We’ve already talked about cortisol and its impact on your wellbeing, especially in terms of your mental health. Known as the stress hormone, cortisol is produced by your adrenal glands, and it is one of those essential hormones that your body needs in order to function normally. Your cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, reaching the highest point in the morning.
Deviations from this typical pattern indicate potential adrenal dysfunction. Too much or too little of it can cause various health issues, and cortisol tends to spike when we’re under a lot of stress too much of the time, meaning that it has become a chronic issue.
Flattened/blunted cortisol curves
A flat/blunted cortisol curve means that your levels of cortisol don’t change very much during the day (the way they’re supposed to), no matter if they are low or high. This is often a consequence of too much stress exposure, elevated inflammation levels in the body, and it’s typically found in people struggling with difficult life situations, including cancer patients.
Testing your cortisol levels
While it’s relatively easy to notice when you’re burnt out or experiencing too much stress in your life, it’s not as simple to measure the impact on your cortisol production. To see the changes happening with your adrenal function, you can try a home cortisol test – some require a blood sample, others require saliva or urine (or a combination of different samples).
Ideally, you should get your doctor’s advice on which test to perform and if you need help to understand and analyze the results. Some may indicate the presence of an illness (such as Cushing’s syndrome or Addison’s disease), adrenal dysfunction, or a tumor.
Stress and your cardiovascular health
In addition to measuring your cortisol levels, it’s good to understand how those cortisol changes can affect your overall health, especially for the long haul and if left untreated. What research has shown is that even without a diagnosis of an illness or tumor, exposure to chronic stress and flattened cortisol curves can impact your cardiovascular health.
Stress and cortisol directly affect your heart health and might increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and similar health troubles. Recognizing stress as the key culprit early on might help with prevention through changing your habits and lifestyle.
Mental health and diabetes
The research of flattened cortisol curves and how they relate to our health has shown a possible connection between the risk of developing type 2 diabetes paired with depression. Some of the studies seem to indicate that the presence of diabetes can disrupt the production of cortisol, putting added pressure on your health and wellbeing.
The good news is, nutrition plays a vital role in preventing the onset of chronic inflammation, diabetes, as well as depression.
Kick stress to the curb
Although you might not be able to notice cortisol changes early on, especially on your own, taking action by implementing smarter stress management practices can be extremely helpful. One of the ways to do that is to keep learning about how your body functions and what you can do to protect your wellbeing.
We have an upcoming workshop on Adrenal Recovery with our nutritionist Chelsea, so you can learn more from a qualified professional on how to adjust your habits in order to help your body recuperate and heal from stress. We’ll cover everything from nutrition to self-care, which means you can take immediate action and start minimizing stress right away.
Issues with your cortisol levels often stem from long-term, chronic stress, inflammation, and poor lifestyle habits. The sooner you spot the issue, the easier it will be for your body to maximize recovery and prevent long-term damage. If you need any help with defining the actions you need to take in your life to handle stress better, you can always set up a consultation with our experts!