7 Signs of High Cortisol

If you have read my previous blog post you will now know that cortisol isn’t all bad.

However, although it isn’t all bad and it is needed for optimal health and for weight loss, a chronic high level of cortisol is certainly dangerous for your health.

Here are 7 signs which indicate you have elevated levels of cortisol and you should take action to lower your cortisol.


  1. You crave unhealthy foods

If you regularly have cravings then you will have an imbalance in cortisol and insulin which is often started by an increase in cortisol due to stress.

Cortisol increases blood sugar levels (glucose). Insulin is then released to lower your blood sugar levels again. When your blood sugar drops you then crave sugary foods such as chocolate and cakes in order to increase your blood sugar again.

Cravings can also be caused by eating sugary foods too often as eating sugary foods causes an imbalance in cortisol and insulin just like stress does, however, if you cut sugary foods out of your diet and still have cravings then this indicates high levels of cortisol.

  1. You’re not sleeping well or you still feel tired after a good night’s sleep

Cortisol levels are supposed to increase in the morning to help you wake up and then lower at night to allow your body to relax and recharge. However, if your cortisol levels are high you will find the opposite occurs and instead your cortisol is low in the morning making it hard to wake up and you will struggle for energy throughout the day and then at night your cortisol is high making it hard to relax and get to sleep because you perk up in the evening. Unfortunately when you perk up in the evening due to high cortisol often this leads to a poor night’s sleep.

Having a poor night’s sleep indicates high cortisol but so does having a good night’s sleep but waking up tired. Long periods of time under stress leads to your adrenal glands becoming fatigued. When your adrenal glands are fatigued then your body will be in a constant state of fatigue. So if you’re continuously tired, even after a very good night’s sleep, then it’s very likely that you’re stressed and have high levels of cortisol.

  1. Your sex drive is almost non-existent

When cortisol is high then your sex drive is low. Cortisol suppresses the hormones associated with your sex drive in both men and women.

If you find your libido is lower than normal then this indicates high cortisol levels. If you want to regain your libido then focus on reducing your stress.

You often find women who cheat are married to men with high pressure and high stress jobs. Because the men are stressed they have little to no sex drive so this leads women to look elsewhere for sex. If you have a low sex drive then before you look to drugs, first look to reduce your stress levels. Lack of sex is a big downfall in a lot of relationships so it really is important for both men and women to control cortisol so it doesn’t affect their sex drive and in turn affect their relationship.

  1.  You get more aches and pains

A high level of cortisol makes you more sensitive to aches and pains. Often you will find aches and pains that never usually bother you start to flare up when you are under stress. Old injuries might begin to hurt and aches in your joints get worse when you are under stress and high levels of cortisol. If you feel more aches and pains than normal then it’s a sign of high cortisol levels and an indicator that you need to take action to lower your cortisol level.

  1.  You catch colds and other infections easily

Cortisol lowers your immune system, which means that if you have a high level of cortisol in your system then you’re more likely to be susceptible to catching every cold or illness that’s going around. Degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease are also linked to high cortisol levels. It is essential for the good of your health that you take action to prevent high cortisol levels.

  1.  You are worried all the time or feel depressed

Cortisol and adrenaline induce the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response which in turn can make you nervous, panicky and even paranoid. When the fight of flight or response occurs your body is designed to do intense exercise such as ‘fighting’ or ‘flighting’. When no exercise occurs it leaves high amounts of cortisol and adrenaline which leaves you feeling anxious and nervous. If you find yourself feeling anxious and nervous all the time then this indicates high levels or cortisol.

If you are feeling low and depressed it is also a sign of high cortisol. High levels of cortisol suppress the brain chemical serotonin which is your brain chemical that enables you to feel good. If you are constantly feeling low and depressed then you need to look at reducing your stress levels.

  1. You still gain weight whilst dieting

If you still gain weight, especially around the stomach when eating healthy and exercising then it is a sign of stress and high cortisol levels.

You can still gain weight with a calorie deficit if your hormones are out of balance which is why it is really important to balance your hormones rather than just focus on creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise.

High cortisol has been linked to storing fat around the abdomen so if you have fat around the stomach, start gaining weight around the stomach or find yourself losing weight everywhere but your stomach then it’s a sign you need to take action to lower your cortisol.


So how do you fair with the 7 signs of high cortisol? Do these signs indicate you have high levels?

It is important that you only take action to lower your cortisol levels if you actually have high cortisol. If you try and lower cortisol and your cortisol levels are ok then you can cause problems by doing so.

This is why these 7 signs of high cortisol are important because if you don’t have any signs of high cortisol then you don’t need to take action to lower cortisol. You can put plans in place to prevent high levels of cortisol but you don’t need to actively lower cortisol unless it is high.

For best health you need a balance of all your hormones including cortisol, not an abnormally high or low amount of certain hormones. If you try and manipulate your hormones without knowing the full story then you can create problems through unbalancing your hormones further.

Yes high cortisol levels are dangerous and you should look to take action to lower them if they are high, but if they are not high you can create problems through trying to lower cortisol as it will unbalance your hormone levels.

From now on if you read that a hormone is good or bad do some research on it before manipulating that certain hormone. Every hormone has its purpose at the right level. If you manipulate it to be higher or lower than normal then it will have consequences as you will change the balance all of your other hormones as they all work together.

You should only look to manipulate your hormones if you know they are higher and lower than normal and if they are causing negative effects on your body. If you manipulate your hormones because you read you should but your own hormones are balanced then manipulating them can cause imbalances and negatively affect the body.

If you don’t have any of the signs of high cortisol then you don’t need to take action to lower cortisol as your levels are likely balanced, however, if you do notice you have one or more of the signs of high cortisol then make sure you check out my next blog post for some ways to lower your cortisol levels.


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Your Coach For Life

Shaun McGill

Shaun McGill

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