High cortisol symptoms

Updated April 17, 2017

Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body. While doctors can check levels of cortisol in the blood through laboratory tests, there are some ways that people can recognise that they have high levels of cortisol in their bodies.


Cortisol is created in the pituitary gland of the body and helps produce energy, regulate blood sugar and inflammation, and aid the immune system. As a result, when people have high levels of cortisol in the body, they may experience weight gain, especially in the abdomen, advanced ageing, stomach ulcers and a weakened immune system.

Causes of High Cortisol Levels

Cortisol levels in the body get higher in response to stress. The increase in cortisol is not limited to emotional stress, but can also result from stresses in a person's environment, physical stress such as that from an injury, or imaginary stress. If a person is constantly stressed out and his cortisol levels are constantly elevated, it can be very difficult to get rid of the abdominal fat that has developed as a result of it.

Conditions Associated With High Cortisol: Cushing's Syndrome

When cortisol levels elevate astoundingly, a condition called Cushing's Syndrome can result. Women who develop this syndrome may experience irregular periods and start growing facial hair, and men may have lower sex drives. People with Cushing's Syndrome also tend to experience "elevated blood pressure, diabetes, pink to purple stretch marks on the abdomen, fatigue, depression, moodiness, and fatty tissue on the face and upper back," according to


If you think you may have symptoms of high cortisol, ask your doctor to check your levels. Doctors generally test the saliva to determine whether or not cortisol levels are too low or too high, then conduct additional tests if levels are too high. The second set of testing is to find out why the cortisol levels are so high, which can be due to a hormonal imbalance, life's stresses, physical issues or lifestyle factors.

Decreasing High Cortisol Levels

Stress reduction is key to bringing cortisol levels back to normal. Therefore, people with high levels of cortisol should examine what in their lives is stressing them out, and do their best to reduce or eliminate those stressors. Getting more rest, eating a diet low in sugar, and taking nutritional supplements recommended by a doctor are also good ways to normalise cortisol levels, according to

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