Problems with Low Cortisol

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/25/2024

Although cortisol is commonly associated with stress and high levels of cortisol for long periods can be very damaging, most people do not realize that if your cortisol levels are too low, your body cannot function properly either.

Learn about the hormone cortisol, what it does in the body, and how to encourage healthy levels.

Understanding Cortisol and Its Role in the Body

Cortisol, sometimes called the 'stress hormone,' is essential to our physical systems. Produced by your adrenal glands, it helps manage how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

This hormone also regulates blood pressure and increases your body's glucose metabolism. It controls the sleep/wake cycle as well.

Here's where things get interesting: cortisol is crucial for maintaining an immune response after an illness or injury because it acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.

Swelling is inflammation trying to protect that area, but it can cause more harm than good if left unchecked. This is where cortisol can help. But when levels are too low, your body will suffer consequences.

The Consequences of Low Cortisol Levels

Low cortisol levels can trigger a host of health issues. One surprising effect is increased belly fat. You might think it's about too many late-night snacks, but your cortisol could be the real issue.

The Link Between Low Cortisol Levels and Inflammatory Conditions

Cortisol is a hormone in our bodies that helps combat inflammation. When levels dip, inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis can flare up.

Impact of Low Cortisol Levels on Immunity

Your immune system needs cortisol to keep functioning well. Studies show that low levels may make you more susceptible to sicknesses and autoimmune problems, like leaving your front door open with a welcome sign for germs.

Bone loss and high blood pressure are also linked with low cortisol levels.

The Concept of Cortisol Resistance

Cortisol resistance is like insulin resistance, it occurs when your body's cells won't listen to cortisol anymore.

Your body produces cortisol, but the cells don’t pick up on it. This happens after long periods of stress or high cortisol levels in your system. Low cortisol levels can cause all sorts of health problems.

The Psychological Impact of Low Cortisol Levels

Low cortisol levels can significantly affect our psychological health. One central area it impacts is stress tolerance. Usually, cortisol helps us manage stressful situations by regulating the 'fight or flight' response.

But this natural coping mechanism gets thrown off balance with low cortisol levels. You might be more easily agitated and feel on edge in circumstances that wouldn't typically bother you.

Stress-related effects on the body can further exacerbate these feelings.

The Role of Cortisol in Memory Function

Cortisol also plays a vital role in memory function. Research has shown this is particularly true in the consolidation of memories for long-term storage. With insufficient amounts of this hormone, your ability to remember may suffer.

Chronically low cortisol levels could lead to significant issues like impaired learning and recall capacity.

How Low Cortisol Levels Affect Vitamin D Regulation

You might be wondering how low cortisol levels impact vitamin D regulation. Well, the connection is more profound than you may think. It all comes down to hormonal balance and interplay.

Cortisol, often called our "stress hormone," regulates various body functions, including inflammation control and immune response. However, its reach extends further into controlling other hormones, such as vitamin D.

A dip in cortisol can cause a ripple effect on your vitamin D levels. This is because when your cortisol level goes south, it disrupts the delicate balance of calcium metabolism, which depends heavily on sufficient vitamin D levels.

Research suggests that those with lower-than-normal cortisol are at risk for decreased ability to absorb and utilize this vital nutrient.

This results in an increased likelihood of developing conditions linked to low vitamin D, like bone loss or weakened immunity.

Ketogenic food

Cortisol Level and Keto Diet

The keto diet, low in carbohydrates and high in fats, has been studied for its potential impact on cortisol levels. Some proponents suggest that it may help lower cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone.

When carbohydrate intake is drastically reduced, as in a ketogenic diet, the body enters a state of ketosis, primarily burning fat for fuel.

This shift in fuel source may lead to stabilized blood sugar levels and reduced insulin spikes, which could potentially help regulate cortisol release, as cortisol is closely connected to blood sugar fluctuations.

However, it's essential to note that more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between the keto diet and cortisol levels, and individuals considering this dietary approach should consult with a healthcare provider for personalized guidance on how to lower cortisol and its potential impact on their health.


Cortisol, often termed the 'stress hormone,' is vital for numerous bodily functions. While high levels are known to be harmful, low levels can also lead to various health issues, including inflammation, compromised immunity, and psychological disturbances.

Understanding the importance of balanced cortisol levels is crucial for overall well-being.

Strategies such as stress management, balanced diet, exercise, and adequate sleep can help maintain optimal cortisol levels.

Consulting with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance is recommended to optimize health and vitality.

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