Cortisol serves multiple functions in the body, including regulating blood sugar levels, metabolism, and blood pressure, and acting as an anti-inflammatory. However, it also affects the menstrual cycle and checks whether the body is ready to receive a fetus.
The level of this hormone can change for various reasons, not all of which have been found in pathological environments. According to medical sources. Let’s take a look at the result you can expect after a cortisol test in women.
What is cortisol? How Does It Affect the Menstrual Cycle?
Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone that is produced in the cortex of the adrenal glands and then released into the blood, thus being transported throughout the body. Glucocorticoid receptors are found in most of the tissues of the body, so this hormone is capable of affecting the nervous, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, musculoskeletal, and more systems.
What are normal cortisol levels in women?
Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, with higher levels in the morning and lower levels in the evening. The normal cortisol levels in women can vary, but in general, the following ranges are considered typical:
- Morning (around 8 a.m.): 6 to 23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL) or 166 to 635 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L).
- Evening (around 4 p.m.): 2 to 12 mcg/dL or 55 to 331 nmol/L.
It’s important to note that individual variations, as well as factors such as stress, illness, medications, and overall health, can influence cortisol levels.
Symptoms of high cortisol levels in women
- easily getting bruised
- Thinning of your skin increases acne
- Weight gain focused around the upper back and neck section
- Slow healing, mild swelling or fat gain, causing rounding of your face
- Easily irritated
- Increase in blood pressure
- Concentration difficulties
- Weakness in muscle strength
- High fatigue
Several factors may lead to low cortisol levels in women, major medical underlying causes may be a medical condition known as Addison’s disease. Therefore, the symptoms associated with low cortisol levels are similar to those of Addison’s disease listed below:
Hypoglycemia, loss of appetite, severe fatigue, weight loss, muscle pain, abdominal or joint pain, depression or irritability, salt craving, low sex drive, and hair loss.
What is cortisol testing?
This is a procedure used to detect and measure cortisol levels in saliva, blood, or urine to purposely affirm if it is normal.
Cortisol is a hormone that has an effect on virtually every organ and tissue in the body.
Helps the body to:
- Reduce inflammation
- Regulate blood sugar and metabolism (how the body uses food for energy)
- Control blood pressure
The production of cortisol in the body is from the adrenal glands located at the top of the kidney
A gland in the brain, called the pituitary, produces a hormone that tells your adrenal glands how much cortisol to produce. If your cortisol level is too high or low, it may mean that you have an adrenal gland disorder, a problem with the pituitary gland, or a tumor that produces cortisol.
High cortisol levels can also occur if you take a large amount of certain corticosteroid medications for a long period. Low levels can occur if you suddenly stop taking the medication. Abnormal cortisol levels without proper treatment could pose a danger.
Other types/names: free cortisol, urinary cortisol, blood cortisol, plasma cortisol, and so on.
For what do you use Cortisol testing
Cortisol testing is used to diagnose medical conditions that cause too much or too little cortisol. These diseases include disorders that affect the adrenal glands:
✔ Cushing syndrome: a disorder that occurs when the body has too much cortisol over a long period
✔ Addison disease: a condition in which the adrenal glands are damaged and do not produce enough cortisol
✔ Secondary adrenal insufficiency: a condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol because the pituitary gland is not working well.
Cortisol testing is also used to monitor the treatment of this condition.
Why do I need a cortisol test?
You may need a cortisol test if you have symptoms of a problem that affects cortisol levels:
- Symptoms of Cushing syndrome (too much cortisol) may include: Weight gain, thin legs and arms, round face
- Increase fat around the base of the neck or between the shoulders
- Easy bruises to appear
- Purple stripes on stomachs, breasts, hips, and underarms
- Muscular weakness
- Common symptoms of Addison’s disease and adrenal insufficiency (too little cortisol), include Lasting fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, and abdominal pain.
How Cortisol Affects Women’s Health And The Menstrual Cycle?
Cortisol, often referred to as the “stress hormone,” plays a crucial role in the body’s stress response and has various effects on women’s health, including its influence on the menstrual cycle. Here are ways in which cortisol can impact women’s health and the menstrual cycle:
1. Stress and Menstrual Irregularities
- High levels of chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels. Prolonged stress may contribute to menstrual irregularities, such as changes in cycle length, missed periods, or anovulation (lack of ovulation). This is because stress can disrupt the normal functioning of the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which regulates the menstrual cycle.
- Severe stress, such as that experienced during intense exercise, significant weight loss, or emotional distress, can lead to amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstrual periods. Elevated cortisol levels may contribute to the disruption of normal hormonal signals in the HPO axis, leading to a lack of ovulation and menstrual cycles.
3. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels may exacerbate symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common hormonal disorder in women. PCOS is characterized by irregular periods, anovulation, and the presence of ovarian cysts. Stress can worsen hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS.
4. Impact on Fertility
- Chronic stress and high cortisol levels may negatively affect fertility by disrupting the normal ovulatory process. Stress management strategies may be beneficial for women trying to conceive.
5. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
- Cortisol levels may fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, and stress can exacerbate premenstrual symptoms. Managing stress through relaxation techniques and lifestyle modifications may help alleviate the severity of PMS symptoms.
6. Bone Health
- Chronic stress and high cortisol levels may contribute to bone loss. Maintaining healthy cortisol levels is important for overall bone health, especially in postmenopausal women who are already at risk for osteoporosis.
7. Metabolism and Weight
- Cortisol influences metabolism, and chronic stress may contribute to weight gain, particularly around the abdominal area. Weight changes can, in turn, affect hormonal balance and the menstrual cycle.
It’s important to note that individual responses to stress and cortisol levels can vary. Lifestyle factors, overall health, and the ability to manage stress play crucial roles in minimizing the impact of cortisol on women’s health and the menstrual cycle.
To promote hormonal balance and menstrual health, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, incorporating stress-reduction techniques (such as meditation and exercise), and seeking support when needed are important steps. If women experience significant menstrual irregularities or have concerns about their hormonal health, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable for a thorough evaluation and personalized guidance.
What happens during a cortisol test?
The cortisol test often uses a blood sample taken in the laboratory. On the other hand, the test can be performed on collected samples of saliva or urine at home. Normally, cortisol levels vary throughout the day, so your healthcare professional may order more than one type of test to get more information about your cortisol levels
For a blood test, a healthcare professional takes a sample of blood from a vein in your arm with a small needle. After inserting the needle, he draws a small amount of blood which he places in a test tube or vial. You may feel mild discomfort when the needle is inserted or removed, body procedure usually takes less than 5 minutes.
Blood samples are usually taken twice a day, once in the morning when cortisol levels are highest, and again around 4:00 p.m., when levels are much lower.
For a urine cortisol test, your healthcare professional may ask you to collect all of your urine over 24 hours. This is called a 24-hour urine test. For this test, you will be provided with a container and store your urine sample. your healthcare professional will tell you what time to start.
High cortisol can respond to an illness or be caused by stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions from day to day. Its approach depends entirely on the underlying cause, but professional attention (whether from a doctor, psychologist, or both) is always required to address it. If you have seen yourself reflected in these lines, do not hesitate to begin your diagnostic process.