Glucocorticoids, primarily cortisol, are produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressors such as emotional upheaval, exercise, surgery, illness or starvation. Cortisol plays an essential role in immune function, mobilizing the body’s defenses against viral or bacterial infection, and fighting inflammation; however, chronic elevated cortisol levels suppress the action of the immune system and predispose to frequent infections. Cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning, to combat the stress of overnight fasting and to animate the body for the day’s activities.
The brain derives most of its energy from glucose, so maintenance of adequate blood levels is a top priority. After a period of fasting, cortisol output increases, and this initiates catabolism, or the breakdown of protein into simple amino acids and their conversion into glucose to feed the brain.
Chronic, excessive stress (emotional or physical), protein deficiency, and lack of nutrients including Vitamins A,C and Pantothenic acid (B5) can cause the adrenal glands to become exhausted, so that they can no longer produce adequate cortisol. This leads to low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), excessive fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Tightly coordinated production of adrenal glucocorticoids is essential for optimal health. In normal individuals, the breakdown or catabolism of tissues by glucocorticoids is followed by the building up or anabolism of tissues by androgens. As we grow older, an excess of catabolic hormones over anabolic hormones develops, and this is in part responsible for the aging of all the body tissues, and the loss of our ability to repair damaged tissue. The same thing happens under chronic, excessive stress, and contributes to premature aging. Stress can literally burn our bodies out prematurely.