High Cortisol Levels Vs Cushings Disease Vs Cushings Syndrome: Whats The Difference
When the pituitary or adrenal glands produce abnormally high levels of cortisol for a duration of time, a doctor may diagnose a serious, chronic disorder called Cushings disease.
Cushings disease is usually caused by tumors on the adrenal or pituitary glands and often causes symptoms like rapid weight gain, a swollen face, fatigue, and water retention/swelling around the abdomen and upper back. It impacts women between the ages of 25 to 40 most often, although people of any age and gender can develop this condition.
Diagnosable Cushings disease caused by an overactive adrenal gland is considered much rarer than just having generally high cortisol levels. In other words, you have a much greater chance of experiencing high cortisol at certain times due to increased stress in your life than you do of ever being diagnosed with Cushings disease. While people experience at least somewhat high levels of cortisol at one time or another during very stressful episodes , rates of Cushings disease diagnoses are still very low compared to other hormonal/endocrine conditions like thyroid disorders or diabetes, for example.
Low Cortisol Levels: Addisons Disease and Adrenal Fatigue
Symptoms Of High Cortisol
Chronically high cortisol puts tremendous pressure on your brain and heart. It can shrink and kill brain cells. It raises your blood pressure and blood glucose levels, increasing the risk of developing diabetes, having a heart attack or stroke.
Some high cortisol symptoms include:
- High blood pressure
- changes in mood, such as feeling irritable or low
- rapid weight gain in the face and abdomen
- type 2 diabetes
- impaired memory and brain function
Just 20 Minutes Of Contact With Nature Will Lower Stress Hormone Levels Reveals New Study
- Taking at least 20 minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect.
Taking at least twenty minutes out of your day to stroll or sit in a place that makes you feel in contact with nature will significantly lower your stress hormone levels. That’s the finding of a study that has established for the first time the most effective dose of an urban nature experience. Healthcare practitioners can use this discovery, published in Frontiers in Psychology, to prescribe ‘nature-pills’ in the knowledge that they have a real measurable effect.
“We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature experience will benefit us,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and lead author of this research. “Our study shows that for the greatest payoff, in terms of efficiently lowering levels of the stress hormone cortisol, you should spend 20 to 30 minutes sitting or walking in a place that provides you with a sense of nature.”
A free and natural stress-relieving remedy
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More Stress Reduction Techniques And Activities That Lower Cortisol
Here are a few more stress reduction techniques and relaxing activities that have been shown to work, at least in part, by reducing cortisol.
A mind-body stress relief technique thats gaining in popularity is the Emotional Freedom Technique, usually referred to as tapping.
It works on the same principles as acupuncture, but no needles are involved.
Acupressure points are simply tapped with the fingertips.
This is a simple technique that anyone can learn to do on their own.
It takes only ten minutes to do a session of tapping.
Amazingly, just a single tapping session can slash cortisol levels and decrease the severity of stress symptoms by 50%.
Numerous studies support what most of us already know that getting a massage is profoundly relaxing.
A review of the current research on the benefits of massage found that a massage significantly reduces cortisol and increases the feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine by 28% and 31%, respectively.
I like to call lavender the Swiss army knife of essential oils because it does so many things.
Its relaxing properties are legendary and we now know that one of the ways it works is by reducing cortisol.
Interestingly, inhaling any scent good or bad affects cortisol levels.
Unpleasant smells increase cortisol while smells you find pleasant decrease it.
These synthetic fragrances are made of chemicals that can literally make you sick.
Spending Time in Nature
Get The Right Amount Of Exercise
Its a well-known fact that exercising is a great way to maintain good overall health. That includes mental health as well, as physical activity is one of the best ways to lower cortisol levels. However, you have to make sure that you get the right kind and amount of exercise.
The reason for that is that exercise can also increase cortisol levels. However, it only does so in the short term, and it actually causes a significant drop in those levels at night. The rate at which exercise affects how much stress hormones your body produces depends on the type of exercise you engage in.
As with most things, moderation is key. A little bit of low-effort exercise can greatly decrease your cortisol levels at nighttime, without amplifying them during the day.
You dont even need an actual exercise routine to get the right amount of physical activity. Here are a few things you can do to keep active and fight cortisol production:
Walking Stair-climbing Swimming Dancing
These activities can fit into even the busiest of schedules. So, remember to do at least one every day to ensure that your cortisol levels are under control.
