Over the past few weeks we've been writing about the stress response cycle, and have covered the role of Oxytocin and Adrenalin. Today, we're going to be writing about Cortisol, the last of the main hormones involved in the stress response cycle.
Generally speaking, Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in our body when we're waking up in the morning, when we are exercising, and when we are facing danger or a perceived threat. This means that Cortisol is also a part of the stress response cycle. In moments of danger or perceived threat, Cortisol is often released following an initial spark of Adrenalin. When it's released into the blood, it is responsible for increasing the metabolism of glucose, it controls blood pressure, and reduces inflammation.
Cortisol regulates our glucose levels to ensure we have enough energy and that the large muscles in our body have the nutrients they need to "keep going". At the same time, it tries to regulate our blood pressure by constricting our blood vessels to ensure the increased circulation of oxygenated blood. This means though that our hearts have to pump faster and harder to ensure this continues. Inflammation is also taken care of which is helpful in the short-term in case we get injured during the "fight/flight" response; however if we're experiencing perceived threat for prolonged periods of time, excess levels of Cortisol can actually have an adverse affect on our immune system. Ever gone on a holiday after a really stressful period at work and become sick? This is because Cortisol can deplete the immune system if we're stressed over prolonged periods of time. If we then start to relax while away from the perceived threat, then a reduction in Cortisol can leave us open to becoming sick (e.g., cold and flu).
As mentioned in our last post, managing our levels of stress is extremely important especially in the fast paced lives that we often live. If you need support with managing your levels of stress then give our team a call on (03) 9882-8874.
~ Until next time - Dr Celin Gelgec and the team at Melbourne Wellbeing Group.