The hormone that wrecks the most damage on your brain and like a domino effect, on your body, is cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone. It’s made by your two adrenal glands, one each found on top of your kidneys. But cortisol isn’t a bad hormone. In fact, when cortisol is under control, it’s a life sustaining adrenal hormone, essential for your body’s homeostasis. It’s in charge of your body’s anti-inflammatory process, it manages your immune system, it regulates your blood pressure and it works with the hormone insulin to regulate your blood glucose levels. Frankly, it is essential for life.
But when it’s out of control, it’s a raging disaster.
When you read in articles that stress causes this or stress causes that, what people are actually referring to, for the most part, are the effects of cortisol running rampage through your body. Stress in a nutshell causes an increase in cortisol. But it’s chronic stress that we need to worry about. With chronic stress cortisol doesn’t get switched off. Unlike epinephrine (adrenaline) that surges quickly and then dissipates rapidly, cortisol is damaging for the very reason that it just doesn’t go away. It streams through your body all day long, making it just so dangerous.
Cortisol is the major player in this game of chronic stress. It’s responsible for weight gain, particularly increased abdominal fat, and it’s been implicated as the leading cause of osteoporosis, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. And if that weren’t enough, it’s also responsible for adrenal fatigue, where you are physically exhausted but wired and unable to rest. Adrenal burnout affects your moods, elicits poor sleep and makes it difficult to concentrate or remember things. That’s just the start of the cocktail of dysfunction and damage that cortisol is capable of wrecking on your system.
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