As you know, stress can lead to intense hair loss. Cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex and performs many important functions, is involved in the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and is one of the main hormones in stress reactions. Therefore, hair loss and cortisol are inextricably linked.
The main function of cortisol is the adaptation of all human organs and systems to stress. When faced with danger, the threat signal activates the hypothalamus, then the pituitary gland and leads to stimulation of the adrenal glands, which synthesize and release cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream.
How does cortisol affect the body?
- regulates blood pressure and blood glucose levels;
- affects memory;
- is responsible for immune and inflammatory responses;
- participates in the synthesis of cellular enzymes;
- helps to maintain the balance of salt and water in the body.
An increase in cortisol is an indicator of a threat to the normal functioning of the body.
With high cortisol levels:
- blood pressure and blood sugar rises;
- the work of the immune system is suppressed, wound healing slows down, inflammatory processes are activated;
- collagen synthesis decreases, the skin becomes thinner, becomes dehydrated; – the formation of bone tissue slows down;
- thinking and creative abilities deteriorate;
- depressive conditions and mood swings become more frequent;
- fatigue and insomnia are increasing; – in women, the menstrual cycle is disturbed;
- there is an increase in weight.
A serious increase or decrease in cortisol in the blood is an adrenal disease that requires medication. Hypercortisolism, or Cushing’s syndrome, occurs when the adrenal glands secrete cortisol for any reason. This often occurs during treatment with glucocorticosteroids (GCS), as well as in patients with endogenous increases in cortisol, due to the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) by the pituitary gland (Cushing’s disease), with adrenal tumors or with ectopic ACTH production. Hypertension and excess weight are early manifestations of the disease, among the frequent skin symptoms are the redistribution of fat, obesity with deposits in the trunk, a “moon-shaped” face and thin arms, skin atrophy, which quickly bruises, pigmented hypertrichosis of the face, a general increase in vellus hair and alopecia.
With Addison’s disease, chronic adrenal insufficiency develops. The most striking dermatological sign is an increase in skin pigmentation, hair can also become darker.
Is Low Cortisol Better?
A decrease in cortisol is also negatively affected.
Appears: weakness, abdominal pain and weight loss. Low cortisol production may be associated with dysfunction of the pituitary gland or adrenal glands – in this case, consultation with an endocrinologist is imperative. Congenital dysfunction of the adrenal cortex (congenital hyperplasia of the adrenal cortex or congenital adrenogenital syndrome) is a group of hereditary diseases with an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance caused by a genetic defect in the enzymatic systems that are involved in the synthesis of corticosteroids; these diseases are accompanied by anomalies of sexual development and hyperandrogenism. The main link in the pathogenesis of all forms of VDKN is a violation of the synthesis of cortisol.
A constant cortisol deficiency stimulates the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone, which is the cause of adrenal hyperplasia. With this pathology, the secretion of adrenal androgens is significantly increased, which leads to virilization and androgenization of patients.
Stress unbalances all the chemical reactions in your body:
- disrupts hormonal metabolism, worsens the general condition of the scalp;
- reduces the natural production of hyaluronic acid,
- disrupts the proliferation and differentiation of the epidermis, inhibits the division and growth of fibroblasts, cells of the connective tissue frame of the dermis, which directly stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin, which causes even more pronounced dryness of the skin, thinning and disruption of DNA repair and regeneration processes, i.e. self-healing.
All this leads to an increase in skin sensitivity, acceleration of aging, exacerbation of dermatological diseases such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo, alopecia and seborrheic dermatitis.
How does cortisol affect hair loss?
One of the most common forms of stress-induced hair loss is diffuse telogenous alopecia. In this form, high levels of stress force the body to alter the natural life cycle of the hair. Normally, most of the hair (more than 85%) is in the growth phase, but the hair of a person under stress, on the contrary, goes too quickly into the phase of loss, when the hair has nothing to do but fall out. Telogen loss leads to hair loss over the entire surface of the scalp and is especially noticeable in the temporal zones, along the edge line of hair growth. Stress can also be a trigger for an autoimmune disease (alopecia areata).
How to measure cortisol levels?
You can check your cortisol levels using laboratory tests. Cortisol in daily urine does not accurately reflect the true picture. A simple blood test is also not entirely informative. Cortisol levels can be affected by hunger, lack of sleep, fear of blood and injections, etc., so it is advisable to take several biomaterial samples in one day to assess the circadian rhythm of cortisol. The level of cortisol is assessed at 4 points in saliva. With normal functioning of the adrenal glands, the peak of cortisol falls at 7-8 a.m., then at 12 a.m. there is a decrease, but the level will still be quite high, by 17 p.m. the level of cortisol will tend to the lowest level and at 23 p.m. the level is minimal, practically at zero. since at this time there is already a high level of melatonin, and it is the main antagonist of cortisol, and we fall asleep.
What can be done to normalize cortisol levels?
- Compliance with the daily regimen, sleep until 22:30, limiting gadgets
- Meals 3-4 times a day, balanced amount of carbohydrates and fats, exclusion of alcohol
- Regular and adequate physical activity, stretching, yoga, Pilates, walks in the fresh air, exclude workouts to exhaustion
- Meditations, breathing practices, deep quality sleep and drinking regimen, work with stress, doing what you love, walking with a pet, hobbies, aromatherapy, spending time in good company.