Your question today centers on cortisol and its relationship to hair
loss or growth. I decided the best way to attack this one would be to
first determine what we know about cortisol. (or dont know, as the
case may be). So before we assess its relationship to hair growth or
loss, its best that we first understand cortisol itself.
*What is cortisol?
Cortisol, from which cortisone is derived, is a steroid hormone
produced by the adrenal glands (a small gland situated just above each
kidney). Cortisol is produced when the pituitary gland releases
adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH stimulates the outer cortex
of the adrenal glands, prompting a release of cortisol into the
bloodstream. In periods of stress, cortisol is part of the bodys
fight or flight mechanism (in conjunction with adrenaline),
regulating carbohydrate metabolism (production of energy) and helping
to regulate cardiovascular function.
*What does cortisol do?
Cortisol appears to have a variety of effects on mood, the vascular
system, the musculo-skeletal system, the immune system and the
digestive system. It also affects blood pressure, and skin health,
and seems to have some anti-inflammatory properties.
Too much cortisol can cause or exacerbate weight gain in the face,
chest and abdomen with weight loss in the legs and arms, weakened
muscles, diabetes, hypertension, depression, memory loss,
osteoporosis, thinning of the skin, and poor wound healing. It can
also increase the ease with which one bruises and supress the immune
system, allowing frequent infections. Too little cortisol results in
fatigue, low blood sugar, lethargy, low blood pressure, fainting,
nausea, dizziness, vomiting. An extreme cortisol deficiency can lead
to shock and coma.
Although elevated levels of cortisol are unhealthy, cortisol
deficiency is likewise bad. Since cortisol regulates our response to
stressors, a certain amount is required to live otherwise, even a
small stress could kill you.
Cortisone (via Googles cache)
Cortisol deficiency and steroid replacement therapy
Emotional Health Dr. Shawn Talbot
Diseases and Conditions
The Role of Cortisol in Health & Longevity
Presented by William Kraemer, Ph.Dm Professor of Kinesiology,
University of Connecticut
A little additional commentary on cortisol:
Q: We have heard about insulin and adrenaline but are not quite
sure about cortisol. What is cortisol and why is it important?
A: Cortisol is a stress hormone made in the adrenal glands. It is a
life-giving hormone that helps keep your blood sugar balanced and your
blood pressure from going too low. It is secreted in higher quantities
together with adrenaline in times of stress. There are emotional,
chemical, nutritional, physiological and hormonal stresses. The body
secretes cortisol for all the above reasons to help you deal with
stress. If the stress is life-threatening, then the release of
cortisol serves a good purpose. If the stress is a 21st century type
of self-imposed stress such as skipping meals, dieting, drinking too
much alcohol or over exercising then this amount of cortisol will be
cumulative and damaging. Any hormone secreted in high levels for long
periods of time can cause disease. Chronic high levels of cortisol can
cause most of the same diseases as chronic high levels of insulin such
as Type II diabetes, weight gain around the midsection, heart attacks,
cholesterol abnormalities and strokes. You do not want your cortisol
levels to be too high or too low.
The Schwarzbein Principle II, The Transition - A Regeneration
Program to Prevent and Reverse Accelerated Aging by Diana Schwarzbein,
M.D., with Marilyn Brown Press Release
Now we can look into how cortisol affects hair growth or loss:
Hair loss has been linked to periods of increased stress (and elevated
cortisol levels). Several studies have indicated that excessively
elevated levels of cortisol can indeed cause hair loss, though at
least one study also links elevated cortisol levels to hirsutism
(excessive body hair).
Other important hormonal mechanisms which operate in male pattern
hair loss are less well understood. The hormone levels of men with
male pattern hair loss are within the normal range, although increases
in serum cortisol levels can occur. Some believe that androgenic hair
loss is exacerbated by stress, which also causes increases in
Male pattern hair loss: current understanding
David A. Whiting, MD
Elevated cortisol levels result in an imbalance of other vital
hormones. Cortisol steals away precursors from your reproductive and
water/electrolyte regulating hormones. The imbalance of reproductive
hormones in women leads to PMS (Pre-menstrual Syndrome), androgen
disorders (high testosterone level causing, adult acne, facial hair
growth, hair loss and impossible weight loss-what we are so afraid of)
and prostrate problems in men. Increased cortisol at nighttime will
interfere with rest and recovery. A high cortisol level at night
suppresses melatonin production levels, causing insomnia and
interrupted sleep. (Low nighttime melatonin levels have been observed
in patients with cancer.) High nighttime cortisol also inhibits growth
hormone production. Restless sleep therefore, suppresses tissue
repair. The accumulation of damaged tissue causes further inflammation
and stress on the body and the adrenal gland. The circle is closed.
Shifting Paradigm in Nutrition - Trend or Health? (Part 6) by
Zsuzsanna Fajcsak M.S., C.N.S
CORTISOL and cortisone, the so-called "stress hormones," are also
androgens and are possibly implicated in baldness. We know for sure
that they are involved in acne. Anecdotally, stress is known to cause
hair loss. One study (Schmidt 1994) did find SIGNIFICANTLY ELEVATED
CORTISOL IN ANDROGENIC ALOPECIANS, BOTH MALE AND FEMALE, as compared
with controls. It also found alopecians to have significantly elevated
androstenedione. In women there was also very frequent hypothyroidism
and/or elevated prolactin (its possible that prolactin stimulates the
production of androgens). Balding men, on the other hand, had higher
serum estradiol than controls.
MALE PATTERN BALDNESS: HORMONAL AND VASCULAR MYSTERIES OF HAIR
Hormonal parameters in androgenetic hair loss in the male. Schmidt JB,
Lindmaier A, Spona J.
Department of Dermatology II, University of Vienna, Austria.
