Signs of High Cortisol Levels: What Your Body is Telling You

High levels of cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone,” can manifest in various ways, from mood swings to digestive issues. Conditions like chronic stress, Cushing’s syndrome, and certain medications can elevate cortisol. This article will explore the signs to watch for, why your cortisol might be high, and what you can do about it.

What are The Signs of High Cortisol Levels?

Weight Gain, Particularly Around the Abdomen

If you notice that you’re putting on weight, especially around the belly, this could be a sign of elevated cortisol. High cortisol can interfere with your body’s metabolism, making it easier to gain weight.

Signs of High Cortisol Levels

Fatigue Despite Ample Rest

You might find yourself feeling unusually tired, even if you’ve had a good night’s sleep. Cortisol can disturb your sleep cycle, leaving you feeling drained.

Frequent Illness

Do you seem to catch colds more often than usual? Elevated cortisol can suppress your immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.

Irritability and Mood Swings

Feeling snappy or overly emotional? High cortisol levels can mess with your mood, causing irritability and emotional ups and downs.

Difficulty Concentrating

So, you find it hard to focus? Cortisol might be the culprit. It can affect cognitive functions like memory and attention, making tasks seem more challenging than usual.

Elevated Blood Pressure

Numerous studies have linked high cortisol to increased blood pressure. This can put you at risk for cardiovascular issues in the long run.

Digestive Issues

Experiencing upset stomach, bloating, or diarrhea? High cortisol affects your digestive system as well, resulting in these uncomfortable symptoms.

Irregular Menstrual Cycle for Women

Research suggests that elevated cortisol can disrupt the menstrual cycle, causing irregular periods or even missed cycles.

Why is Your Cortisol High?

Chronic Stress

The most common reason for elevated cortisol is chronic stress. Your body produces more cortisol to cope with stressful situations, but when the stress persists, it can lead to health problems.


Certain medications, like corticosteroids, can cause your cortisol levels to spike. Also, some studies claim oral contraceptives may cause an increase in cortisol levels.

Medical Conditions

Cushing’s syndrome is a condition where the adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. If you suspect this, a healthcare professional can perform tests for a diagnosis.

What Can You Do About It?

Lifestyle Changes

Adjusting your lifestyle can be effective in lowering cortisol. Exercise, proper sleep, and a balanced diet can go a long way. Learn how to reduce cortisol levels in your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Causes High Cortisol Levels?

Stress is the most common factor that elevates cortisol. However, other causes, such as certain medications and medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, can also contribute. Moreover, lack of sleep and poor diet may indirectly influence cortisol levels.

How is High Cortisol Diagnosed?

To diagnose high cortisol levels, healthcare providers typically use a combination of blood tests, saliva tests, and urine tests. Sometimes, imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs are used to check the adrenal and pituitary glands. It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Can High Cortisol Levels Be Reduced Naturally?

Yes, lifestyle changes like regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness and deep-breathing exercises can help lower cortisol levels. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants also plays a crucial role.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of High Cortisol?

Over time, consistently elevated cortisol levels can lead to a range of health issues. These include weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased risk of heart disease. Mental health can also be impacted, with symptoms like anxiety and depression becoming more prevalent.

When Should You See a Doctor?

If you’re experiencing persistent symptoms associated with high cortisol, such as unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue, and frequent illness, it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and improve your quality of life.

Further Reading: Are You Stressed Out? 7 Ways To Lower Your Cortisol Levels

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