Vitamin supplements guide   Vitamins & health supplements guide

 
Cortisol quick review
Hormone description: a natural steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands in response to stress, usually referred to as hydrocortisone when used medicinally.
Biological functions: enables human body to adapt to external changes and stress, maintains consistent plasma glucose levels.

Health benefits: responsible for maintaining our ability to process sugars, maintain our blood pressure and react to stress and illness.
Side effects : depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, anorexia nervosa, heavy smoking, cancer, ulcers, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis.
 

Cortisol (hydrocortisone)


Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands in response to stress, including dieting, cognitive dietary restraint, situational stress, illness, and intense exercise. Cortisol is usually referred to as hydrocortisone when used medicinally. Cortisol is the principal glucocorticoid. Glucocorticoids are essential to life. They enable human body to adapt to external changes and stress. They also maintain fairly consistent plasma glucose levels even when we go for long periods without ingesting food. Cortisol is the major corticosteroid. It is responsible for about 95% of all glucocorticoid activity in the body. Cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal cortex in response to the stimulating substance adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Normally, cortisol levels rise and fall during the day, repeating on a 24-hour cycle (diurnal variation). Highest levels are at about 6 to 8 a.m. and lowest levels are at about midnight. Physical and emotional stress can increase serum cortisol, because a normal response to stress involves increased secretion of ACTH by the pituitary gland.
 

Functions and health benefits of cortisol


Cortisol is very important for keeping humans alive. Cortisol is responsible for maintaining our ability to process sugars, maintain our blood pressure and react to stress and illness. Cortisol helps the body respond to stress. During times of stress, cortisol levels
increase and accelerate the breakdown of proteins to provide the fuel to maintain body functions. It acts as a physiological antagonist to insulin by promoting breakdown of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins and so mobilizing energy reserves. In addition, immune and inflammatory cells have their responses to stress attenuated by cortisol. Cortisol is known to stimulate gluconeogenesis (creation of glucose) to ensure an adequate fuel supply. It also makes fatty acids available for metabolic use. It increases mobilization of free fatty acids, making them a more available energy source, and decreases glucose utilization, sparing it for the brain. Cortisol stimulate protein catabolism to release amino acids for use in repair, enzyme synthesis, and energy production. Cortisol also act as an anti-inflamatory agent. It depresses immune reactions, and increases the vasoconstriction caused by epinephrine. Cortisol reduces the reserves of protein in all body cells except cells of the liver and gastrointestinal tract.

As an oral or injectable drug, cortisol is also known as hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone relieves inflammation (swelling, heat, redness, and pain) and is used to treat certain forms of arthritis; skin, blood, kidney, eye, thyroid, and intestinal disorders (e.g., colitis); severe allergies; and asthma. Hydrocortisone is also used to treat certain types of cancer. It is used as an immunosuppressive drug, given by injection in the treatment of severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis and angioedema, in place of prednisolone in patients who need steroid treatment but cannot take oral medication, and peri-operatively in patients on long-term steroid treatment to prevent an Addisonian crisis. Hydrocortisone may be applied to the skin to treat mild to severe inflammation and itching that results from conditions such as diaper rash, insect bites, allergic reactions, eczema, and psoriasis. Hydrocortisone lessens the body's response to an allergen, reducing swelling, redness, itching, and other symptoms.

 

Hydrocortisone (cortisol) side effects


Although side effects from hydrocortisone are not common, they can occur. Increased appetite and weight gain are very real problems, especially for females. The drug may cause some mental changes and, particularly, may worsen an underlying depression. With hydrocortisone, the most annoying side effect for patients generally is the puffiness in the face and neck that can occur. Excessive levels of cortisol have been associated with depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, anorexia nervosa, heavy smoking, cancer, ulcers, diabetes, chronic pain, strokes, cardiovascular accidents, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, skin conditions (psoriasis, acne, eczema), stress, aging, Alzheimer's, AIDS and even Space Adaptation Syndrome. The rare side effects also include blood-containing blisters on skin, burning and itching of skin, increased skin sensitivity, lack of healing of skin condition, numbness in fingers,painful, red or itchy, pus-containing blisters in hair follicles, raised, dark red, wart-like spots on skin, especially when used on the face, skin infection; thinning of skin with easy bruising.