Cortisol Hormone

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps the body to respond to stress.

What is Cortisol Hormone?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that controls a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. This hormone also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress.

Cortisol hormone is named as the “stress hormone” as it helps the body in responding to stress by increasing the heart rate, elevating blood sugar levels, etc.

Cortisol hormone is the primary hormone released by the adrenal glands, which is responsible for producing energy from the stored nutrients, responds to stress by increasing the heart rate, elevating blood sugar levels, controls the sex drive, etc.

The adrenal cortex is the outermost layer of the adrenal gland which plays a primary role in the production of cortisol and other hormones. The adrenal cortex comprises three main layers of cortex called zones, which are classified based on their functions.

  1. Zona glomerulosa.
  2. Zona fasciculata.
  3. Zona reticularis.

Functions of Cortisol Hormone

  1. It helps in the release of milk for breastfeeding.
  2. It helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  3. It helps in maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure.
  4. It increases blood sugar and boosts energy to handle stressful conditions.
  5. It produces anti-inflammatory reactions to keep inflammation down.
  6. It plays a very important role by helping the body to respond to stress.
  7. It regulates a wide range of processes, including metabolism and the immune response.
  8. These hormones play a major role in the contractions of the myometrium and uterine and the relaxation of the pelvic ligaments.
  9. It suppresses the immune response and other physiological functions like digestive, reproductive and growth that are not crucial under stress
  10. It is a glucocorticosteroid, which regulates gluconeogenesis, lipolysis and proteolysis. It manages how the body uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Synthesis of Cortisol Hormone

The production or the synthesis of cortisol hormones are high in females during the process of parturition or childbirth. Cortisol takes more time to react to stress conditions. Release of cortisol hormones undergoes a series of biosynthetic steps:


The brain identifies the threat and signals hypothalamus to release corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).


Which in turn directs pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).


ACTH signals adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Also Read: Parturition

Hormonal Levels

  • High Hormonal Level

In the long term stress situations, the continued increased level of cortisol may lead to various health problems like diabetes, anxiety, suppressed immunity, lack of sex drive and irregular menstrual cycle, etc.

Coffee and other caffeine products are the main sources which cause a rise in the level of cortisol hormone.

One of the best and natural treatments to control the cortisol hormone is by staying hydrated, having adequate sleep and managing stress and anxiety.

Over secretion of cortisol leads to a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. Other symptoms of an increased level of cortisol include:

  1. Amenorrhoea.
  2. Mood swings.
  3. Osteoporosis.
  4. Muscle weakness.
  5. Low bone density.
  6. High blood pressure.
  7. A flushed and round face.
  8. Increased thirst and frequency of urination.
  9. Bruises and purple stretch marks on the skin.
  10. Rapid weight gain with a fluffy face, fat storage around the chest, abdomen and contrasted with slender arms and legs.
  • Low Hormonal Level

Low level of cortisol production for a prolonged period of time can lead to other hormonal imbalance, autoimmune disease and condition called Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH). Other symptoms of an increased level of cortisol include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Muscle loss
  3. Weight loss
  4. Mood swings
  5. Changes to the skin.

Also Read: Hormones and Hormonal Disorders

This article concludes an introduction to the cortisol hormone, their functions, disorders caused by their level of production and their symptoms.

To know more about the cortisol hormone, their types, functions, other related topics and important questions, keep visiting our website at BYJU’S Biology.

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