Just before dawn in Sun Valley, Idaho

Now that we have completed the 5 consecutive blog posts on hormones for women, lets revisit the hormone cortisol. The “stress hormone.” This is important for all. Women, men and children. Yes, children.

Children themselves can be stuck in the stress mode. Or, cortisol can be an issue in previous generations or during gestation (the time when the mother is pregnant with the child) and through epigenetics, adversely affecting a child’s health.

We discussed cortisol in a previous post but so much of chronic disease, and autoimmune disease specifically, is related to stress and it’s negative impact on the body. So much needs to be said about cortisol. And if you recall, cortisol is called “the forgotten hormone.”

Functions of cortisol

Balances blood sugar

Weight control

Immune system response

Bone turnover rate

Stress reaction


Protein synthesis. Think other hormones, neurotransmitters (like serotonin/dopamine/GABA), enzymes (needed to turn one thing into another thing) and cell walls. So much of our body is protein based.

Mood and thoughts

Influences testosterone/estrogen ratio

Influences DHEA/insulin ratio

Affects pituitary/thyroid/adrenal system

Participates with the hormone aldosterone in sodium reabsorption in the kidneys

Is an anti-inflammatory

What elevates cortisol?



High “progestin” intake. Remember the artificial, not like our progesterone, medicine named “progestin” that we talked about in a previous blog post? The one women should never take.

What are the consequences of elevated cortisol?

Decreased immune system

Increased osteoporosis risk



Sugar cravings

Shakiness between meals


Memory is not as sharp

Low energy

Night sweats

Binge eating

Increased blood pressure

Increased cholesterol

Increased triglycerides

Increased blood sugar

Increased insulin/insulin resistance

More frequent infections

Thin skin

Easy bruising

Muscle weakness

Weight gain around the middle

Sleep disturbances

Impaired liver conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the more active/usable thyroid hormone T3

Abnormal cortisol levels are associated with…


Chronic fatigue syndrome




Anorexia nervosa

Insulin resistance/diabetes

Generalized memory loss

Irritable bowel syndrome

Exacerbations of multiple sclerosis

Panic attacks

Premenstrual syndrome



Heart disease

Rheumatoid arthritis

Breast cancer

Alzheimer’s disease

Dawn in Island Park, Idaho

What are the consequences when cortisol levels crash? Adrenal burnout. Hypoadrenalism. Both cortisol and DHEA levels decline.


Low blood pressure

Sensitivity to light


Digestive problems

Emotional imbalances/lack of motivation

Low blood sugar

Decreased sexual interest

Decreased immunity

Lack of stamina

Emotional paralysis

Poor wound healing

Alcoholism/drug addiction


Unresponsive hypothyroidism (does not respond to thyroid medication treatment)

Feeling of being overwhelmed

Causes of Hypoadrenalism. Hypocortisolism.

Nutritional deficiencies

Long-term stress

Dysbiosis (too few good bacteria and too much bad bacteria in the gut)

Chronic inflammation

Chronic pain

Toxic exposure

Overly aggressive exercise

Low blood sugar

Poor sleep hygiene


Severe allergies

Remember that hormones are like a big symphony orchestra. Thus, if cortisol is increased, it decreases the making of progesterone. It also blocks progesterone receptors all over the body so we don’t get much bang for our progesterone effort.

When cortisol is elevated, thyroid hormone is more bound up in an unusable form and less active. Thus, we don’t get much bang for our thyroid effort either.

Decreased estradiol in a women is a stressor to the body which negatively impacts the stress hormone cortisol. This causes a decline in the function of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.

“Got a revolution. Got to revolution.”