Cortisol is a hormone in the body that reacts to stress. Normally, cortisol levels increase during stressful times and decrease when stress is not present.
During depression, cortisol levels may remain high even during times of relaxation. The corresponding low levels of serotonin and dopamine have been shown to play a part in depression. Thus raising the level of one or both of these neurotransmitters may alleviate depression. Reducing the level of cortisol has been found to increase the levels of serotonin and dopamine.
Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance
- Suppressed thyroid function
- Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
- Decreased bone density
- Decrease in muscle tissue
- Higher blood pressure
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
- Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of metabolic syndrome, higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!