Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress and anxiety. It is often referred to as the “stress hormone,” and it’s responsible for regulating a variety of bodily functions, including blood sugar levels. A lot of people are curious about whether or not cortisol increases blood sugar levels. So, does cortisol increase blood glucose?

The short answer is yes, but there is more to the story. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between cortisol and blood sugar levels in more depth. 

We will discuss what happens when cortisol levels increase and how this might impact blood sugar levels. 

We will also provide some tips on how to manage cortisol and keep blood sugar levels under control.

See Also   Foods That Lower Cortisol and How To Balance Cortisol Levels Naturally.

cortisol effects expressed in a word diagram illustrating the effects of excessive cortisol

What is the Cortisol Hormone?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to mental or physical stress or anxiety. It helps the body cope with stress and maintain balance.

Cortisol also helps the body mobilize energy, keep blood sugar levels steady, support immune function, and regulate blood pressure. It also plays a role in protein synthesis and fat storage.

However, too much cortisol can have negative consequences, including weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Cortisol levels normally fluctuate throughout the day and night; they rise during wakefulness and activity, fall during sleep, and stay low during rest.

How Does Cortisol Increase Blood Glucose?

Cortisol is a good hormone when in and out of your system, but when it’s constantly there, you’ll be at risk of developing various problems, including increased blood glucose.

Cortisol can increase blood glucose levels through various mechanisms, including:

Stimulating Gluconeogenesis

Gluconeogenesis is the process of creating glucose from non-carbohydrate sources such as amino acids, glycerol, and lactate. Gluconeogenesis occurs primarily in the liver and, to a lesser extent kidney. 

It can be triggered by a number of factors, such as fasting or exercise. The main goal of gluconeogenesis is to provide energy during periods of fasting or inadequate caloric intake.

Opposing the effect of insulin

Insulin is a hormone released from the pancreatic cells to help carry excess glucose from the blood into the cells to be used for energy. In other words, insulin helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Under normal circumstances, cortisol is essential for counterbalancing the action of insulin in the body. However, too much cortisol for a long period of time can inhibit insulin production and signaling, causing an increase in blood sugar.

This is because cortisol causes insulin resistance, which means the cells are less sensitive to insulin which over time may put you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is actually the main problem in type 2 diabetes and the reason why managing stress levels will automatically lower cortisol and improve blood sugars.

Too much sugar in the blood can also increase inflammation, putting you at risk of various inflammatory conditions, including gut, issues.

Other effects of Excess Cortisol on the Body

1. Weakened immune system

Cortisol is usually released when you’re under stress, and it helps activate your immune system. But too much cortisol can actually damage your immune system, leading to an increased risk of infections and other health problems.

This is because too much of it causes the immune system to resist it, suppressing the production of antibodies and lowering the action of white blood cells, which are key cells in fighting against invaders.

Too much cortisol also results in inflammation, which is the root cause of most chronic conditions.

2. Increased hunger and cravings

Hunger and cravings are common symptoms of cortisol overload. High levels of cortisol can interfere with the body’s natural appetite control mechanisms, leading to increased appetite and weight gain.

One study found that people who had high levels of cortisol were more likely to experience hunger and cravings. 

Researchers believe this may be due to the fact that cortisol increases your appetite and drives you to eat more calories. 

Also, since too much cortisol causes insulin resistance, the glucose in the blood cannot get into the cells, so the cells lack energy which the body will often perceive as hunger even if it’s not.

3. Decreased metabolism

Metabolism is the process by which your body turns food into energy. Energy is essential for everything you do. It’s used to power your muscles, help you think straight, and keep your heart beating.

Also, metabolism affects how quickly you burn calories and how easily you gain or lose weight.

Cortisol has been shown to lower metabolism by decreasing the activity of muscles and the breakdown of food into energy.

4. Depression

Depression is a mental disorder characterized by low mood, diminished interest in activities, decreased energy, and impaired concentration. It affects about 20% of the population at some point in their lives and can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, lifestyle choices, and traumatic events.

Another common cause of depression is high cortisol levels.

Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with the production of serotonin and other neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood. 

In addition, too much cortisol can increase your risk of developing chronic inflammation, which can also contribute to depression.

5. Hypertension

Hypertension or increased blood pressure occurs due to the fact that cortisol increases heart rate and cardiac output, causing the heart to work harder to pump blood.

Also, cortisol can cause the release of adrenaline which can lead to increased blood pressure through its narrowing effects on blood vessels.

Besides ng blood pressure, cortisol increases heart rate and reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the cells. Both of these changes can lead to an increased vatirisk of heart attack and stroke.

6. Sleep deprivation

Sleep is beneficial for many reasons. Chief among these reasons is that it helps to restore and rejuvenate the body. When you sleep, your brain and body are able to recuperate and heal themselves. This includes repairing physical damage done during the day, repairing broken cells, and clearing out waste products from the body.

However, when you’re stressed and your cortisol is high, it interferes with sleep, which affects its benefits on the body.

