Cortisol is a steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and is mostly responsible for:

  • mediating biological response to stress,

  • increasing blood sugar, and 

  • suppressing the immune system. 

  • contributes to fat metabolism, protein and carbohydrates. 


The Hypothalamus secretes :

  • Corticotropin Releasing Hormone (CRH) which:

  • stimulates Pituitary Gland to secrete:

    • Adrenocorticotropin Releasing Hormone (ACTH)

      • which stimulates adrenal glands to secrete:

        • Cortisol. 

The above Axis (process) is called the “HPA” or "Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis"

The production of cortisol begins with cholesterol which is made in the liver.  Cholesterol goes through a sequence of biochemical transformations that include:

  • pregnenolone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the major secretor hormone of the adrenal glands, which contributes to cortisol production by the adrenal glands.


The HPA (as discussed above), hormonal regulation often becomes disrupted in certain acute/chronic illnesses and presents as adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, or adrenal insufficiency.  Deviations in normal cortisol production and secretion have extensive adverse consequences on many organ systems because there are many cortisol receptors found on most internal organs and on many areas of the brain.  The result of altered cortisol secretion leads to an inability to biochemically handle stress, along with an inability to appropriately adjust reactions to stress.  Patients often report difficulty managing stress found in everyday life for the above reasons.


Nutritional, herbal and pharmacologic intervention of cortisol insufficiency should be one of the first pathways to address acute/chronic illnesses along with enhancing the ability to cope with the complex stressors causing or worsening acute/chronic illnesses.


Consult your nurse practitioner on ways that you can minimize stress in your life and maximize the potential for appropriate response to stress.  This will help you significantly to heal more quickly from many acute and chronic illnesses. 


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Cortisol the Stress Hormone