Your Body’s Response to Stress

Shot of a young woman suffering from stress while using a computer at her work desk

Remember being a child? You’d stub your toe or bring home a bad grade on your report card, and it would feel like the end of the world – for about five minutes. Then, you’d race out the door to giggle with friends or fly on the swings or shoot hoops at the playground.

Back then, there were stressful moments, but more often than not, they were short-lived. Now that you are a grownup, however, you may find it more difficult to let go of stress. Stress may be staying with you, day after day and week after week. After all, many people struggle to simply balance day-to-day responsibilities. Then, if something more severe happens, such as becoming a long-term care giver or losing a job, it becomes nearly impossible to remove stress from your life.

Your Body and Stress

The feelings you have during short-term stress are healthy, natural physical responses. When your body encounters a stressful situation, it releases a steroid hormone called cortisol. This hormone triggers the “fight or flight” response that puts your body on high alert so that you can more effectively cope with the perceived threat. When this happens, you may feel your heart racing, tummy tighten, breath quicken or even a sudden burst of energy.

You feel these things because cortisol is telling your primary systems, like your breathing and circulatory systems, to accelerate. At the same time, it tells your secondary systems, like your reproductive and immune systems, to slow down, allowing all of your energy to shift towards coping with the threat.

Once the threat has passed, your cortisol levels should slowly subside and your systems should return to normal functioning.

Too Much Stress; Too Much Cortisol

But, what happens when the stressful situation(s) never ends? What happens when your body has so much cortisol coursing through it that it remains on high alert for long periods of time?

When that happens, your systems never reset themselves. Your body may over-tax your primary systems or not restore your secondary systems to normal functioning, leading to issues like:

  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Decreased libido
  • Reduced energy
  • Reduced immunity
  • Muscle weakness

If you’re feeling any of these symptoms for unexplained reasons, it could be that you’ve been battling stress for too long and your cortisol levels aren’t dropping as they should. Cortisol saliva tests or cortisol blood tests can both be used to quickly evaluate your cortisol levels so that you can find out if they are at an unhealthy level.

Coping with Stress

If you find that your cortisol levels are too high, it’s important to take steps to reduce your stress and begin restoring your body to its natural functioning. Of course, talking with your doctor will provide options that fit your health status and lifestyle, but these may include:

  • Exercising
  • Learning to slow down (Think yoga, meditation, massage)
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Evaluating your priorities and taking steps to remove non-necessary commitments
  • Employing self-care practices
  • Embracing your creative side

Having some stress in your life is natural, but if you start to question the impact that stress is having on your overall health and well-being, it’s time to take back control. Walk in to your local Any Lab Test Now location to get the answers you need about your cortisol level. Once you know, you’ll have one less thing to stress over!

Stressed And The Holidays Aren’t Even Here Yet? Check Your Cortisol Level.

Woman having migraine headache. Stress and depression.From a baby’s cry to fast-paced work projects, people are faced with stresses on a regular basis. In response to these daily demands, the body releases a naturally occurring steroid hormone, called cortisol. Cortisol helps regulate muscles, cardiovascular function, digestion and other systems. This gives you the extra energy and mobility you need to fight through a stressful situation. As your cortisol levels increase, you may experience increased appetite, cravings for sugar and weight gain. Then, as the stressful situation comes to an end and you no longer need the extra energy, cortisol levels should return to normal.

Prolonged stress, however, means that cortisol is being produced regularly. When this happens, it can build up in the body without an outlet for release. This keeps your internal systems heightened and on high alert which can cause damage or fatigue. Risks resulting from chronic increased levels of cortisol are serious and include:

  • Lower immune function
  • Lower bone density
  • Learning and memory issues
  • Weight gain, particularly in the abdomen
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Depression

Is your cortisol level high?
Hormone testing, including the Saliva Cortisol Test or the Total Cortisol Test, can determine if your cortisol levels are too high or too low. Because cortisol levels naturally adjust throughout the day, the test may be required both early in the morning and again in the afternoon for the most accurate results.

What should I do about high cortisol levels?
Normal cortisol levels typically range from 6 to 23 micrograms per deciliter. Higher cortisol levels may be an indicator of Cushing disease or long-term, unmanaged stress. Low cortisol levels may be an indicator of Addison’s disease or hypopituitarism. In either case, your doctor will help you understand your test results and recommend any additional treatment options.

Stress management techniques may also prove effective in reducing higher than normal cortisol levels. From healthier eating and increased physical activity to meditation and deep breathing, stress management techniques provide your body with an outlet for releasing built-up cortisol and help bring your levels back into a healthier range.

If you regularly find yourself under stress, even if it is stress that stems from a positive experience, consider a  Saliva Cortisol Test or the Total Cortisol Test to live a healthier life and avoid long-term health issues.

Cortisol and Stress: How the Body Reacts

Cortisol has been termed as the “stress hormone” and it is usually increased under stressful responses when the body is experiencing a “fight or flight” response. Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the adrenal gland. The following functions are involved with normal levels of cortisol release; proper glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, immune function, and inflammatory response.

Normally, cortisol is higher in the morning and at its lowest at night. In our new modern day culture of sitting in the car during rush hour, lack of exercise and economic distress, the cortisol levels in our bodies are elevated for an extended period of time without having the chance to return to normal. This is known as chronic stress, which can contribute to blood sugar imbalance (hyperglycemia), decreased bone density, high blood pressure, metabolism imbalance and decreased immune system.

Having an increased cortisol level can be either physiologic or pathologic. Having a cortisol test done can measure your stress hormone levels throughout the day to see if you are having an abnormal spike of your cortisol at a certain time of the day, or a continuous increase of cortisol levels. Stress can be a contributor to a multitude of disease states. Cortisol level testing would be a great add on to any of our tests or panels offered through Any Lab Test Now.