Cortisol and Stress
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland and secreted into the blood stream.
Every time that you are confronted with a stressful situation your body undergoes a fight or flight response. In this fight of flight response, stress hormones are released into the blood stream.
One of the important stress hormones that are released is cortisol, which is your fuel to do battle or to run away in the fight or flight response.
This stress hormone increases the blood sugar levels so that you can have energy for action. It does this by converting amino acids into glycogen within the liver.
At the same time, this hormone mobilizes free fatty acids from fat (adipose) tissue, breaking down protein and increasing arterial blood pressure.
The increased blood sugar and the mobilization of fatty acids is in preparation for the fight or flight response to the stressor.
While this stress hormone serves an important physiological response to stress, it is important that the relaxation response is activated to bring down the high levels of this hormone.
Prolonged high levels of this stress hormone can result in higher levels of blood pressure, increased sugar levels in the blood stream, and less bone density
This stress hormone also results in physiological changes such as a decrease in lymphocytes released from the thymus gland and lymph nodes.
Since the lymphocytes are part of the body’s defense mechanism against invading bacteria, a decline in the effectiveness of the immune response results in a greater chance of catching a cold or flu as you have less ability fighting off invading bacteria.
Stress relievers can activate the relaxation response which can maintain the healthy levels of this stress hormone. Stress relievers that can activate the relaxation response include meditation, breathing exercises, imagery, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation.
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