Low Cortisol Levels and Stress Adaptation
Posted by Tira Mills
Cortisol and Stress
Many of us have heard that having high cortisol levels can be damaging to our health, but what about having low cortisol levels? Studies show that low cortisol levels, or hypocorticolism, can be linked to long term exposure to stress.
During stress, the body adapts by increasing levels of cortisol to push the body to respond to danger (whether the danger is real or apparent). But if the stress response persists (like in the case of chronic stress), these elevated cortisol levels are unable to fall back within normal range & the body’s cortisol baseline level changes.
Chronic Stress and Hypocorticolism
After prolonged time of elevated cortisol levels, there is a fail-safe mechanism in the midbrain that tries to rebalance the hormone levels. For example, the amygdala and hippocampus can become less responsive, thus lowering levels of cortisol in the body. This negative feedback pattern continues and eventually the body can become less responsive to stress. This might sound good, but any long term imbalance can cause more issues down the road.
The body’s stress response is important & cortisol is designed to protect the body from danger and invasion. So when cortisol levels are chronically low, the body can become less responsive to inflammation and allergies.
Cortisol, Inflammation & Adaptability
Research has linked inflammation to higher levels of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis as well as symptoms like fatigue, stress intolerance, and low blood sugar. Those living with hypocorticolism are often tired, might be intolerant to exercise, overweight, crave sweet and salty flavours, and commonly experience anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
Overall, having chronically low cortisol levels reduces the ability to adapt to changes and stressors in life. Finding ways to better manage stress through meditation and yoga, acupuncture, balanced diet, and moderate exercise can help bring the stress response back into balance.
Contact us for a free 15-minute consultation call to find out more about how we can help you manage stress and balance hormones.
Reference: PMID: 15950390