Cortisol

Cortisol

Sometimes dubbed – ‘the stress hormone”

It is normally secreted throughout the day in a diurnal pattern – that means levels vary according to the time of day. NORMALLY, they are highest in early afternoon and lowest at night – getting us ready for our waking hours when we are productive and falling before we sleep.  In people who work night shifts this pattern can be reversed. 

Made in the adrenal glands just above our kidneys, cortisol is part of a feedback loop involving the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland,  it has an effect on lot of different things – including blood sugar, metabolism, water balance and blood pressure.

If you can imagine what the ideal state would be just before we wake up, it would be to have a surge of hormones that make us feel less sleepy and start moving energy out of storage (fat cells, liver cells, muscles) and into the blood stream ready for us to use.

So, when we are in good sleep habits, have a nutrient dense diet that works and minimal stressors – insulin and cortisol have opposing effects.

Unfortunately long term psychological stressors can chronically increase our cortisol levels. Things like – work , relationships, financial worries, sleep deprivation. 

In these situations our blood glucose remains higher than it would normally be, constantly triggering higher insulin levels – hyperinsulinaemia.  

High cortisol levels encourage fat storage around the organs – visceral fat- the fat that causes metabolic issues.

This is the same reason why doctors worry about long term steroid use for illness.  The chronically elevated insulin levels can result in insulin resistance and then sometimes diabetes.