Brain, Hormones and Performance

Cortisol a friend who is also an enemy!

Our body is a fabulous machine. With the evolution through the centuries, it is capable of the greatest achievements and is designed to enable us to cope with all situations. Stimuli around us trigger a multitude of chain reactions in the depths of our being. These reactions are what allow us to survive our environment.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands. Very important for several metabolic functions of the human body, it allows among others to regulate glucose in the blood, controlling blood pressure levels, to secrete insulin, stimulate the immune response and inflammation. Normally, this hormone is present in the human body in greater quantity in the morning and in lesser quantities in the evening. It was named by some researchers stress hormone, not because it is secreted in times of stress, but because it is secreted in large amounts by the body when it is subjected to intense stress.

A slight increase in cortisol may have several positive effects on the human body. For example, it gives us a boost of energy for survival reasons. It increases the ability to memorize and immunological capacity, reduces sensitivity to pain and maintain homeostasis (balance) of the body.

Cons secreted by high dose during periods of stress or chronic stress related to lifestyle, cortisol is a real poison. It reduces cognitive performance, suppresses the thyroid function, causes blood sugar imbalance, reduces bone density and muscle mass, reduces immunity and may cause higher rates of abdominal fat responsible for several diseases such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome. It is therefore, important to limit the action of cortisol at times when it can really be helpful. To do this, we must learn to stop the secretion of this hormone. Before and after a stressful event, it is important to charge our batteries. It must then be fundamental to take a time buffer before and after it.

Several activities can reduce the level of cortisol. Include breathing exercises, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi-Gong, moderate physical activity (according to our fitness), meditation, listening to slow music, to sleep and all activities that enable us to feel present and in harmony with ourselves. These ways will be developed in depth later in this blog.

© Jean-François Desrosby (D.Mus.)