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How To Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
If your cortisol levels are high, lowering them will depend on the underlying cause. If its because of issues with your pituitary gland, adrenal glands, or medication youre taking youll need to work with your GP or health professional to lower them. If its because of chronic stress, there are lots of lifestyle changes you can make to lower your stress levels:
- enjoy yourself do something you love every day, like dancing or listening to music to improve your mood
- practice mindfulness for example, daily meditation or yoga
- connect with your friends, family, and even your pet a strong social support system is important for your mental health
- make sleep a priority do your best to get 7 hours of sleep every night
- break a sweat aim for at least 75 vigorous minutes of activity or 150 minutes moderate aerobic activity each week.
- eat a healthy diet aim for a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and oily fish
- try a supplement omega-3, vitamin B-complex, magnesium, L-theanine, lemon balm, valerian root, and ashwagandha are linked to lower cortisol levels
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Collection And Analysis Of Saliva Samples
Participants provided saliva samples just before and just after a NE on 4 days during the 8-week experimental period. They were encouraged to do this at the end of the first, third, fifth, and seventh week. The collection period ran from June 17 to August 21, 2014 with a median sampling date of July 22, 2014. Almost all NEs took place in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. Over this period, sunrise in Southeast Michigan occurred between 5:58 and 6:49 a.m. and sunset occurred between 8:47 and 9:14 p.m.3. Prior to each NE, samples were collected as early as 7:03 a.m. and as late as 11:28 p.m. some samples were taken outside the requested window of before nightfall.
Although saliva can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks, freezing or at least refrigeration will prevent mold and bacterial growth . Consequently, participants were asked to store samples in a home or office freezer until the 8-week testing period was over at which point their entire sample set was delivered to the lab in the carrier with an ice pack. Thereafter, samples were stored at -20°C. All protocols regarding thermal conditions of samples during transport and storage are in keeping with good practice for stability of cortisol and amylase .
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What Is Cortisol And How Does It Affect Stress
If youve never heard of cortisol, thats okay! Its a hormone that your body creates naturally.
Most people only associate cortisol with stress, but it actually plays quite a few roles.
Cortisol rises to wake you up and provide energy, and naturally lowers so that you can sleep and rest at night. So normally, cortisol doesnt really cause any problems.
When youre stressed for long periods of time, though, things can start to go wrong!
To maintain a stress response for a long period of time, your body keeps producing high amounts of cortisol. Those high cortisol levels cause lots of problems both physically and mentally, like heart disease, inflammation, anxiety, and weight gain.
Learning to lower cortisol levels is important so that you can avoid triggering adrenal fatigue syndrome.
Probiotics To Lower Cortisol
The human gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacterial cells which have major benefits for your health. They keep your gut barrier strong, combat inflammation, modulate the immune system, and even help regulate mental health. Thats why boosting the composition of your gut is important.
Probiotic bacteria may help reduce cortisol and stress. For example, bacteria such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and L. farciminis lower the release of cortisol caused by stress. One strain of Lactobacillus, known as L. Plantarum 299v, was shown to reduce exam stress in irritable bowel syndrome patients.
Probiotic foods that nourish gut bacteria, such as yoghurt drinks and fermented soy products that contain specific lactic acid bacteria strains, may help to reduce stress-induced elevated cortisol levels. Some of these bacteria also relieve symptoms of IBS and the stress associated with living with a chronic illness.
TIP Want to find out how diverse your gut microbiome is? Take the Atlas Microbiome Test.
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Sleep Hygiene Tips For Lower Cortisol Levels
- Go to bed at a regular time each night.
- Set an alarm to get you up at the same time each morning.
- Wash your bedding and night clothes regularly.
- Keep distractions, like noise, tv, and phones, to a minimum before bed.
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
- Dont exercise in the evening.
- Avoid bright lights and screens before bed.
FACTShift work from early adulthood is associated with increased, prolonged cortisol levels and a higher body mass index .
How To Measure Changes In Stress
No matter the source of the stress, the physiological response of the body is broadly the same. We produce a variety of stress hormones, chemical messengers that instruct the body to react. Adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are examples of stress hormones.
Cortisol is one of the main players in this stress response. Levels of this hormone increase in times of stress, but its also produced as a healthy and normal part of the bodys 24 hour cycle.
Cortisol is at its lowest overnight and starts to rise prior to awakening with a peak as we wake up in the morning. Its this peak of cortisol that wakes us up and provides us with the energy to cope with the day ahead. This is called the cortisol awakening response .
In someone who is not particularly stressed, CAR rises sharply in the morning and quickly tails off, dropping consistently during the day, falling to low levels towards bedtime and dipping still lower during the night.
If we suffer from chronic stress it can interfere with this healthy pattern. In someone who is chronically stressed, the peak of CAR is lower , levels of cortisol can remain higher during the day and do not fall to a healthy low level during the night.
In the long term this hormone imbalance can have a negative impact on your health.
