Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone produced by the body in the adrenal glands. It is commonly called a “stress hormone” and its secretion affects the whole body. It changes its metabolism so as to best prepare it for a crisis situation. At the same time, it inhibits systems that it does not need for quick response. It is worth controlling its level, because the excess can have a devastating effect on the whole organism.
The effect of cortisol on metabolism
The common name for cortisol is not without a reason. It is secreted in stressful situations and its task is to maximally mobilize the body to operate in difficult conditions. There is then a series of metabolic changes aimed at increasing the body’s capabilities. The priority is getting energy from what the body currently has. As a result, catabolic processes outweigh the anabolic to create additional energy. In practice, it means supplying energy to the brain, skeletal muscles and the heart, so that other organs can function less efficiently.
Decreased insulin levels increase the level of simple sugars in the blood. This form of energy is readily available and quickly converted to ATP. In catabolic processes, proteins are also broken down. Both contractile, skeletal muscle structure, as well as enzymes and immune proteins. They all decompose into amino acids. In this situation, the body is reluctant to use the energy reserves accumulated in adipose tissue, because it is biochemically a process that lasts much longer, and the energy in the body in which the cortisol level is raised is needed immediately.
That’s why the body works in two ways. Easily accessible energy deposits are used to stimulate the muscles and the brain, and at the same time the mechanisms stimulating the deposition of fat tissue are activated. In this way, the body prepares itself for a possible crisis. In addition, a chronic excess of cortisol in the blood leads to a characteristic movement of deposits of adipose tissue, which contributes to visceral obesity.
The effect of high cortisol levels on the body
While the short-term increase in cortisol does not affect the body, its long-term elevated concentration in the blood can lead to many negative consequences
- Fat reduction is reduced. Due to changes in metabolism along with poor eating habits, elevated cortisol can lead to visceral obesity.
- Elevated cortisol creates a feeling of constant irritability, irritation and can even lead to depression.
- Reproductive activity is inhibited, which may make pregnancy difficult.
- Excess cortisol leads to a number of digestive problems. It increases the secretion of hydrochloric acid in gastric juice, which increases the risk of exacerbation in the case of peptic ulcer.
- Excessive release of cortisol results in a decrease in testosterone and growth hormone levels, which makes it difficult to conduct effective training to build muscle mass
- The increase in its level has a negative effect on the quality and duration of sleep. The body’s ability to regenerate diminishes. The ability to remember is limited.
- The immune system is weakened and the risk of developing various infections increases. This is due to the breakdown of proteins that determine the immune response.
- Increased cardiovascular disease may increase due to an increased heartbeat.
Cortisol is a hormone necessary for proper functioning, especially in stressful situations. It gives us the possibility of fast and dynamic reaction, often saving us from oppression. However, it should be remembered that the constantly elevated level of this hormone will act destructively on our body. It is worth doing a test to control its level, especially when living in a constant run we do not have enough time to take care of enough physical activity (or we use it in excess), or we do not care about enough rest, which increases the level of this hormone.