In today's society, we are the most developed, civilised and safe we have ever been. But still, we are suffering. Is it that we are addicted to suffering? And the answer lies in our biochemistry and our hormones.

Dr Disha Sridhar Gynaecologist Obstetrician ( MD, DNB OBGYN)

Dr Disha Sridhar

I am a Gynaecologist Obstetrician ( MD, DNB OBGYN) with an emphasis on INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE.

Does Cortisol Rule Your Body?

"Corti-holic!" This term is an informal expression not typically used in a medical context. But the term accurately conveys a very real idea! Cortisol, although very important and necessary in moderation, can be hazardous if blood cortisol levels become too high. It can almost be considered an addiction because the body always wants more cortisol, regardless of the amount that is present! The adrenal glands, situated above the kidneys, secrete the steroid hormone cortisol.

It simply does what it was meant to do: assist the body in reacting to stress, challenge, or threat. It is not fundamentally a good or evil hormone. In essence, cortisol regulates how the body produces and utilises energy in reaction to stressors or demands.




Several things influence our level of cortisol at any given time. Two key cortisol regulators are blood sugar levels and the time of day. 

However, stress is the most significant factor in preserving a normal cortisol balance.

Here are a few instances of stress:

  • Extended work hours
  • Bacterial and viral illnesses
  • Excessive or insufficient physical activity
  • Strained personal or family ties
  • Exposure to pollutants in the air and water

-can all cause mental and physical strain.

And there's a lot of "electronics" stress these days, including the stress of daily news and excessive attention to one's cell phone rather than the people seated across from them…

Stress isn't always bad.

You can't live without some stress, which can help you stay fit and ready for challenges. But only if the stress doesn't last for a long time. If the stress doesn't disappear, you might be a "corti-holic".

In reaction to stress, the adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol when the body, mind, or emotions are under extra strain.

Adrenaline speeds up the heart rate and breathing in reaction to a threat. At the same time, cortisol usually works to counteract the effects of stress or threat. In this case, it helps insulin work better, lowers blood sugar, keeps blood pressure and immune system function in check, and lowers the body's inflammatory responses.

It also gives you quick energy, makes you more mentally alert, and briefly makes your body less sensitive to pain. In this way, it helps adrenaline make a quick response to stress more likely. Then, it helps to reverse any negative effects and get the body back to its normal, calm state.

The adrenal glands usually stop releasing both adrenalin and cortisol after cortisol has done its job. Cortisol stays in the blood, but its level drops significantly until the next stressor occurs! This gives the adrenal glands, heart, lungs, and brain a chance to return to normal.

When Adrenal Fatigue Occurs 

However, suppose your life is filled with unresolved stress at nearly every turn. In that case, your adrenal glands will continue reacting without an opportunity to return to normal, raising your cortisol levels.

High blood sugar, high blood pressure, immune system suppression, protein catabolism (the body breaks down protein from its muscles for energy), sleeplessness, and even hypothyroidism are some detrimental impacts of a persistently elevated cortisol level.

Now that you're always under stress, your body craves more cortisol because your adrenal glands aren't given a break from your fight-or-flight response. This means that even though you already have too much cortisol in your blood, you keep craving more and more cortisol!

Maintaining Balance

Additionally, persistent stress may result in "adrenal exhaustion." In this disease, your adrenal glands are overworked to the point that they break down and lose their ability to secrete progesterone, DHEA, and pregnenolone in addition to cortisol.

This may be a dangerous illness that puts you right back where you were before—insufficient cortisol in the blood. Put otherwise, an excess of cortisol is a vicious cycle. As you can see, the key to cortisol and hormones in general is equilibrium.

It can be harmful to keep swinging between too little and too much cortisol.

A girl doing yoga for Adrenal Fatigue Occurs

How to Address Adrenal Fatigue?

Suppose you have received a diagnosis of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion. In that case, your doctor may occasionally recommend using cortisol supplements. This can serve as a beneficial interim solution to assist in resetting or revitalising your adrenal glands, prompting them to resume autonomous production of cortisol.

Nevertheless, prolonged cortisol administration can lead to full adrenal suppression, hence detrimentally impacting overall hormonal equilibrium, given the crucial role of the adrenals within the endocrine system. Once again, moderation is crucial. Excessive and prolonged use of anything beneficial might lead to addiction or negative consequences.

Additional supplements that can aid in restoring healthy adrenal function include zinc and adrenal protomorhogens (growth factor).They can serve as a beneficial source of adrenal support supplements for cases of adrenal fatigue that are mild to moderate. Similarly, bio-identical supplements of the hormones DHEA and Pregnenolone, which are naturally produced by the adrenals, can also aid in stimulating the adrenals to restore their normal functioning.

To promote optimal adrenal function over an extended period (and to initiate a sense of improved well-being!),I consistently advocate for a comprehensive approach beyond just supplements as a sustainable long-term plan. In my perspective, numerous factors in your life impact the health of your adrenal glands, with stress being merely one of these factors. In addition, I believe that one's diet (specifically, the She-To lifestyle, which I suggest exploring for more information) and various other aspects of their lifestyle can significantly impact your adrenal and overall well-being.

Remember to take the free oxytocin quiz; oxytocin plays a crucial role in balancing cortisol in your life. This hormone, associated with love and bonding, can be easily increased on your own!

As a final tip, set aside technology during dinner, foster positive thoughts about your life, and reconnect with an old friend or talk to your kids. Incorporating such healthy lifestyle changes, which balance challenges and stresses with moments of rest and relaxation, serves as the optimal remedy for stress and "corti-holism"!


Ans.  Yes, the concept suggests that there may be an addiction to suffering, and this connection is attributed to our biochemistry and hormones. The role of cortisol, a stress hormone, is highlighted in the context of this addiction.
Ans. Cortisol is crucial in helping the body react to stress, challenges, or threats. Elevated levels of cortisol can be likened to an addiction because the body tends to consistently crave more cortisol, even when there is already a sufficient amount present. This constant desire for cortisol resembles addictive behaviour.
Ans. Stress influences cortisol levels by prompting the adrenal glands to release cortisol in response to stressors. Common sources of stress in daily life include:
  • Extended work hours.
  • Illness.
  • Physical activity extremes.
  • Strained relationships.
  • Exposure to pollutants.
  • Excessive use of technology.
Ans. Persistently elevated cortisol levels can lead to detrimental effects such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, immune system suppression, protein breakdown, sleep disturbances, and even conditions like adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands are overworked due to continuous stress, resulting in an inability to return to normal cortisol levels.
Ans. Adrenal fatigue can be addressed through various approaches. Cortisol supplements may be recommended in certain cases, but their prolonged use can lead to adrenal suppression. Other supplements like zinc and adrenal glandular, sourced from animals, may aid in restoring adrenal function. Additionally, lifestyle changes, including a balanced diet and stress management, are essential for maintaining hormonal equilibrium and overall well-being. A comprehensive approach beyond supplements is emphasised for sustainable long-term results.

Originally published  Dec 20, 2023

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