Hormonal basis of male and female androgenic alopecia: clinical
relevance. Schmidt JB.
Department of Dermatology, University of Vienna Medical School,
[Hirsutism and hypertrichosis in adults: investigations and treatment]
[Article in French]
Service d'Endocrinologie, Hopital de Rangueil, CHU de Toulouse, 31403
Toulouse Cedex 4, France.
Hair loss What Is The Cause?
You might also be interested in a general article about aging and
androgens (including cortisol), passed on to me by a friend. Ive
made it available for you to download here:
On a lighter note of comparison, animals also experience hair loss due
to overly elevated cortisol levels in particular, certain breeds of
dogs and chinchillas!
A stressed chinchilla produces the hormone cortisol, which may weaken
the hairs attachments, Dr. Cecil said.
Chinchillas are high-strung little creatures, and it doesnt take much
to make them start losing hair. It could be something as simple as a
dog looking into the cage, or a position on the windowsill in too much
direct sunlight. Fortunately, the solution in that case is
simpleremove the stressor.
When A Chinchilla Goes Bald
Sounds like sound advice to me keep your hair, lose the stress!
Which leads us to the last portion of your query what can you do to
regulate your own cortisol levels?
Get rid of stress! How? Obviously, the best way to get rid of stress
is to simply avoid it altogether. Presumably, you have a job, a life,
social and family commitments and other circumstances that make that
impossible, so youre best to start by making small changes in other
areas to reduce your overall levels of stress and thus your cortisol
Identify the major stressors in your life. Choosing one stressor at a
time, actively work to change them. Does the commute to work make you
crazy? Consider taking the bus or a taxi let someone else deal with
the maniacs on the road while you relax and read or catch a few more
winks of sleep. Is the guy next to you at work obnoxious? Ask to be
Nourish yourself properly. Cut back on junk food, and choose healthy
snacks fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grain breads, low fat
cheeses (like cheddar and swiss). Drink plenty of water and juices
(fresh squeezed if you can lay hands on them, bottled if you cant),
and cut back on caffeinated beverages. Did you know that 2 or 3 cups
of coffee a day can raise your cortisol levels? The same is true for
caffeinated sodas. If you indulge regularly, cut back and replace
these with more healthy selections. (Granted, the caffeine withdrawal
headaches are a real bear, but if you want to get that stress and
cortisol! level down, you need to do this.)
Get rid of environmental stressors. If you smoke, stop. If you dont
smoke, dont start and try to avoid tobacco smoke whenever you can.
Tobacco smoke puts a strain on your respiratory system, which in turn
causes your body to feel stressed, and increases your cortisol levels.
If your computer chair isnt comfortable, adjust it or replace it.
If the lighting in your workspace causes glare (which causes
eyestrain, another stressor), change the positioning of your monitor
or use task lighting to compensate for the room lighting. Do you
stumble over an ottoman every time you stroll across the living room?
Put it somewhere out of the way, where it wont annoy you.
Exercise regularly. Remember, cortisol is a part of the fight or
flight mechanism. When youre stressed out, your body is looking for
a way to either lay on a good smack down, or beat feet and get out of
the situation. Most modern stressors dont give us the option of
either of those you cant smack your boss around, neither can you
turn on your heel and run from him. This stress leads to prolonged
elevation of cortisol levels. Not good. Exercising regularly will
help you blow off steam and reduce your stress (and its good for you
anyway). Less stress = lower cortisol. Just dont overdo it
exercising is good for you, but exercising yourself to the point of
exhaustion will achieve the opposite of your intentions.
Do something that relaxes you! Take time just for you! What makes
you feel happy and relaxed? Walking the dog? Playing with the cat?
Dancing? Blasting Copland from the stereo at top volume? Singing in
the shower? Indulging in a plate of good sushi? Whatever it is, make
a point of setting time aside to do it. (My favorite de-stressing
activity to lock myself in the bathroom with a piece of dark
chocolate, a glass of red wine, a cheeeeeezy paperback, and a hot rose
bubblebath up to my neck. It works wonders!).
Last, but not least, make sure youre getting enough sleep. Lack of
sleep is a major stressor and is mentioned in several of the articles
listed above and below as a contributor to elevated cortisol levels.
Elevated cortisol supresses melatonin production, which makes you feel
sleepless and groggy, which stresses you out, which increases
see? If youre not getting a full eight hours at night,
consider lying down for a brief nap after work to get yourself
straightened around and feeling rested. More sleep = less stress =
lower cortisol levels.
If you still feel stressed and worried even after trying these, please
be certain to speak with your physician and have your cortisol levels
tested. S/he'll also be able to recommend any additional supplements
or exercises to help you lick stress!
Cortisol: The "Stress Hormone" Part II: Abnormal Cortisol Levels
Is My High Cortisol Level Due to Stress?
First Steps to a Stress Management Plan
Making Your Hormones Work For You In Achieving Your Fitness Goals
Dr. Joseph A. Debé
Bodies in Motion, Hormones in Action
Feeling Stressed Out, Try Some Vitamins And Exercise Dr. Ingrid
Before I wrap things up, please note that Ive asked for a
clarification of your request for additional information on the IGF-1
If youll take a moment to let me know exactly what youre looking for
with respect to your request, Ill be able to start on it first thing
in the morning!
As ever, if you have any further questions on this subject, just ask
for clarification, and Ill see to it that you get what youre looking
Search terms: [ what is cortisol ], [ cortisol hair loss ],
[cortisol stress ] , [ decrease cortisol ], [ lower cortisol exercise
[ I enlisted the help of a friend while researching this, and he
pointed me in the direction of several useful resources to explain the
relationship between cortisol and hair loss. My thanks to Dr.
Madhusudan Natarajan, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, UT
Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas, TX) for his assistance with
digging out the appropriate resources. ]