Cortisol is an alert-boosting hormone, and if elevated, especially later in the day or at bedtime, it can cause insomnia or lack of sleep. It can disrupt your natural sleep rhythm, making it difficult to sleep and stay asleep.

7. Tunnel vision

Elevated cortisol levels can cause people to experience tunnel vision or a decreased ability to see things beyond a certain point. This can lead to problems with concentration and may even lead to accidents.

8. Arthritis

Arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. The inflammation can be caused by different things, including poor diet and environmental factors, but high cortisol levels are one of the main contributors.

Inflammation is a natural response to injury or infection, but too much inflammation can lead to damage and disease.

9. Weight gain

Cortisol causes the body to store more calories as fat. It also decreases the amount of energy that the body uses during activity, which can lead to weight gain.

Additionally, cortisol increases appetite and cravings for calorie-dense foods, which also promotes weight loss.

10. Irritability

Irritability is one of the most common symptoms of high cortisol levels.

One way cortisol can lead to irritability is by affecting the brain’s serotonin and dopamine functions. 

Serotonin and dopamine are two types of neurotransmitters that play a role in mood and emotional stability. When these neurotransmitters are disrupted, people may become more irritable and emotionally out of proportion to the situation.

How to Lower Cortisol

There are a few ways to naturally lower cortisol levels, and most people find that it takes about a week of consistent effort before significant changes occur. Here are some tips:

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep is one of the most important factors in managing stress and cortisol levels. Getting enough sleep each night can help reduce the stress hormone in your body and improve your overall mood.

Most people need around seven to eight hours per night. If you’re struggling to get that much sleep, try establishing a regular bedtime routine, avoiding caffeine late in the day, making sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and avoiding electronics close to bedtime.

2. Eat a whole plant-based diet

The health benefits of a whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet are well documented. One of the most significant is that it can lower cortisol levels. 

In fact, it helps keep your blood sugar levels stable, regulates your mood, and aids in weight loss and muscle growth, contrary to what Cortisol does.

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that individuals following a WFPB diet had significantly lower cortisol levels than those who ate a diet high in animal products. 

The researchers conducted the study on 30 healthy men and women between the ages of 20 to 50 years old. Participants were asked to follow either a WFPB or an omnivorous diet for eight weeks while their cortisol levels were monitored daily.

Results showed that average cortisol levels decreased by 21% among participants following the WFPB diet, while they remained unchanged among participants following the omnivorous diet. These findings suggest that adopting a WFPB lifestyle can help manage stress, improve overall health, and support weight loss goals.

2. Monitor your stress levels

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or like your adrenal glands are constantly on high alert, it might be time to take a look at your stress levels. Here are ways to monitor your stress levels and help bring your cortisol down

3. Exercise regularly

The more active you are, the less stressed out you’ll feel. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which block the production of cortisol. 

Exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight and prevents obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

There are different types of exercises that can be enjoyable and beneficial, so find something that you’re both likely to do and enjoy. You can try incorporating some cardiovascular activity into your routine, like running or biking, as well as weightlifting. And don’t forget about flexibility exercises – these can help keep your joints healthy and reduce the risk of injuries in the future.

4. Indulge in hobbies

According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who engage in hobbies have lower levels of cortisol than those who don’t have any hobbies. The foundation says that this is because hobbies give people something to focus on other than work or stress. This allows them to relax and destress.

One popular hobby is gardening. Gardening can help improve moods by releasing serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin makes you feel happy, and dopamine makes you feel pleasure. 

Additionally, gardening can provide a physical activity that can release endorphins, which are hormones that make you feel good. All of these factors can lead to a decrease in cortisol levels.

You can also try sculpting or painting.

5. Avoid or limit alcohol intake

Alcohol can increase cortisol levels, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition, alcohol intake can also impair cognitive function and decision-making. Avoiding or limiting alcohol intake is therefore important for overall health and well-being.

6. Reduce caffeine intake

Caffeine can significantly impact cortisol levels by stimulating the central nervous system. It can also block the production of serotonin, which is known to help reduce anxiety and stress.

So if you’re looking to lower your cortisol levels, reducing caffeine intake may be a good way to go. 

There are several ways you can reduce your caffeine intake.

One way is to cut back on how much you drink each day. For example, if you drink two cups of coffee a day, try drinking one cup instead. Another way to reduce your caffeine intake is to switch to decaf.

Also, try to avoid consuming caffeine in the morning or afternoon. These are the times when your body produces the most cortisol. 

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Final Thoughts

Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress and can have many effects on the body, one of which is regulating blood glucose levels. 

While there are many factors that can affect blood sugar levels, cortisol seems to play an important role in how well glucose is managed. 

When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. However, when cortisol levels are low, this may lead to improved blood sugar control. 

By learning more about cortisol and its relationship to blood sugar, you can work to optimize your health by managing stress effectively and taking the necessary steps to avoid other causes of increased cortisol.

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