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Low Cortisol Levels

Low Cortisol Levels

Low levels of cortisol can be potentially dangerous for an individual. It is basically a corticosteroid hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, which is one of the 2 important parts of the adrenal gland. Check out this article to find out more about this.
Medha Godbole
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
Cortisol is a hormone which in naturally produced in our body. In stressful situations or when the level of glucocorticoids is low, our body responds by releasing this hormone. This release leads to the secretion of a particular hormone from the pituitary gland, called the adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH). The functions of this hormone mainly involve aiding in fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, increasing blood sugar and storing it in the liver as glycogen, and to suppress the immune system and regulate lymphocytes. Hence, if the level of this hormone goes down, you can imagine the probable biological outcomes.


These develop gradually over a period of time. Moreover, these symptoms may not be associated with one single disease or disorder. Some of them are -
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Craving for salt
  • Fatigue
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood Swings
These symptoms may vary from person to person. Some may experience pain in the scalp, confusion, clumsiness, body aches, shakiness, inability to sleep properly, etc. In case of severe cortisol deficiency, pain in the legs, lower back, and stomach, accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, high potassium levels, and eventually, loss of consciousness can be the symptoms. One of the significant indicators is a lack of menstruation in women, who are in the age range where they can still have a baby.


1: Adrenal insufficiency and adrenal problems are the most common and obvious causes. If the adrenal glands do not produce the required amount of cortisol, there will be a dip in its levels. It could be either hereditary, a birth defect, or it can be a result of damage to the gland. This condition is also experienced as a result of Addison's disease, and has been observed to affect more women than men.

2: A hemorrhage, which can be shocking and traumatic for the body, may cause the cortisol levels to go down. It has been observed, especially during and post childbirth. That is because the whole process of pregnancy makes an impact on the pituitary gland, leading to a decrease in the ACTH production and cortisol level. In such a scenario, blood transfusion is carried out to decrease the shock and to increase the blood volume.

3: When hypothalamus does not respond to low levels of cortisol and does not release corticotropin hormone, it leads to adrenal insufficiency, and ultimately a decrease in the level of this hormone in the blood.

4: High levels of ACTH produced on account of removal of both the adrenal glands, suppress the cortisol production. This is a very rare cause, since the adrenal glands are not removed unless there is cancer involved.


Normally, after the tests confirm a deficiency in cortisol and other hormones stimulating its release, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is prescribed. It is prescribed to get the hormonal imbalances and other elements like sodium and potassium, which are affected by it, back on track. In addition to this, resting well, consuming grapefruit on a regular basis, and taking some herbs which help maintain the cortisol level in your body, can be tried after consulting with a doctor and/or an expert in herbal medicine.

This condition should be treated immediately, as soon as any inkling or symptom of the same is experienced. It may turn out to be a real bad situation if not attended to, as early as possible. But whatever you do ask your doctor, or the concerned specialist, before taking any measures.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.