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How To Reduce Cortisol Naturally
Dr. Lin stresses that a big-picture approach is key to maintaining healthy cortisol levels and feeling less stressed. These go-to strategies are good for the body and the mind.
Exercise benefits health from head to toe. So its no surprise that it helps with stress relief, too, possibly by reducing cortisol levels. Studies show, for instance, that exercise can bring down cortisol levels in the elderly and in people with major depressive disorder.
Almost nothing beats a good nights sleep. When youre not sleeping well, you tend to be more anxious, irritable and stressed, Dr. Lin says. Like exercise, sleep is important for health in all sorts of ways including managing stress and keeping cortisol in check.
Sleep deprivation may increase cortisol levels. The increased cortisol can impair memory, contribute to weight gain and even accelerate the aging process. In other words: Dont skimp on shut-eye.
Spending time in the great outdoors is a great way to lower cortisol and calm your brain. The practice of forest bathing essentially, hanging out in the woods and breathing the forest air can reduce cortisol levels and lower stress.
When it comes to de-stressing, cortisol is just one piece of the puzzle, Dr. Lin adds. No one food or pill can deliver you to blissful calm. But healthy choices can set your body up for low-stress success.
Cut Out Caffeine Or Consume Less
A 2005 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that caffeine increases cortisol secretion even in people at rest. Because caffeine can stimulate cortisol production and increase blood pressure, Krista King, MS, RDN, of Composed Nutrition, offers a solution to lower cortisol: “Try doing a caffeine reset. Gradually you have each day by swapping it out for a caffeine-free or lower caffeine alternative.”
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How To Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone
Chronic stress can lead to an elevated cortisol level, resulting in mental, emotional, and physical health issues. Learn how to reduce cortisol naturally.
If its been awhile since youve felt truly relaxed and happy, you may be suffering from a common modern malady an excess of cortisol.
Cortisol is a major stress hormone that contributes to mental health disorders and a wide range of physical illnesses.
In this article, we review the many proven ways to decrease cortisol naturally.
Normalisation Of Salivary Cortisol Levels And Self
Clow, A. and Fredhoi, C. 2006. Normalisation of salivary cortisol levels and self-report stress by a brief lunchtime visit to an art gallery by London City workers. Journal of Holistic Healthcare. 3 , pp. 29-32.
|Title||Normalisation of salivary cortisol levels and self-report stress by a brief lunchtime visit to an art gallery by London City workers|
|Clow, A. and Fredhoi, C.|
Physical fitness and prior physical activity are both associated with less cortisol secretion during psychosocial stressWood, C., Clow, A., Hucklebridge, F., Law, R. and Smyth, N. 2018. Physical fitness and prior physical activity are both associated with less cortisol secretion during psychosocial stress. Anxiety, Stress and Coping. 31 , pp. 135-145. https://doi.org/10.1080/10615806.2017.1390083
Does the diurnal cycle of cortisol explain the relationship between physical performance and cognitive function in older adults?Dijckmans, B., Tortosa-Martínez, J., Caus, N., González-Caballero, G., Martínez-Pelegrin, B., Manchado-Lopez, C., Cortell-Tormo, J.M., Chulvi-Medrano, I. and Clow, A. 2017. Does the diurnal cycle of cortisol explain the relationship between physical performance and cognitive function in older adults? European Review of Aging and Physical Activity. 14 . https://doi.org/10.1186/s11556-017-0175-5
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What Do High Cortisol Levels Mean
A high cortisol level can mean several things.
High cortisol may be referred to as Cushing syndrome. This condition results from your body making too much cortisol. .
Some common symptoms of Cushing syndrome include:
- fatty deposits in the midsection, face, or between the shoulders
- purple stretch marks
Several things can contribute to the development of high cortisol.
Signs Of High Cortisol
When cortisol levels stay too high, you might experience a range of unwanted symptoms. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
- Suppressed thyroid function
These negative effects also often come with their own consequences. For example, increased abdominal fat is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat include an increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, metabolic syndrome, higher levels of bad cholesterol , and lower levels of good cholesterol .
Chronic high cortisol levels can also lead to a condition known as Cushing syndrome. Causes can include adrenal tumors or the prolonged use of glucocorticoids. Symptoms of Cushing syndrome can also include high blood sugars with increased thirst and urination, osteoporosis, depression, and more frequent infections.
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Identify And Work To Address Sources Of Stress
If youre experiencing high levels of stress frequently, its time to do some self-reflection.
Knowing exactly whats causing stress consistently in your life helps you take strategic action to lower cortisol levels.
For example, if youre always stressed about being late to work, try implementing a mindful morning routine and leaving earlier each day. If specific projects at work are stressing you out, consider ways to break them up or delegate.
Remember: its always okay to ask for support if you need it! Your health should come first.