Article: Discussion of the connection between cortisol and rosacea flushing, triggers  and symptoms.

What is Cortisol? It is a Powerful Hormone that Regulates Many Key Physiological Processes

Cortisol is an important regulatory hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands, also dubbed the ‘stress glands’, that lie on top of the kidneys.  The adrenal glands monitor blood hormones, neurotransmitters, immune cell activity, inflammatory events, internal body temperature, metabolism, glucose production, blood pressure, vascular reactivity and internal stress levels.  Cortisol is the primary hormone produced by the adrenal gland and is released at low concentrations constantly during the day and night to help regulate key physiological processes and correct imbalances that would throw off the body’s natural homeostasis.  At normal, low levels, cortisol is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory hormones.  Cortisol is especially important at night when its anti-inflammatory and repair processes help restore damage and inflammation that build up during the preceding day.  It helps reset the body and prepare it for another day.  At low levels cortisol is indeed one of our most important hormones, especially for rosacea sufferers who usually need to reboot after battling rosacea triggers and inflammatory events all day.

Normal Cortisol Levels: Day-Time Levels and Night-Time Levels

It is important for rosacea sufferers to know what their normal cortisol levels should be throughout the day and night so they can determine if abnormal levels play a role in rosacea symptoms, flushing and unrelenting triggers.  Recent clinical studies stress that abnormally high levels of cortisol can be key to rosacea symptoms and skin inflammation — whether they are induced by short-term rises in cortisol or chronic increases in this hormone — in fact, high cortisol levels play a role in every inflammatory skin disorder.  Cortisol levels are usually highest during the morning hours and lowest during the evening due to natural variations that occur during the day.  Cortisol can be measured via blood tests at your physician’s office or simple saliva tests that can be performed at home and sent in to specialized laboratories.

  • Normal values for a blood sample taken at 8 in the morning are 6 – 23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).
  • Normal values for a blood sample taken at 6 in the evening are 3-16 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL).

Cortisol Levels and their Importance to Rosacea Inflammation

While all rosacea sufferers should have their cortisol levels routinely checked at the doctor’s office, cortisol levels can change within minutes and therefore abnormal fluctuations can be missed.  For example, the spontaneous flush that occurs late in the afternoon or a flush that occurs prior to a stressful work or social event may be missed with morning and afternoon blood  tests in a clinical setting.  It is important to stress that while cortisol is an excellent anti-inflammatory in low concentrations, it is one of the most potent inflammatory hormones when the levels are too high and after just a few minutes of cortisol release, facial skin blood flow can increase dramatically for hours and cause them to be hyper-reactive into the next day.  High cortisol levels also cause:

  • Increase in internal body temperature
  • Increase in metabolism which affects blood vessel reactivity
  • Production of half a dozen other stress hormones
  • Widespread skin inflammation if left unchecked
  • Facial outbreaks and increased facial oil production
  • Block multiple anti-inflammatory proteins, peptides and hormones that help reverse the inflammation
  • Stimulate activity of vascodilator nerve activity which reinforces the entire inflammatory process
  • Most importantly, this ‘stress hormone’ can stimulate the ‘fight-or-flight’ response which redirects blood flow to the skin and muscles

Therefore, rosacea specialists are now recommending that rosacea sufferers perform saliva tests at home and work in the morning, afternoon, evening and especially during rosacea triggers or flares to see if there is a correlation between high cortisol levels and rosacea flares.  It’s also important to take a saliva test right before bed to see if the cortisol levels have normalized, because if they have not, blood vessels will remain hyper-reactive, inflammation will remain unchecked, and skin damage will not be repaired — this potent hormone is key to fixing these problems, but it has to be produced at normal, low levels throughout the night when repair processes are essential to rosacea well being.

Saliva test strips and equipment can be purchased through the physician’s office or online (and usually covered by insurance).  After a few days of saliva testing, they can be packed into sterile containers and shipped directly to the laboratory for evaluation.  In clinical studies, cortisol levels have been found to be two to three times higher than normal at rest and up to five times higher before and after rosacea triggers and flares — that is an astounding increase and shows a direct role for high cortisol in rosacea symptoms and triggers in these cases.

Treating High Cortisol Levels: Acute Increases and Chronic Increases

(1)  Rosadyn incorporated three anti-cortisol ingredients that are proven to reduce cortisol levels by 30% to 48% for extended periods of time

  1. Catechin, Epicatechin, and Taxifolin derived from Rosadyn’s Eastern White Pine Bark Extract — These three flavanols all have receptors on the adrenal glands that reduce the synthesis and release of cortisol by up to 27% in scientific and clinical studies.  In fact, Attention Deficit Hyper-Reactivity Disorder (ADHD) whose core cause is related to abnormal bursts of cortisol is being actively treated by Naturopathic Physicians with Pharmaceutical Grade Pine Bark Extract because of its ability to reduce and control cortisol levels.  These physicians only use a select few types of Pine Bark Extract (like ours) because out of the countless Pine Bark Extract products out there on the market, most of them use alcohol, solvents and high heat to extract the main ingredients — but these destroy all three fragile peptides required to reduce cortisol — rendering them inert.  That is why Rosadyn employs the latest “green technology” — supercritical CO2 fluid extraction that utilizes pressure, gas and liquid.  This is the most advanced technique and the best extraction method for safe removal of biologically active peptides.
  2. L-Theanine. Theanine is the only patented pharmaceutical grade extract from the green tea leaf. L-Theanine plays an important role in the formation of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Scientific and clinical studies on L-Theanine demonstrate that L-Theanine activate calming GABA nerves that innervate the adrenal glands and control cortisol release.  When GABA increases, Cortisol decreases and vice versa, so its important to supplement with proven GABA stimulators because clinical doses of L-Theanine found in Rosadyn can reduce Cortisol production by up to 18% and is especially important for night-time treatment of cortisol levels out of their normal range.
  3. PharmaGABA.  PharmaGABA is naturally manufactured from Lactobacilous hilbardii, the bacteria frequently used to ferment vegetables during food preparation.   Clinical studies have demonstrated that PharmaGABA works in a similar way to L-Theanine to reduce cortisol levels and when used together, have a synergistic action.  This is especially important for moderate-to-severe rosacea sufferers with many triggers under chronic stress — these sufferers are almost guaranteed to have high levels of cortisol and this cortisol is causing inflammation and reinforcing symptom development and disease progression.

(2)  Relora has been shown to decrease cortisol by up to 20%

The precise blend for this successful supplement comes from the investigation of many plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The optimum combination was determined to be specific actives from two all-natural ingredients: Magnolia officinalis bark extract (US Patent No. 6,582,735) and Phellodendron amurense bark extract. In clinical studies this combination treatment was shown to decrease blood levels of cortisol by up to 20% after four weeks of daily use.

(3)  Phosphatidylserine has been shown to decrease cortisol by up to 15% to 28%

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid found in the cell membranes throughout the body.  Over the last few years scientists and physicians have demonstrated that supplementation with phosphatidylserine can dramatically reduce high cortisol levels in stressed individuals.  While the exact mechanism of action is not known, studies suggest that these phospholipids bind to the adrenal cortex and stabilize cells that release cortisol… in effect, sequestering cortisol and blocking its release into the blood stream.  The recommended dose is 400 to 600 mgs per day.  The only drawback to this treatment is that it can be expensive at the required dose.

If you are Treating High Cortisol Levels Effectively have you noticed Reductions in “Spontaneous Flares”, “Early Evening Triggers” or “Overall Symptom Severity”?