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Flat Cortisol Curves Signal Danger Ahead

Cortisol, the adrenal hormone that helps the body manage stress, impacts nearly all the body systems. Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, normally peaking in the morning hours and bottoming out at night. Studies show that deviations from this pattern are associated with signs and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction.1 One such dysfunctional pattern is a flat cortisol curve in which the amount of cortisol secreted (high or low) does not change much throughout the day. In both seemingly healthy and clinical populations, a flattened cortisol curve has been robustly associated with shorter lifespan and negative health indicators.1, 2, 3

One study indicated that a flattened cortisol curve statistically predicted poor survival time in those with metastatic breast cancer.1 Natural killer cell numbers and activity were also decreased. In these patients, 70% had flattened cortisol curves, presumably due to the physical and emotional stress of their diagnosis and treatment. 1 Flattening of the cortisol curve also has been shown to predict early death from lung cancer and has been associated with low T-cell lymphocyte counts.2

In one study of healthy individuals, diurnal cortisol patterns were measured for 2 years and then participants were followed for 6 to 8 more years.3 Participants tended to be middle aged (average of 61 years), and flattened cortisol curves were correlated with mortality from all causes as well as cardiovascular deaths. 3

Measuring cortisol over the course of a day may predict health outcomes both for diagnosed and for seemingly healthy individuals.1, 2, 3, 4 Understanding the mechanisms by which cortisol secretion can be changed in the body can inform appropriate treatment interventions. One interesting finding is that neighborhoods with more stressors are correlated with flattened cortisol curves for the populations who live there, suggesting that social status and cortisol curves may be related.4

Restore balance with nutrition, lifestyle and therapeutic adjustments.

At Integrative Medicine of New Jersey, Dr. Rimma Sherman can evaluate your essential neurotransmitter levels and adrenal function using NeuroAdrenal Profile by NeuroScience. NeuroAdrenal Profile is a comprehensive test that can detect neurotransmitter and adrenal imbalances. After you get your test results, Dr. Sherman can help you select the therapies, lifestyle adjustments, and nutritional support products you need to restore balance. Make an appointment with Integrative Medicine of New Jersey (973) 736-5300 and go home with strategies for restoring neurotransmitter balance, adrenal dysfunction and any other hormone-related conditions.

1. Sephton SE, Sapolsky RM, Kraemer HC & Spiegel D. Diurnal Cortisol Rhythm as a Predictor of Breast Cancer Survival. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst 2000; 92(12): 994-1000.
2. Sephton SE, Lush E, Dedert EA, Floyd AR, et al. Diurnal cortisol rhythm as a predictor of lung cancer survival. Brain Behav Immun 2013; 30: S163-170.
3. Kumari M, Shipley M, Stafford M, Kivimaki M. Association of diurnal patterns in salivary cortisol with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality: Findings from the Whitehall II study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011; 96(5): 1478-85.
4. Karb RA, Elliott MR, Dowd JB & Morenoff JD. Neighborhood-level stressors, social support, and diurnal patterns of cortisol: the Chicago Community Adult Health Study. Soc Sci Med. 2012;75(6): 1038-47.