Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex in response to stress.. It is essential for life, facilitating survival of stressful events by:
- Raising blood glucose via glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis
- Breaking down muscle protein and fat (for additional energy sources)
- Suppressing inflammation
- Increasing responsiveness to the effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline
- Stimulating cardiac output
- Facilitating muscular work
- Together these effects aid survival of life-threatening events by allowing the body to ‘fight or
- flight’ in response to the stressor. However, modern stressors are chronic and insidious, such as relationship and work stress, ‘road rage’, financial pressures, shift-working, poor diet, poor sleeping habits etc. (110). ‘Fight or flight’ is not appropriate here.
Stress can elevate cortisol levels almost ten-fold (111) and these stress induced cortisol elevations are implicated in:
Reduced testosterone production – from multiple inhibitory effects at the hypothalamic, pituitary, and testicular levels
- Catabolism of muscle and other lean tissues
- Central accumulation of body fat
- Increased insulin resistance, hyperglycaemia, hyperinsulinaemia, dyslipidaemia and hypertension. That is, Metabolic Syndrome X, potentially leading to non-insulin dependant diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease
- Immune suppression
- Osteopaenia and osteoporosis
- Impaired cognition due to cortisol induced damage to the hippocampus, the area of the brain vital for learning and memory
- Depression and insomnia
- Despite these potentially adverse effects, some cortisol production is essential. Excessive or persistent stress without opportunity for recovery can fatigue the adrenals, leading to subsequent cortisol deficiency, variously termed ‘adrenal fatigue’, ‘adrenal burnout’, or ‘vital exhaustion’
This inability to mount an appropriate cortisol response to stressors is associated with fatigue, lethargy, irritability, and a decreased capacity for handling stress.
Reduced cortisol production is also found in various disease states that may have a stress related component, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases,
The SDA Function Kit can detect overt adrenal malfunctions such as Cushingoid hypercortisolism and Addisonian hypocortisolism. Moreover, its superb sensitivity, coupled to its ability to track diurnal cortisol rhythm, allows detection of subtle adrenal maladaptions such as those found in sub-clinical hyper- and hypo- cortisolism.