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What Is Natural Cortisol?

Hydrocortisone cream can be bought over-the-counter to treat skin rashes, irritation, and itching.
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  • Written By: Amanda Piontek
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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Natural cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal glands of the body. Cortisol increases blood sugar levels and blood pressure, suppresses the immune system, and aids in metabolism. The synthetic form of natural cortisol is often referred to as hydrocortisone. Cortisol and hydrocortisone are steroid hormones that can be used to treat illnesses such as arthritis, skin disorders, and adrenal disorders. Cortisol blockers, used to suppress the effects of natural cortisol, are popularly sold over the counter and marketed to consumers as weight loss or body building supplements.

The adrenal glands are small, triangular shaped endocrine glands located at the top of each kidney. These glands are responsible for producing adrenaline, sex hormones, and the corticosteroids such as cortisol. Like all other biological functions, the adrenal glands can suffer from disorders that keep them from functioning properly. When the glands produce too much of the hormone cortisol, it creates a condition known as Cushing's disease. A lack of sufficient natural cortisol production causes Addison's disease.

The medical community recognizes cortisol and hydrocortisone as effective treatments for many common illnesses and disorders. Hydrocortisone cream is a popular over-the-counter topical ointment used for skin rashes, irritation, and itching. Cortisol supplementation in oral form is prescribed for many reasons, including asthma and arthritis treatment, severe allergy relief, and therapy for other disorders of the body involving the skin, kidneys, eyes, and more. Oral hydrocortisone is also used as a cancer treatment under certain circumstances.

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Cortisol blockers are popularly marketed and sold at natural food and vitamin stores. These supplements promote the reduction of natural cortisol. Increased cortisol levels in the body lead to a breakdown of protein or muscle mass. Weightlifters and bodybuilders find this to be undesirable and often utilize these cortisone reducers to suppress the natural effects of the stress hormone. In addition, cortisol interacts with the body's metabolism and can cause increased appetite in an attempt to restock fat reserves. Because of this biological stress response, natural cortisol blockers are also marketed as diet or weight loss pills.

Although there are many cortisol regulators and hydrocortisone creams and suppositories available over the counter, it is best to consult a physician regarding their usage. Overuse or unregulated use of hydrocortisone topicals can cause undesirable side effects such as thinning of the skin, increased facial hair and menstrual problems. Cortisol blockers and reducers are not always recommended by doctors, and it is best to consult a medical professional before beginning any type of weight loss, bodybuilding, or supplementation routine.

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Discuss this Article

shell4life
Post 3

@kylee07drg – I suppose the best thing to do would be reduce your levels of stress, though I know that isn't always easy. If you can control your environment, then you can take steps to reduce your cortisol levels.

I used to work at a very stressful job, but before I started it, I had been a really laid back person. About three months into my job, I started putting on weight and feeling the effects of stress.

I left that job years later for a much more relaxing one, and now, I'm on a natural low. It feels great not to be rushed and pressured. I think it's safe to say that my cortisol levels have dropped significantly.

lighth0se33
Post 2

I didn't know that the adrenal glands were located so close to the kidneys! I always thought that adrenaline came from the brain. When I get a rush of it, the feeling seems to be coming from my head and spreading outward.

Lately, it seems that I have too much adrenaline in my system. I am easily scared and I jump at every little noise. I must have some high cortisol levels!

kylee07drg
Post 1

Because cortisol causes weight gain, I believe that I have increased levels of it in my body. The past eight years have been particularly stressful, so it is not surprising that I have gained weight around the middle.

I've heard that cortisol makes you gain belly fat. Well, this is where all of my fat goes. I'm unhappy about it, but unless I use a cortisol blocker, I'm not sure what else I can do. I've tried exercising and dieting, but I seem to have hit my set point.

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