Cortisol Testing for Better Health & Longer Life

If you’re just not feeling your best – but you’re eating right, getting rest, and generally taking care of your health – you may be suffering from “flat” cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are the triangle-shaped organs at the top of the kidneys. Cortisol has an effect on nearly every system of the human body. This important hormone impacts certain areas of the brain to help regulate mood, motivation, fear, and anxiety. For this reason, cortisol is considered the body’s primary “stress hormone.”

Cortisol also helps regulate how the body uses energy, manages blood sugar levels, stores fat deposits, and builds muscle mass. The adrenal hormone cortisol also plays a role in regulating blood pressure.

As a result, when cortisol levels fluctuate or are out of balance, problems with overall physical, mental, and emotional health can occur. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t take the time to understand and evaluate a patient’s cortisol levels. So, they continue to suffer with poor health and disease.

In this article, experienced Austin, TX integrative medicine physician and hormone expert Dr. Ruthie explains the problem of “flat cortisol curves” and discusses what patients can do to keep cortisol levels in balance for optimal health.

Understanding Cortisol Curves

Cortisol is sometimes referred to as the body’s “alarm system” – because production increases when the person is under any kind of threat – including actual physical danger, and/or emotional or physical stress. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response that has evolved to help humans escape or conquer danger.

In healthy women and men, cortisol levels will naturally fluctuate throughout the day – peaking in the morning and reach their lowest point at night. This human adaptation “makes sense” since it prepares the body to take on the day – and then eventually slow down and rest at night in order to sleep and restore itself for the next day’s challenges. This bell-shaped daily cortisol increase followed by decline is called the “Cortisol Curve”.

But in some people, cortisol secretion fluctuates very little throughout the day. This absence of normal cortisol highs and lows is referred to as a “flat cortisol curve”. And, in clinical research, a flat cortisol curve has been shown to be directly associated with a shorter lifespan, several negative health indicators, and increased risk of many serious diseases.

Flat Cortisol Curve & Disease

A number of clinical research studies have shown the relationship between flat cortisol curves and high risk of serious disease and even death.

One research recent study found that having a flat cortisol curve statistically predicted a shorter life expectancy in patients who had metastatic breast cancer. A flattened cortisol curve has also been associated with an early death from lung cancer.

Flat cortisol curves have also been associated with a higher incidence of Type 2 Diabetes, as well as a higher incidence of depression co-existent with Type 2 Diabetes. And, recent studies have also tied PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) to flat cortisol levels.

Most startingly was a study conducted on healthy individuals who had their cortisol curves measured for two years and who then were followed for six to eight afterwards. In those individuals, flattened cortisol curves correlated with a higher death rate from all causes, including heart attack or cardiovascular disease.

Causes of Flat Cortisol Curves

There are actually many causes of flat cortisol levels. “Primary adrenal insufficiency” (Addison’s disease) is typically caused by autoimmune disorders, where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues, and organs. Viral and bacterial infections and tumors in the adrenal glands can also cause cortisol dysregulation.

Exposure to chronic stress is also believed to cause flat levels of cortisol. And, for many adults, the stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are believed to contribute to many cases of flat cortisol!

Testing and Treating Cortisol Issues

Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX can measure a patient’s cortisol level fluctuations over the course of a day to identify if their “cortisol curve” is flat. This can be a first step in identifying or predicting poor long term health outcomes – and implementing preventive treatment.

Due to the current economic and political climate, escalating healthcare costs, global climate concerns, and the stress and social isolation of the pandemic, it makes sense that many individuals are suffering from flat cortisol levels.

Seeking out a physician who understands the causes and effects of hormone imbalance – including cortisol insufficiency – is more important than ever during these challenging times. Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX is trained and experienced in identifying and treating the factors that affect cortisol secretion. She can diagnose cortisol insufficiency and prescribe appropriate treatment interventions to help restore cortisol balance.

When treated in a timely manner, individuals with cortisol deficiency can help get rid of troublesome symptoms and live long and active lives. But proper diagnosis and treatment of cortisol problems requires comprehensive care from hormone expert like Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX who understand adrenal function on a deep level.

Cortisol Testing & Treatment | Austin, TX

If you think you may be suffering from cortisol insufficiency, or another hormone imbalance, schedule an appointment with Dr. Ruthie Harper in Austin, TX today.

Through natural, integrative medicine she can help you take the steps to restore a normal cortisol curve – and live a long and healthy life.

Cortisol Treatment | Austin, TX: (512) 343-9355