Cortisol hormone is also known as the “stress hormone”. Increased blood level of corticosteroid often causes acne, high blood pressure and weight gain. However, what many people do not know is that this hormone, cortisol, which is released from the adrenal glands when you are in stress, actually helps to lessen the side effects associated with increase stressed. Corticosteroid helps to adopt the internal organ to the changing cellular environment initiated by infection, autoimmune diseases and cancer.1 Cortisol also facilitates individual in staying awake as well as in staying motivated. However, high levels of Cortisol can contribute to long term problems and results in serious illnesses.
High Cortisol Levels can cause –
- Secondary High blood pressure2
- Sleep disorders
- Weight gain
- Joint pain
- Easy bruises
- Fertility problems or impotence
- Hormonal imbalances.
High cortisol level is caused by chronic stress, prolonged intake of corticosteroid medicines, excessive corticosteroid secretion caused by cortisol inducing pituitary tumor3 or cancer of adrenal gland. When the cortisol level is abnormally high, it is known as Cushing Syndrome. Cortisol level should be maintained to near normal level to prevent side effects.
How to Reduce High Cortisol Levels?
There are many ways through which you can reduce high levels of cortisol. Here, it must be mentioned that the first thing that must be made assured is that the cause of high cortisol level is diagnosed and treated at its root. If the reason behind the production of excessive amount of cortisol is not eliminated, the condition can’t be treated.
The treatment choices to reduce high cortisol levels include:
Reduce (Adjust) Use of Corticosteroids treatment to Bring Down the High Cortisol Levels:
Corticosteroids are prescribed to treat chronic inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases. Those, who are on a high corticosteroid dosage, must reduce the intake of the steroid medicines. Few patients are prescribed medications to increase the secretion of corticosteroid hormone by adrenal gland. Sometimes, the doctor may also prescribe synthetic corticosteroid medicines for problems such as arthritis or asthma. In such cases the dosage of such medication should be reduced. If the dosage is controlled or reduced, the signs and symptoms of Cushing syndrome or excessive Cortisol level may be controlled. However, the reduction must not be made on your own. You must consult with your doctor to reduce the dosage. Abrupt discontinuation may lower down the Cortisol level resulting in serious symptoms caused by deficiency of corticosteroid hormone. It is very important that the reduction is slow and gradual, so that the adrenal gland is habituated to produce normal levels of Cortisol hormone that is needed for the body.
Surgery to Reduce High Cortisol Level
If the cause of the high cortisol level is a tumor in the pituitary gland3 or the adrenal gland4, it is important that you should consider surgical removal of the tumor to reduce high cortisol levels. Even the presence of tumors in the lungs5 or pancreas6 may also cause the secretion of cortisol from these organs. Hence, removal of these tumors is a must. Most of such surgeries are endoscopic surgeries and less invasive that involves minimal incisions. Yet, it involves some amount of risk such as –
- Excessive bleeding
- Organ damage
- Soft tissue damage.
At times, the patient may have to undergo lifelong cortisol replacement therapy following removal of adrenal gland surgery. So, the risks must be discussed with the doctor before going for the surgery. Each case is different from the other and all necessary tests must be done before going for the surgery.
After the successful removal of the tumor, the doctor will prescribe cortisol replacement therapy. The remaining of normal adrenal gland after surgery starts producing normal levels of Cortisol in few days. Frequent blood examination is performed to check cortisol level. Corticosteroid therapy is discontinued when blood corticosteroid level become normal. However, it may take long term to observed normal corticosteroid level after surgery.
Radiation Therapy for High Cortisol Level Treatment
At times, surgery cannot remove the entire tumor mass from the pituitary or adrenal glands. In that case, radiation therapy is given to shrink or destruct the remaining of the tumor. Such radiation therapy is also known as gamma-knife radiation or stereotactic surgery. The gamma knife and stereotactic radiation involves passing of high energy radiation that is concentrated only to the tumor. Most of the surrounding tissues are not exposed to the radiation. Multiple radiation treatment is often required to achieve optimum results. The radiation oncologist in almost all cases carefully observes patient to evaluate any early symptoms or signs of expected or unexpected side effects. The appropriate treatment is immediately initiated and thus you must see your physician as scheduled for follow up appointments
Medicines to Reduce High Cortisol Levels
For those, who cannot undergo surgery or radiation therapy, medication is given to reduce high Cortisol level. Sometimes, medication is tried before one undergoes the surgery and radiation. The medications prescribed to reduce cortisone level are mitotane (Lysodren), ketoconazole (Nizoral) and metyrapone (Metopirone). However, these medicines have their side effects. Some are mild and some are more serious.
Other Ways to Reduce High Cortisol Level
If none of these works, sometimes the doctor may remove the entire adrenal gland on both side, through surgery. This will reduce the Cortisol level in the blood, but will require lifelong hormone replacement therapy. Along with these, there are some newer interventions to treat and manage high cortisol levels. These are simple home remedies and some natural ways to reduce high cortisol level.
High Cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances are often the result of hypo-glycaemia and prolonged inflammation. Certain diet helps to control inflammation and balance the hormone levels. Having high amounts of antioxidants, essential nutrients and fibers in the diet helps to resist infection, reduced inflammation and also balance production of hormones as needed by the body to maintain normal condition. Following foods often increases cortisol secretion and should be avoided by individuals suffering from high blood cortisone levels–
- Foods High in Trans fats
- Foods High in glycaemia
- Lacks good fats and proteins
- Foods Having caffeine and alcohol content.
On the other hand, you should choose foods that are rich in anti-oxidants, healthy fats and phytonutrients. Olive oil, coconut oil, fruits, nuts and lean proteins can help in stabilizing blood sugar levels and lower Cortisol levels. Also probiotic foods and drinks are useful in this condition. The idea is to stay full and avoid cravings. Here it must also be mentioned, high Cortisol level will compel you to eat more as you will crave more. So, eat sensibly as you might gain a lot of weight, when you are suffering from high Cortisol level or Cushing Syndrome.
Stress Management to Treat High Cortisol Level:
Stress is one of the main reasons behind the production of excessive cortisol. Hence, it is a must that you manage stress to keep the Cortisol production under control.
You can –
- Meditate to promote relaxation
- Listen to healing prayers for a few minutes every day to help reduce high cortisol levels
- Participate in mindfulness based stress reduction programs.
These will improve your heart and brain health, boost your immune system, as well as remove negative impacts on the body and thereby help reduce high cortisol levels.
Exercise as a Therapy for High Cortisol Level:
Research studies have shown that exercise can have a great impact on the hormone production of the body. Though exercising regularly can increase the Cortisol or other hormone productions from the adrenal gland, it can actually, gradually lower down or reduce the high Cortisol level.
Along with that, it will also manage your signs and symptoms associated with the high Cortisol level. Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes daily, will –
- Manage your stress level and reduce high cortisol levels
- Help you sleep better
- Aid in your metabolism and balancing your blood sugar level
- Balance your hormone secretion.
When you are thinking of exercising, it should include even the outdoor activities such as bare foot running or barefoot walking, deep breathing exercises etc. All these have a deep impact on the nervous system and it helps in managing and reducing stress levels. Thus, the Cortisol levels are also managed and balanced.
Proper Sleep to Reduce High Cortisol Levels:
While sleeplessness is a symptom of high cortisol level, not having enough sleep is also a root cause behind high cortisol level. It increases stress level and therefore, you must try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep to reduce high cortisol levels.
Although, these natural remedies will help you to prevent or manage high cortisol level, if you have too high levels of Cortisol, you must seek medical intervention before it is too late.
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