ “belly fat”…or does it?  Maybe

some give cortisol too much attention.  Perhaps others do not give it enough.

Either way, one notion we can all nearly agree upon is that all hormones are

necessary and any hormone deficient or abundant and prolonged is sabatoging.

 

A quick google search or a lengthy research review will both result in the reader

scratching his or her head with conflicting information.  That is part of the

problem…gender variability.  Science always has gray areas of “it depends”.

What is known is we all need cortisol and the ideal scenario is for it to be high in

the am and trickle downwards throughout the day to support energy levels from

high to low.  Secondarily, it is easy to see how a person’s work and life schedule

would also interfere with an “ideal” optimal scenario of cortisol production.  The

signs and symptoms discussed below were extracted from the Power2Patient

portal that my physician uses.

 

Salt cravings, brown spots on the skin, easy bruising, hypothyroidism,

hypertension, responsibility avoidance, reduced cognition, sweaty palms and loss

of motivation are some of the signs and symptoms associated with both low and

high cortisol levels.  A deficiency in cortisol is associated with libido,

hypoglycemia, , global joint and muscle pain, brain “fog” with forgetfulness, lack

of muscle tone/pumps, shakiness, poor appetite for protein, generalized pain,

emotional hypersensitivity, sweet cravings, fatigue with stress, hollow cheeks,

dark circles under the eyes, periorbital edema, brownish palms/armpit folds,

heavy armpit sweating, wetclammy soles, hair loss, GERD, depression,

hypotensive dizziness when standing, and headache.

 

Excessive cortisol is associated with moodiness, low libido, autoimmune disease,

prolonged sleep,fear, brown spots on face and neck and shoulders, fatigue after

exercise, moon phase, abdominal bloating/pain, shaking, osteoporosis, renal

stones, poor healing/thin/frail skin, worsening of allergies, gum disease, fat red

pads on palms and fingertips, less productivity, poor recovery, weakness, weight

gain, elevated reverse T3, hyperglycemia, decreased empathy, and anger

outbursts.

 

Personally, when I think about how I feel at the end of a contest prep when

cortisol levels innately are predominately highest, both of the above lists

certainly apply.  It is impossible to completely control and truly know what the

body is doing at any given point of time constantly fluctuating to sustain as much

of a homeostatic environment as possible.

 

These lists demonstrate that both cortisol in deficiency and in excess can create

havoc for the body putting it in a state of hypo or hyperadrenalism respectively.

It is not always about lowering our hormones, it is about balance within normal

ranges.  Laboratory testing through saliva, blood, urine will detect and can be

compared to known standardized values.  Personally, I began having my blood

drawn when I turned 30 as I felt this was a “milestone” in my life to keep a check

on my internal health and also to only supplement with what I was truly

deficient in and correct my imbalances as best as possible.  The above can

certainly provide indicators to “tip you off” in the right direction and get you at

least considering the state of your cortisol levels and maintaining an internal

“dialogue”.  A thorough workup will allow you to put more objective “puzzle”

pieces together to better explain your individual “puzzle” and assist ultimately in

the steps needed to get everything “put together”.

 

Autumn Swansen, Physical Therapist, Doctor of PT

IFBB WPD Olympian and Arnold Champion

ISSA Certified Personal Trainer