When cortisol levels rise to harmful levels and stay that way, there is reason for concern. Rising cortisol levels are often paired with the lowering of DHEA levels, causing a host of issues in the body when the levels are maintained for long stretches of time. High levels of cortisol in the blood is called hypercortisolism.
What Is Cortisol?
The steroid hormone called cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands. It is created through the use of cholesterol and affects immune function, vascular tone, bone development and glucose regulation. It is best known as the “stress hormone” because it is released when we are stressed—a fact many providers of supplements and weight-loss products have exploited. It is an extremely important hormone involved in many of the processes necessary for the body to function.
Why Reduce Cortisol?
The body will naturally reduce cortisol levels after short spans of stress. If the stress has gone on for a long time, the body may not be able to reduce the high levels of cortisol. Drugs are not usually given specifically to lower cortisol levels for these reasons. These high cortisol levels can be lowered through diet, exercise and stress management techniques (meditation, yoga, tai chi). Other reasons for cortisol levels to stay too high—prolonged taking of glucocorticoid drugs such as prednisone, hydrocortisone and dexamethasone or the presence of tumors that produce cortisol—are why drugs may be given to reduce cortisol.
Taking Cortisol Reducing Drugs
Cushing's Syndrome is a disorder caused by hypercortisolism, which is created by tumors. According to the Mayo Clinic, Cushing's Syndrome is most often treated by surgery and radiation, but when that is not enough, the following drugs may be administered to reduce cortisol levels: mitotane (Lysodren), ketoconazole (Nizoral) and metyrapone (Metopirone). These are regulated FDA-approved drugs and should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.
Anticort, a derivative of Procaine, began tests in the mid- to late 1990s to determine its use in reducing cortisol levels of AIDS and Alzheimer patients. Its ability to reduce cortisol was never completely acknowledged by the FDA, and the drug was never approved. Additional drugs sited for cortisol suppression in Dr. Mark Bernstein's book "Neuro-Oncolgy" are etomidate and aminoglutethimide.
Drugs given to suppress cortisol production are referred to as anti-steroid drugs. Amino-glutethimide is sold as Cytadren and is manufactured by Novartis. It works by blocking steroids (including cortisol) crated from cholesterol. Mitotane directly affects destructs of the adrenal tissue, which decreases cortisol production. Metyrapone actually blocks cortisol synthesis. Contraindications, chemical data, use and warnings about these drugs may be obtained via the FDA website.