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5 High Cortisol Symptoms To Watch Out For

May 30, 2023

In the fast-paced world we live in, stress has become an all-too-familiar companion. The effects of chronic stress on our well-being are well-documented, and one key player in this story is cortisol.

Cortisol, aka the “stress hormone,” is produced by the adrenal glands in response to — you guessed it — stress. It’s also vital for a number of other bodily processes, including regulating blood pressure, modulating the immune system, and helping us maintain steady energy levels.  But here’s the thing: experiencing too high levels of cortisol for too long can wreak havoc on our health — and potentially contribute to serious physical and psychological issues down the road.

However, understanding the main high cortisol symptoms can help us take a proactive approach to managing our levels. Let’s take a look at the five telltale high cortisol symptoms to watch out for.

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1. Abdominal weight gain

If you’ve been diligently watching your diet but those extra pounds around your midsection just won’t budge, cortisol might be the culprit. Some studies have shown that high cortisol levels can increase our appetites, making us prone to overeating. Moreover, cortisol can trigger the redistribution of fat to the abdomen.

2. Rounded face

Ever caught a glimpse of your reflection and wondered why your face appears fuller or rounder than usual? Cortisol may be to blame. Excessive cortisol can cause fat redistribution to the face and water retention, giving it a rounder and puffier appearance. In extreme cases of high cortisol, this symptom is referred to as “Moon Facies.”

3. Muscle weakness

When cortisol levels are elevated for prolonged periods, it can lead to the breakdown of muscle protein. This might cause feelings of fatigue, weakness, and a lesser ability to perform tasks that require muscular strength or endurance. It’s like cortisol temporarily turns down the power in your muscles, making them feel less resilient and energetic.

4. Digestive issues

Elevated cortisol levels can throw our gut out of whack. Bloating, stomach cramps, and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can rear their ugly heads when cortisol is in excess. Stress-induced cortisol can also hinder the body’s ability to properly absorb nutrients, potentially causing serious deficiencies.

5. Slow wound healing

Sustained high cortisol levels can weaken the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infections, slow wound healing, and an overall compromised immune response. If you’re constantly falling ill or having difficulty recovering, cortisol might be to blame.

The bottom line

While cortisol is a vital hormone in our stress response, it becomes problematic when levels stay elevated for long periods of time. By recognizing subtle symptoms of high cortisol like weight gain, bloating, and irritability, we can take proactive steps towards managing stress more effectively in our day-to-day lives. Incorporating stress-reducing techniques like exercise, mindfulness practices, and eating a balanced diet can all help rebalance cortisol levels and promote overall health over the long run.

Read next: 9 Recipes That Seriously Reduce Your Stress Levels

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