High Cortisol & DHEA-S: Understanding the Balance

Posted by Laura Kelly on

In our fast-paced & stressful modern lifestyles, it's common for our bodies to experience imbalances in various hormones. One such imbalance is between cortisol and DHEA-S-- (both adrenal hormones that play crucial roles in regulating our stress response and overall well-being).

A high cortisol/DHEA-S ratio* is associated with mortality, dementia, metabolic syndrome, reduced immunity following physical stress, and aging.

Understanding Cortisol and DHEA-S:

Cortisol, often referred to as the "stress hormone," is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It helps regulate metabolism, immune function, and the body's inflammatory response. Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, with the highest levels in the morning and lower levels in the evening.
DHEA-S (Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), on the other hand, is a precursor hormone produced by the adrenal glands and converted into other important hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. It acts as a buffer against the negative effects of cortisol, promoting a sense of well-being, resilience, and vitality.
The Impact of High Cortisol and Low DHEA-S:

When we experience chronic stress or prolonged periods of elevated cortisol, it can lead to a disruption in the balance between cortisol and DHEA-S. High cortisol levels can suppress DHEA-S production, resulting in lower DHEA-S levels. This imbalance can have several implications for our health:
1. Increased risk of burnout: Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can exhaust our body's resources, leading to burnout, fatigue, and a decreased ability to cope with daily challenges.
2. Impaired immune function: High cortisol and low DHEA-S levels can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, illnesses, and slower recovery.
3. Hormonal imbalances: DHEA-S plays a vital role in maintaining hormonal balance. Low DHEA-S levels may contribute to symptoms such as decreased libido, menstrual irregularities, and mood swings.
4. Cognitive effects: Elevated cortisol and imbalanced DHEA-S levels may impair cognitive function, memory, and focus, affecting our overall mental well-being.
Strategies for Restoring Balance:

To restore a healthy balance between cortisol and DHEA-S, it's important to address the underlying causes of chronic stress and implement strategies to support adrenal health. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Stress management techniques: Incorporate stress-reducing practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation and mindfulness.
2. Adequate sleep: Prioritize quality sleep to allow the body to restore and rebalance hormone levels naturally.
3. Balanced nutrition: Consume a nutrient-rich diet with an emphasis on whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid excessive caffeine, refined sugars, and processed foods.
4. Regular exercise: Engage in regular physical activity, which can help reduce stress and promote overall well-being. However, be mindful of excessive exercise that can further contribute to cortisol imbalances.
5. Seek support: Reach out to your healthcare professionals on your health team for guidance if you suspect hormonal imbalances or chronic stress affecting your well-being. We can provide appropriate testing and recommend personalized interventions.

Maintaining a healthy balance between cortisol and DHEA-S is crucial for overall well-being. Chronic stress and high cortisol levels can disrupt this balance and lead to various health implications. By implementing stress management techniques, adopting a healthy lifestyle, and seeking professional support if needed, you can restore equilibrium and support optimal hormonal health. Remember, prioritizing self-care and finding a healthy work/life balance is crucial.

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