High Cortisol – Causes, Consequences and What to Do

Chronically high cortisol levels are extremely dangerous. This hormone affects the immune system (suppressing it), the cardiovascular system (leads to hypertension) and of course can alter mood.

Ultimately, the chronic cortisol surge that characterizes a person when under constant stress can lead to serious consequences such as sleep problems, weight gain, and complex metabolic disorders.

Read on to find out the causes and consequences of high cortisol. What to do when this occurs?

High Cortisol – What Does It Mean?

Cortisol is a hormone that helps mobilize energy in emergencies or stress. The increase in cortisol makes carbohydrates readily available to the brain, generating a surge of energy. It also influences adrenaline production, helping you focus on the source of danger.

The functions of cortisol in the body are diverse. It participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats , as well as in the synthesis of various enzymes. It also affects the water-salt balance of the body; in particular, elevated cortisol acts as a diuretic.

Cortisol is normally anti-inflammatory and supports the immune response, but chronic elevations can cause the immune system to become “resistant,” a build-up of stress hormones, and increased production of inflammatory cytokines that further compromise the immune response.

In addition, another of the roles of cortisol in the body is to act as an anti-inflammatory and is part of the normal immune response. However, if the increase becomes chronic this can cause the immune system to become “resistant”. Then there is the accumulation of stress hormones and a greater production of molecules that can compromise the immune response.

High cortisol is also associated with being overweight. As the hormone builds up it alters the levels of dopamine and the hormones related to hunger – ghrelin and leptin . As a result, a person may experience an increased craving for sweet sweet foods, even though there is enough energy in the body. Against the background of a sedentary lifestyle, this can lead to increased fat in the abdomen.

Causes of high cortisol

Cortisol doesn’t just go up when you’re under a specific stress situation. High levels of the hormone are observed with excessive physical exertion, fasting and also when large doses of caffeine are consumed.

In cases of chronic diseases, the deviation of cortisol can also be a factor, for example high cortisol is a useful parameter in oncology.

In cases of high cortisol, attacking the causes is the first step to solving the man. If you drink a lot of coffee, you should limit the amount per day. If you overdo your training, rest and monitor compliance with your step-per-day rate. Meditation is also an effective method of reducing cortisol.

Symptoms of elevated cortisol

One of the symptoms of high cortisol is rapid weight gain. Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, nervousness, depression, insomnia, digestive problems (bloating, constipation, diarrhea), sweating, and frequent urination. In men, there may be a decrease in testosterone and potency disorders.

Another characteristic of elevated cortisol levels is an increased heart rate at rest. This effect is due to the hormone that causes the arteries to narrow, which makes the heart work harder, which, again, has a negative impact on health.

Symptoms of high cortisol:

  • gain excess weight
  • nervousness and depression
  • trouble sleeping
  • increased pulse

Consequences of high cortisol

Cortisol can throw your blood glucose levels out of control . By reducing insulin secretion, it complicates the task of using up excess sugar. As a result, chronically high levels of the stress hormone can lead to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

We also note that in the context of losing weight, the increase in cortisol is counterproductive. Attempts to lose weight by fasting or following a strict diet only exacerbate the situation.

This is due to an imbalance in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which can be expressed as the appearance of uncontrolled hunger. This is why fasting with high cortisol is not recommended.

Consequences of high cortisol in the body:

  • destroy muscles
  • causes fluid loss
  • deregulates glucose metabolism
  • increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • loss of control at various levels
  • sleep disorders

Impact on obesity

One of the effects of increased cortisol levels is compulsive hunger. This can gradually induce the habit of “stress eating.” Ultimately, this leads to overeating and weight gain.

Since the normal work of metabolism with high cortisol is impaired, obesity progresses in a special stage. Fat begins to form with greater intensity in the internal cavity of the abdomen. Visceral fat stores increase and this can increase the risk of various chronic diseases.

Increased cortisol in the body What to do?

Chronic stress is the key factor that leads to increased cortisol in the body. Added to a sedentary lifestyle, eating and bad habits such as smoking will ensure levels of this hormone outside its healthy values.

To lower cortisol, you must first try to identify what are the causes that have led to this state. If you have trouble sleeping, taking melatonin tablets can help.

In case you feel irritability and bad mood without knowing why, you can try eating more foods with tryptophan to normalize the production of serotonin .

Also, making lifestyle changes like starting sports, meditating, and yoga can help lower your stress hormone levels.

Methods to lower cortisol:

  • cardio regular
  • normalize sleep – take melatonin to sleep
  • rejection of bad habits – smoking, alcohol
  • yoga and meditation
  • avoiding excess caffeine
  • change eating habits


Cortisol is one of the hormones responsible for reacting to dangerous situations. Cortisol levels increase in the face of an attack and serve as a way of alerting immune responses.

Having chronic high cortisol levels can cause serious consequences in the body. Some are increased fat, insulin resistance, sleep problems, depression, and dysregulation of the levels of other hormones such as testosterone and estrogens.

There are several methods to lower cortisol. Some of them are changing healthier habits like doing yoga and eating better. However, the best thing to do is to attack the initial causes that led to an increase in their values.

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