Cortisol: The Stress Hormone


images-3Stress is considered to be public enemy #1 — we are living in times when normal levels of stress are way out of balance. It is having a devastating impact on society and the health and well-being of people everywhere.

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone is activated when we feel endangered or unsafe. The key is we want this hormone activated during times of true danger!

Like when we find ourselves suddenly in harms way and needing to take flight. Imagine stepping off the curb, and noticing there is a car headed in your direction. Cortisol is the hormone that helps us to quickly engage the large muscles in our body that allow us to move out of harms way. Now a car coming at you is a real threat! Once we have moved out of danger this hormone begins to level off having been discharged by movement of the large muscles that help you escape.

The big question is — what happens when the ordinary events of your day activate cortisol where no real danger exists and no physical action is needed? The answer is that the cortisol activated is not discharged. It stays in your blood stream, tissues and muscles wrecking havoc for days. While Cortisol is present, DHEA and other feel good hormones like Serotonin and Dopamine are muted.

You see, when our Cortisol levels go up, our feel good or anti-aging hormones like DHEA go down in direct proportion. Sustained high cortisol levels is not a good recipe for a happy life and is sure to shorten life if it persists. This contributes to High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, stroke and heart attack.

This hormone has a devastating effect on the wellness of women. The shift in the hormonal landscape of women due to sustained high levels of cortisol reflects how out of balance our lives have become. What is worst, women are becoming addicted to high stress levels finding it impossible to take the time to restore balance. It is said that many women, have made Cortisol their drug of choice.

Here is a list of several signs that Cortisol maybe out of control in your life:

~You experience backaches and headaches. When your cortisol levels are high over a long period of time, your adrenal glands start to get depleted. And makes you hyper-sensitve to pain.
~You’re not sleeping well. Cortisol levels are supposed to drop at nighttime, allowing your body to relax and recharge. But if your cortisol levels are too high, you might notice that, even if you’ve been tired all day, you get a second wind right around bedtime. Then you toss and turn all night—and feel tired again the next day.
~Even when you sleep well, you’re still tired. Over time, high levels of cortisol deplete the adrenal glands and predispose you to chronic fatigue. So if you feel like you just can’t get up and go anymore, you’re probably stressed.
~You’re gaining weight. Especially around your abdomen, even when you eat well and exercise. Cortisol tends to make you thick around the middle, even when you’re doing everything “right.”
~You catch colds and other infections easily. Cortisol deactivates your body’s natural self-repair mechanisms, which means that your immune system, perfectly designed by nature to keep you healthy, goes offline, leaving you vulnerable…
~You crave unhealthy foods. Cortisol raises your blood sugar, putting you at risk of diabetes.

~Your sex drive disappears. Cortisol could be the reason Viagra exist.  When stress hormones are high, libido-inducing hormones (yes, those feel good hormones I warned you about) like testosterone drop and voila… nothing.
~Your gut acts up. Your gastrointestinal system is very sensitive to stress hormones like cortisol. You might experience nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or constipation as a result of too many stress hormones.
~You feel anxious. Cortisol and epinephrine can lead to jitters, a nervous stomach, feelings of panic, even paranoia.
~You feel down. High levels of cortisol suppress production of serotonin, and next thing you know, you’re awash in doom and gloom.

Let me tell you this is the short list of symptoms. The long term ramifications are fatal. The good news is…getting your hormones back in balance comes with taking time for the things we all truly love in life. And easing our foot up off the gas pedal that keeps us driving down the road of our lives way too fast while missing out on the pleasures of life…

images-1Here are a few suggestions to get you started…

~Good Sleep. Eight hours is highly recommended. Restorative sleep can be a terrific milestone to reach. Lying on the earth or near an ocean shore is particularly restorative due to the anti-oxidants and negative ions that flood your body and mitigating the harmful effects of stress.
~Regular exercise like walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi — exercising outdoors in nature and with someone you love is an added bonus.
~Mindfulness Meditation – being present. Often taking our thoughts to the past or into the future can induce anxiety over events where no real threat is present.
~Massage Therapy – scientific studies document reduced cortisol levels and an increase in Serotonin and Dopamine following massage therapy.
~Social connectivity – in particular with other women. Oxytocin lowers stress and women naturally exchange oxytocin with one another when they bond together.
~Laughter, Levity – with laughter, a good cry and orgasm the feel good hormones rush in and flood our bloodstream.  What are we resisting?

~Music – the power of sound to shift our moods is well-established. The Institute of Heart Math is a great source for the effects of music and stress reduction.
STRESS OUTAt Alchemist oils, we were happy to discover the research results documenting lower cortisol levels from inhaling essentials oils.

We have always known that our customers swear by our stress reducing blend STRESS OUT — now we know why. Many of the oils present in this blend have been scientifically proven to reduce stress. In addition to the oils in our MZ Alchemists’ blend, the study shows beneficial results for Balsam Fir, Ylang Ylang, Lavender (we carry two varieties), Neroli and Majoram for reducing blood pressure, lowering cortisol levels and the reduction of cardiac strain. In most cases, just two drops of essential oil lasted for 24 hours after inhalation. These oils can be used in your bath, in a carrier oil for use in a massage, in a steamer or in a foot bath. You can use essential oils to re-train your nervous system from being so easily trigger and that classic amygdala hijack that causes you to go into survival mode.

The most important guideline we can offer is a happy heart. A happy, coherent heart is a sign of balance that increases our performance, wellness, intuition, creativity, relationships and joy. Together let us Take the Time to love and care for ourselves and extend that love to others…