Cortisol is a representative of the steroidal hormones group. The unrelenting fluctuation of its levels may lead to certain health problems or be an early sign of some precarious diseases.
Unsure about your cortisol levels? You can always have it tested.
In childhood and adolescence before reaching 16 years, cortisol in the blood should range from 83 to 580 nm/l. In adults, these indicators are from 138 to 635 nm/l. It’s unsteady, fluctuating slightly at different times of the day. Usually, in the morning, Cortisol is at its highest level and in the evening Cortisol concentration in the blood dwindles to a minimum. It’s not uncommon for impregnated women to see their normal Cortisol levels multiply by 2.5 to 3 times.
What Are Cortisol Deficiency Symptoms?
Cortisol deficiency can lead to pathological abnormalities in many organs and systems. Low cortisol levels in the blood are characterized by certain symptoms:
- An immoderate weight loss for no apparent reasons
- The lacking or complete deterioration of appetite
- An enduring, all-encompassing sense of fatigue
- The emergence of causeless nausea, causing the urge to vomit
- Spontaneous painful sensations in the stomach of wandering nature
- A sudden love and craving for heavily salted, spicy dishes
- The appearance of nasty skin lesions
- Muscle weakness and pain
- Alteration in the psycho-emotional state: irritability, depression
These low Cortisol symptoms may be the signs of the following health problems:
Primary adrenal insufficiency, hypocortisolism, or Addison’s disease: when damaged adrenal glands do not produce a sufficient amount of cortisol. Autoimmune diseases, tuberculosis, infections, adrenal cancer, or adrenal hemorrhage can also damage the adrenal glands.
Postprimary adrenal insufficiency: this is the disease of the pituitary gland which controls the production of hormones by the adrenal glands. In simpler terminology, the adrenal glands are healthy, but the pituitary gland does not stimulate them to release a sufficient amount of cortisol. Secondary adrenal insufficiency may occur when the patient abruptly stops taking corticosteroids.
Uncontrolled intake of hormonal agents and steroids can also negatively impact cortisol stability. In a greater degree, it’s in cases of professional bodybuilders who abuse illegal and legal steroids to increase muscle mass and muscle definition.
Tests for Signs of Cortisol Deficiency
Often, such clinical manifestations are accredited to entirely different diseases or perceived as a sign of fatigue in women, menopause, or pregnancy. Knowing how to measure levels is crucial for optimal health.
There are several types of assays of cortisol levels. Nowadays, the saliva test is considered best because it nurtures a more accurate assessment of the cortisol level in your cells exactly where the hormone performs its functions.
Remember the importance of hydration before passing saliva—dehydration can skew results. It’s better to make four analyses on Cortisol at different times of the day.
In most cases, low Cortisol levels are a sign of:
- Inadequate functioning (Hypothyreosis) of adrenal glands
- Addison’s disease
- Hypophyseal portal hypothyroidism
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Anorexia, bulimia, and otherwise very rigid diets and self-induced starvation
- Reception of barbiturates and other drugs
All these circumstances are very dangerous and alarming, posing a grave threat to the health and wellbeing of an individual. In the event of a cortisol deficiency, it’s proved high time to initiate treatment. Remember that only specialists should treat this condition as clinically warranted, and self-treatment may be hazardous to health.
How to Increase Low Cortisol Levels: Non-Drug Treatment
Only a certified doctor may assign treatment for low Cortisol levels in the blood. There are no differences between men and women in this case. They’ll typically recommend their patients start with non-narcotic methods:
- Avoid stressful situations. Try to control your moods—yoga and meditating may help nicely.
- Get regular full nights of rest. Cortisol develops in the right quantities at bedtime, sleeping well for at least six to eight hours is mandatory. It’s of utmost importance that your slumber is deep and calm, peaceful and comforting.
- Adhere to healthy nutritional habits. Before changing your diet, consult your doctor and undergo a test to confirm your cortisol levels. Minimizing flour and sugar intake is suggested, as these products reduce the cortisol levels. Focus on foods that have the opposite effect. This includes fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as whole grains. Grapefruits help get rid of the enzymes that destroy cortisol. Therefore, their regular consumption leads to an increase in this hormone.
All these methods are incredibly efficacious. They can eliminate all cortisol deficiency symptoms and increase levels to within normal ranges, but only when they’re not critically low.
As already mentioned, exceedingly low levels pose a risk for serious diseases and disorders. Only pharmaceutical treatment is possible here. Don’t start self-treating or get talked into taking meds without a prescription. Remember—you’re not a specialist and can hardly identify a medication as being useful or harmful to you.
Pharmaceutical Methods to Get Rid of Low Cortisol Symptoms
Pharmaceutical treatment cures insurmountable cortisol deficiencies. This usually involves taking corticosteroids. The main disadvantage of this method is that it comes with some undesirable side effects like weight gain and unstable mood swings.
Besides pills, specialists also prescribe cortisol injections if blood levels are critically and rapidly depleting. Unfortunately, stress can lead to unpleasant consequences and even fatalities. Therefore, immediate injections are necessary to avoid serious complications. The doctor advises their patients in thorough detail on how to make them and in what situations.
We’ve touched on steroids diminishing cortisol levels, but there are some that don’t influence the secretion of pituitary hormones—including cortisol. Among them is Cabergoline, but a correct dosage is very important here. This preparation yields minimal side effects, that’s why it’s so widely used by professional bodybuilders, weightlifters, and athletes. It’s usually recommended to start the intake of this preparation in the smallest of doses and increase it gradually.
We should mention such medicine as Oxandrolone, which strongly blocks cortisol secretion. One mustn’t take it having low cortisol symptoms, but with high cortisol levels, there is good efficacy.
At the moment there is no shortage of supplements and pharmaceutical products capable of providing overwhelming effects on cortisol. However, in most cases, their activity is not significant enough or to the extent that it could positively affect athletic performance, overall health, and body composition.
In speaking about unsafe steroids for cortisol levels, the androgenic effect of Dianabol is 100 times weaker than the androgenic actions of testosterone. The latter blocks the production of cortisol, so the former med won’t harm.
One more helper in the regulation of cortisol is Anadrol. It’s prescribed to malnourished and weakened, sick people for improving muscular function.
All other steroids on the flooded market, including Stanozolol steroids, shouldn’t be taken in the case of decreased cortisol levels. It may damage the secretion of the hormone leading to the necessity of long-term treatments.