Home Hormones What is Cortisol, What Does it Do and How Does the Treatment Work?

What is Cortisol, What Does it Do and How Does the Treatment Work?

Posted by admin in Hormones Category. Reviewed and Updated: 6 June, 2019

You’ve probably heard about cortisol hormone, which is also called “stress hormone”. Below we’ll give you the most important information about cortisol, its functions, and high cortisol treatment.

Cortisol Definition and Its Role


What is cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone (like HGH, testosterone, estrogen, LH, and others) contained in the blood. Scientists call it a stress hormone because we produce it when we’re experiencing panic attacks, nervousness, despair, and similar unpleasant sensations. People experiencing poverty, lack of sleep, or emotional trauma will also secrete higher levels. If you put the body to physical stress, that is, train too hard or work as a heaver, hormone cortisol also increases.

According to Wiki cortisol definition, cortisol is the glucocorticoid class of hormones. Its chemical formula is C21H30O5, and molar mass is 362.460 g/mol. It regulates the metabolism of carbs and is a participant of stress-caused reactions. Cortisol is highest in the morning and the lowest in the evening.

The main goal of cortisol is to conserve energy, even by destroying musculature. This allows it to saturate the blood with glucose as fast as possible. It isn’t important for the hormone where this energy will be directed — to fight with the cause of stress or for running away from it (the so-called fight-or-flight response), the main thing is to get more energy.

That’s why cortisol is bad for bodybuilding athletes — a hormone can burn beautiful and definite muscle tissue accumulated and developed through long months of exhausting exercises, carbohydrate restrictions, and diets.

How Does Cortisol Work in the Body?

Danger signals coming to the central nervous system trigger mobilization of the body’s reserve forces. The adrenal cortex starts to intensively produce cortisol to protect the body from danger (real or imaginary). What does cortisol do? It increases BP and blood sugar to give the body extra energy.

In addition, excessive levels may lead to muscle destruction (catabolism). Do you know what’s causing this? Here is a simplified list of processes:

  • A person experiences psychoemotional stress (e.g., a quarrel with a partner) or physical stress (e.g., overtraining).
  • The brain receives an impulse about a dangerous situation.
  • Cortisol increases significantly, its elevation depends on the degree of threat.
  • The body needs extra energy, it uses muscles as an additional source of animo acids.

The concoction of cortisol and energy sources helps the brain to cope with the shock. Healthcare professionals call this adrenaline shock. This is the simplified answer on how does cortisol work.

What Does Cortisol do After Training?

Hard training or competition is a stress for the body.

Exhaustive exercises and competitions may lead to overtraining syndrome and stress. They increase heart rate and human body temperature. They also affect the endocrine system and nerves, which lead to elevated cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. The harder the training, the longer the exciting effect will last. Any hard training increases cortisol, and this is a normal situation: it increases the positive adaptation of the body to weights. If the load is too heavy, and cortisol has no time to fall, it can cause insomnia. However, according to Hill EE, Zack E, Battaglini C et al. (Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 2008), low-intensity exercise (40%) does not result in significant cortisol elevation.

Anabolic steroids, such as Stanozolol, Anavar and Deca Durabolin, may level the activity of this hormone in the body, increasing muscle growth.

Cortisol Treatment — Indications and Possible Side Effects

Elevated levels of the hormone lead to:

  • constant stress;
  • feelings of agitation;
  • bad metabolism;
  • thyroid gland disorders which lead to abnormalities in other hormones’ levels;
  • insomnia that exhausts human biorhythm.

The lean mass percentage begins to decrease. Muscles become weaker. Even low-intensity exercises may lead to fatigue. A person can feel shortness of breath, debility, pain in the joints after climbing a long ladder.

Another symptom is an undisciplined intake of food. If left untreated, this can lead to indigestion and multiple diseases like gastritis, gastroduodenitis, pancreatitis, heartburn, and even ulcers.

Tremor, prolonged depression, apathy, yearning, moral exhaustion, and mental disorders are signs that you need to check cortisol content in the blood and get appropriate treatment.

With a chronic increase in cortisol, a disease that is called Cushing’s syndrome develops. This syndrome is caused by either excessive cortisol-like medication such as prednisone (or high doses of anastrozole) or a tumor that either produces or results in the production of excessive cortisol by the adrenal glands.

Raised cortisol requires decisive actions. High cortisol treatment is the most correct way out. Medics usually prescribe meds and radiotherapy (RT), the choice depends on the cause. However, there are other methods that can be used at home.

If you drink too much coffee (over 200mg of caffeine a day), periodically quench your thirst with carbonated water or Cola/Pepsi/Sprite and save yourself from drowsiness with energizers, you can have an excess of cortisol in the blood. Sufficient sleep decreases the risk of stress.

Keep to a positive attitude, calm down and enjoy life! If you cannot do this, then at least modify your diet, because your negative emotions provoke abnormal cortisol rates and subsequent muscle destruction. Proteins are building “bricks” for muscle tissue. Treatment of Cushing’s syndrome should be accompanied by the consumption of protein-rich products, like cottage cheese, tuna, lentils, brussels sprouts, shrimp, and Salmonidae fish.

Dietary supplements may also be effective and prevent excessive cortisol production. If you feel bad symptoms, start using vitamins (after consulting a doctor).

What is Cortisol Drug — Key Information

According to medical data, some medications decrease cortisol synthesis in the adrenal glands or decrease ACTH production in the pituitary gland. Medicaments to control the excess synthesis of cortisol by the adrenal gland include ketoconazole (Ketodan, Ketopine, Nizoral, Xolegel), mitotane (Lisodren, Opeprim) and metyrapone (Metopirone, Metopiron). The newest medicine for the disease is Signifor (pasireotide). The orphan product acts by reduction of ACTH synthesis by a pituitary tumor. This somatostatin analog is to be administered as an injection 2 times daily.

If you’re treated with corticosteroids, switching to other medication or dose titration may be necessary. Do not attempt to change the dose yourself. You can do this after a doctor’s consultation. Don’t use testosterone supplements or similar meds without this.