By Dr. Michael Greer, MD Cortisol keeps us alive by tapping the liver for stored glucose (glycogen). It’s secreted by the adrenal glands to respond to any stress, large or small. It is famously the fuel for “fight
Cortisol keeps us alive by tapping the liver for stored glucose (glycogen). It’s secreted by the adrenal glands to respond to any stress, large or small.
It is famously the fuel for “fight or flight” response to the “bear in the woods.” But it’s fundamental to our daily wellbeing because it helps maintain our blood sugar levels.
Importantly, cortisol kicks in when our blood glucose levels fall to 78 mg/dL. That’s one reason it’s best to keep blood glucose levels between 83 and 100 for optimal metabolism and to prevent weight gain.
Low levels of cortisol are essential to life. We secrete them constantly to allow our bodies to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, in a natural rhythm than rises in the morning and falls at night. That’s a good thing.
However, secreting cortisol in excess or out of its proper daily rhythm can contribute to chronic immune dysfunction. The classic cause is a life of emergencies large and small, whether from children, jobs, work, or other life circumstances. Each challenge bumps up the cortisol load, making stress management fundamental to health.
But here’s the catch: Excess cortisol is toxic and accumulates, disturbing the balance of all hormones. To restore and sustain health, excess cortisol must be disposed through detoxification via channels like liver, kidney and sleep. That’s where we will go next.