Cortisol (evening)

Optimal Result: 0.6 - 1.9 ng/mL.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressors, both daily (e.g. waking up, low blood sugar) and unusual (e.g. emotional upset, infections, injury, surgery). Cortisol levels are highest in the morning, and then drop steadily throughout the day to their lowest point during sleep.

Cortisol is essential in regulating and mobilizing the immune system against infections and reducing inflammation. It helps to mobilize glucose, the primary energy source for the brain, and maintain normal blood sugar levels. While normal levels of cortisol are essential for life and optimal functioning of other hormones, particularly thyroid hormone, chronically elevated levels can be detrimental to health. Stress and persistently elevated cortisol levels can contribute to premature aging and chronic illness.

What does it mean if your Cortisol (evening) result is too low?

Low cortisol, particularly if low throughout the day indicates adrenal exhaustion, caused by some form of stressor, e.g. emotional stress, sleep deprivation, poor diet, nutrient deficiencies (particularly low vitamins C and B5), physical or chemical insults (chemo, radiation) or synthetic glucocorticoid medications that suppress cortisol production. Chronic stress depletes cortisol and is associated with symptoms of fatigue, allergies (immune dysfunction), chemical sensitivity, cold body temperature, and sugar craving. Symptoms of thyroid deficiency can also stem from low cortisol. Adequate sleep, gentle exercise, meditation, proper diet (adequate protein), ‘bioidentical’ progesterone, adrenal extracts, herbal, and nutritional supplements are often helpful in correcting low cortisol (hypoadrenia).

What does it mean if your Cortisol (evening) result is too high?

High cortisol suggests some form of adrenal stress, supplementation with topical hydrocortisone or use of corticosteroid medication. Heightened cortisol production by the adrenal glands is a normal response to routine stress and essential for health; when stress is chronic and cortisol output remains high over a prolonged period (months/years), breakdown of normal tissues (muscle wasting, thinning of skin, bone loss) and immune suppression can result. Common symptoms of chronic high cortisol include sleep disturbances, fatigue, depression, weight gain in the waist, anxiety.

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