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Cortisol: what is it and do you have an imbalance?

Stress can be triggered by all kinds of things, with everything from looming work deadlines, upcoming tests or exams or a difficult relationship to blame. You've probably heard about cortisol, too - and its role in stress.

A hormone that is secreted by the adrenal glands when the body gets stressed, cortisol is frequently called 'the stress hormone'.

The more stress we feel, the more cortisol is released. It's an important hormone, though, as it helps the body convert sugars into energy by way of glucose metabolism - and like many hormones, it can offer some plus points - take a look here for the lowdown.

A cortisol imbalance, meanwhile, isn't always a positive thing. It's usually a result of large production of the hormone, due to chronic stress - and, of course, chronic stress is never good. A higher than normal level of cortisol can actually be responsible for anything from poor sleep to high blood pressure, and even obesity.

On top of this, the most common derivative of high cortisone is called adrenal fatigue, whereby the body's adrenal glands cannot produce proper amounts of cortisol in an over stressed body.

So, what are the common symptoms of cortisol imbalance? They can include depression, anxiety, irritability, bone loss, muscle loss and declining clarity of thought. An imbalance of cortisol can also accelerate the symptoms of andropause and make a person look years older than they really are. Low cortisol levels can result in a condition known as primary adrenal insufficiency or Addison disease. It's rare but it can cause damage to the adrenal glands, with symptoms starting slowly.

High cortisol, on the other hand, can lead to thinning skin, slow wound healing, a flushed face, and acne.

As the Healthline website reports, everyone has high cortisol from time to time and it's part of your body’s natural response to threats of harm or danger.

If you're experiencing levels of stress which are unusual for you, though, perhaps scheduling an appointment with your doctor will help alleviate some of your concerns.

'...having high cortisol over a longer period of time can have lasting effects on your health.' says Healthline, 'If you have symptoms of high cortisol, it’s best to start with a blood test to see how high your cortisol level is. Based on your results, a doctor can help to narrow down the underlying cause and help you get your cortisol level back to a safe level.'

Is there anything else you can do for high levels of stress?

If the stress is caused by an impending exam, such as a driving test, consider using something like Bach's Rescue Remedy to help calm your nerves. It's used to comfort and reassure and it provides support at times of emotional demand. If your stress is more long-term and if it feels out of control, it really is time to visit your doctor. High levels of stress can only lead to you feeling worse in the long-run, so don't be tempted to put on a brave face. See someone and ask for help, if you feel it's required.

Disclaimer: If you are allergic to any of the ingredients listed in the products mentioned, do not consume them. Always check with your doctor before trying a new medication or regime, and if irritation or allergy occurs stop using the product or medication immediately.

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