Endocrinology

Cortisol, Serum

A healthy result should fall into the range 2.3 - 19.4 µg/dL, or 63.46 - 535.25 nmol/L.

Cortisol is a steroid produced and secreted by the adrenal glands. Levels follow a pattern called “diurnal variation,” peaking in the early morning then declining throughout the day and reaching the lowest level at night. Cortisol affects many different body systems, including: bone growth, blood pressure control, immune system function, metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and protein, and nervous system function. Additionally, our brain releases a chemical called adrenocorticotropic hormone in response to threatening stimuli. This triggers your adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenaline, giving you a burst of new energy and strength. Cortisol tests are done to check for increased or decreased cortisol production, which is an indication of how well the pituitary and adrenal glands are working.

Tests may also be ordered when women have irregular menstrual periods and increased facial hair or when children have delayed development and short stature.

The fight or flight response which triggers a release of cortisol is a natural and necessary tool for our survival. However, in our modern world threatening situations usually take the form of bills and deadlines not bears and tigers. Our bodies have a limiting response when a threat passes that brings cortisol levels back to baseline; however, when stressors are always present cortisol levels remain elevated. This long-term activation and subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all of our body’s processes. This puts us at risk for a number of serious health problems, including:

            -Anxiety

            -Depression

            -Digestive problems

            -Heart disease

            -Weight gain

            -Sleep problems 

Normal Ranges in µg/dL?:

AM Reference range 6.7-22.6 

PM Reference range 2.0-14.0 

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